Self-harm is hurting or damaging yourself 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.

This page is also available in Welsh.

Why people self-harm

Self-harm can affect anyone. Young people have told us that they use self-harm to cope with difficult thoughts or feelings, but there are lots of reasons people start.

Some young people start self-harming after something's happened, like being bullied or abused. Others have said they self-harmed because of things like pressure at school. Sometimes you might not even know why you started.

Self-harm is sometimes seen as the only way to cope or take control, but that's not true.

Whatever’s going on, Childline is 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.
  • There are other ways to cope without self-harming - and different things work for different people.
  • 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.

just doing
it for attention

Get help and support

How do I tell someone I self-harm?

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.

I realised that
I could stop 
hurting myself

Read Helena's story about recovering from self-harm

Staying safe

It's really important that you get medical attention for any injury that's worrying you. You can get help from:

If it's an emergency or your life is in danger, you should call 999 straight away.
Don't rely on the internet to get medical advice or information.

Is self-harm the same as being suicidal?

When someone self-harms, it doesn't always mean they're suicidal. Often people self-harm to try and cope. Some types of self-harm can be dangerous and could even put someone's life at risk.

Even if you're not suicidal, if you or a friend have self-harmed and think it might be dangerous, you should speak to a doctor or school nurse. In an emergency, you should call 999.

Self-harm on social media

Some self-harm websites and social media accounts can be helpful, but there are lots that might make you want to 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 and 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.

Get more support

Watch: Moving on from self-harm

Coping with Self-Harm ft. Luke Cutforth