Self-harm

Self-harm is the deliberate injury to oneself and includes cutting, poisoning, overdosing, burning, scratching and hair pulling. These attacks on the self, represented by the body, are the result of profound emotional pain.

The injuries can release feelings of self-hatred, anger or sadness with the aim of altering your state of mind. It is a way of communicating distress about feelings that are difficult to cope with and cannot be expressed in any other way. But they can be expressed another way – with words and understanding, rather than an act against the body. There are also several techniques to use as alternatives to self-harm (for example, to rub ice on skin instead of cutting, to take exercise, to write down the negative feelings…), and talking is the ultimate way to resolve the underlying feelings.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists has a detailed factsheet about self-harm. It is written for parents and carers but contains plenty of helpful information and advice for you too.

If you, or someone you know, is thinking about or actually self-harming, please talk to a trusted adult or a health professional urgently. You are not alone – there are people who can help. Look at our page on where to find help.