Did you Know?
One in 12 young people in the UK have self-harmed.
What is self-harm?
Self-harm is when someone hurts themselves as a way of dealing with very difficult feelings, painful memories or overwhelming situations and experiences. Some people have described self-harm as a way to:
- express something that is hard to put into words
- turn invisible thoughts or feelings into something visible
- change emotional pain into physical pain
- reduce overwhelming emotional feelings or thoughts
- have a sense of being in control
- escape traumatic memories
- have something in life that they can rely on
- punish themselves for their feelings and experiences
- stop feeling numb, disconnected or dissociated (see dissociative disorders)
- create a reason to physically care for themselves
- express suicidal feelings and thoughts without taking their own life.
After self-harming they may feel a short-term sense of release, but the cause of their distress is unlikely to have gone away.
Why do people harm themselves?
There are no fixed rules about why people self-harm. It really can be very different for everyone.
For some people, self-harm is linked to specific experiences and is a way of dealing with something that’s either happening at the moment or which happened in the past. For others, the reasons are less clear and can be harder to make sense of.
Any difficult experience can cause someone to self-harm. Common reasons include:
- pressures at school or work
- money worries
- sexual, physical or emotional abuse
- confusion about your sexuality
- breakdown of a relationship
- loss of a job
- an illness or health problem
- low self-esteem
- an increase in stress
- difficult feelings, such as depression, anxiety, anger or numbness
Self-harm can be a response to any situation or pressure with the potential to impact on someone.
A lot of people keep their self-harm private.
Self-harm is something that anyone can do, there is no one typical person who hurts themselves.
The age when people first self-harm ranges from four years old to people in their 60s.
Emergency services receive more self-harm related calls from women than men – however, research suggests that men are equally likely to hurt themselves but face greater cultural barriers to reaching out and asking for help.
How can I help myself now?
During intense urges to hurt yourself, it can be hard to imagine that it’s possible to do anything else.
But there are steps you can take to help you make other choices over time, by understanding your patterns of self-harm.
- Learn to recognise triggers
- Become aware of the urge to self-harm
- Identify distractions
(further information about how to help yourself is contained in the links below)
Finding out that someone you care about self-harms
Whether someone tells you directly, or you suspect that someone is hurting themselves, it can be difficult to know what to say and how best to approach the situation.
You might feel shocked, angry, helpless, responsible or any number of other difficult emotions.
- Try not to panic or overreact. The way you respond to your friend or family member will have an impact on how much they open up to you and other people about their self-harm in the future.
- Remember that self-harm is usually someone’s way of managing very hard feelings or experiences, and that in the majority of cases it is different to suicidal feelings.
- Helplines – all our helplines provide information and support by phone and email. Our Blue Light Infoline is just for emergency service staff, volunteers and their families. o
- Mind’s Infoline – 0300 123 3393,
- info@mind o Mind’s Legal Line – 0300 466 6463,
- Blue Light Infoline – 0300 303 5999, bluelightinfo@mind
- Local Minds – there are over 140 local Minds across England and Wales which provide services such as talking treatments, peer support, and advocacy.
- Elefriends is a supportive online community for anyone experiencing a mental health problem.
Who else could help?
- British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP)
0161 705 4304 babcp.com Maintains register of accredited CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) therapists.
- British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP)
01455 883 300 itsgoodtotalk.org.uk Lists accredited therapists.
harmless.org.uk User-led organisation for people who self-harm, and their friends and families.
lifesigns.org.uk User-led self-harm guidance and support network.
- The Mix
0808 808 4994 (helpline) themix.org.uk Helpline and online support for people aged 16–25.
- National Self Harm Network (NSHN)
nshn.co.uk Survivor-led closely monitored forum for people who self-harm, and their friends and families.
- NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence)
0300 323 0140 nice.org.uk Provides guidance on health and social care.
- PALS (Patient advice and liaison service)
NHS department that supports service users to make complaints about their experience or
116 123 (freephone 24-hour helpline) firstname.lastname@example.org samaritans.org Freepost RSRB-KKBY-CYJK, PO Box 90 90, Stirling, FK8 2SA Emotional support for anyone feeling isolated, distressed or struggling to cope.
Further information and details can be found at