Self-harm is a way of dealing with feelings that provides immediate relief but can become a habit that is hard to break. There are alternatives to self-harm.
Self-harming is when someone causes themselves physical pain as a way of coping with emotional pain. People self-harm for a range of reasons: to seek relief from emotional pain, to release tension, to express emotion, to punish themselves, or to feel ‘real’. Self-harm is not usually a person's attempt to kill themselves.
Self-harm can include:
- Scratching or picking
- Substance abuse
- Eating disorders
- Risk-taking behaviour.
Although self-harming may provide temporary relief from emotional pain, the long-term effects are often harmful to the person’s overall wellbeing:
- Infection, scarring
- Needing to cover up scars, or avoiding people or activities
- Shame and anger
- Not learning other ways to deal with painful emotions.
What you can do if you are thinking of harming yourself
- Change the environment you're in, go for a walk or do some other type of exercise.
- Use alternatives to self-harm, e.g., put a rubber band around your wrist to flick when you need to, hold an ice cube tightly in your hand, draw on yourself with a red pen.
- Seek out intense sensations that are not harmful, e.g., take a cold shower, suck a lemon.
- Use distraction when emotions become intense—think about things that bring you pleasure.
- Use the 15 minute rule—delay acting on the urge to self-harm for 15 minutes when feelings become intense, then delay for another 15 minutes and so on until the urge passes.
- Talk to someone you find supportive.
- Call Youthline or the Mental Health line.
- Many people who self-harm find certain times of the day more difficult—plan something to do or someone to talk to at these times.
- Get some professional help from your GP or a counsellor.
- Check out websites with helpful information about reducing self-harm.
- If nothing is helping and you feel at imminent risk of harming yourself, call Crisis Resolution Services on 0800 745 477 (24 hour service).