Self-harm

Self-harm means hurting yourself or damaging your health on purpose. There are lots of ways to cope with feeling the need to self-harm.
Trigger warning: This page contains information about self-harm which may bring up difficult feelings.

Why people self-harm

There are lots of reasons why people self-harm. It could be because of feelings or thoughts that are difficult to deal with.

Some people self-harm because it feels like a way to release tension. It’s a physical pain you can deal with, rather than a feeling or emotion that can be hard to cope with.

Self-harm can also be used as a way of punishing yourself for something you feel bad about.

Sometimes people self-harm because they feel alone, angry or not good enough. Self-harm can be really personal and complicated, so it’s okay if you don’t know the reasons behind self-harm.

Some young people start self-harming after a stressful event, like being bullied or abused. It could also be a reaction to something like pressure to do well at school. It’s not always a really big thing that leads to self-harm. You might not even be sure why it started.

Whatever’s going on, Childline’s always here for you. Check out our techniques for coping with self-harm or talk to a counsellor if you need help right away.

Things to remember:

  • there are lots of different reasons why someone might self-harm
  • self-harm doesn’t define you – there are lots of things that make you who you are
  • it’s better to talk to someone and get help, rather than keep it all inside
  • you can talk to one of our counsellors any time
  • there are other ways to cope – and different things work for different people. 

not
just doing
it for attention

Get help and support

Is self-harm the same as being suicidal?

Self-harm is when someone hurts themselves on purpose. It can be a way of dealing with difficult or painful feelings. If someone self-harms, it doesn’t always mean they're suicidal.

Some types of self-harm can be very dangerous. It could put someone’s life at risk, even if they're not suicidal. If you or a friend have self-harmed and you think it could be dangerous, get help straight away by calling 999.

Who self-harms?
There are a few myths about the type of person who self-harms. But lots of different types of people struggle with self-harm. Boys and girls. Young and old. People from different backgrounds and with different tastes in music. Lots of people are affected by self-harm. The important thing to remember is you’re not alone and you can get help.

Coping with self-harm - Will's Story

I realised that
I could stop 
hurting myself

Read Helena's story about recovering from self-harm

HOW PEOPLE SELF-HARM

There are lots of different ways someone could self-harm, including:

  • cutting or scratching
  • causing bruises
  • banging their head against a wall
  • punching a wall 
  • pulling out their hair
  • burning
  • falling over on purpose
  • breaking a bone on purpose. 

Staying safe

It’s really important that you get medical attention for any injury that’s worrying you.

Don’t rely on the internet to get medical information. But you can get medical advice from a school nurse, teacher, GP, parent or carer. It's always better to go to your doctor or the Accident and Emergency department of your local hospital if you need help urgently. If your life is in danger call 999 straight away.

It’s also important to look after your wounds or cuts if you've hurt yourself.

How do i tell someone?

Lots of young people have said that telling someone about their self-harm was one of the best ways of coping. Talking is important because it means you don’t have to deal with everything on your own. But it’s not always easy. It’s often really hard to know why you’re self-harming. Explaining it to someone else can feel even harder. So how can you tell someone about it?

Is there someone in your life you feel comfortable with? If you feel you can trust them, you could open up to them. It could be a friend, a teacher, an adult you trust, a nurse or a Childline counsellor.

Think about what you want from a conversation. Write down what you want to say before you talk to the person. This can help make sure you don’t forget.

Do you just want someone else to know how you’re feeling? Or are you hoping they'll give you some practical support and ideas to get better? It’s okay to tell them what you’re hoping to get from the conversation.

If you’re still not sure how to talk to someone about self-harm, you can prepare with a Childline counsellor.

Self-harm blogs

A lot of self-harm websites and blogs can be dangerous. They might try and make you self-harm more.

It might seem like people in your life don’t understand what you’re going through. And going on self-harm blogs or posting a self-harm photo could make you feel less alone at first. But after a while, these types of sites can make things much worse. Looking at self-harm images can make you want to hurt yourself even more. These sites can be addictive too. After a while it can make it even harder to stop self-harming.

Even if it feels like you have nobody to support you, there are people out there who want to help you cope. Check out the Childline self-harm message boards. This is a positive community of people who know what you’re going through. They won’t judge you. But they'll try to help you recover.

Other sites we recommend: 

  • YoungMinds have great advice if you are struggling with self-harm
  • Selfharm.co.uk can help you cope with wanting to self-harm.