What is self-harm?
Self-harm usually refers to someone intentionally causing themselves harm and can take many forms. It can include physical harm inflicted on the body, as well as emotional harm.
Cutting, burning, scratching, hair pulling, picking skin, misusing alcohol or drugs, risk taking behaviour and not looking after yourself can all be forms of self-harm.
Some people use self-harm as a way to cope with life, emotions, difficult situations and thoughts, but it is important to remember that everyone’s reason for self-harming is as individual as they are.
Helpful information and advice
Sometimes there are clear signs that someone is self-harming, at other times it can be harder to tell.
People often try to hide self-harm because of shame or fear of others finding out.
It might be up to close family and friends to notice when somebody is self-harming, and to approach the subject with care and understanding.
Some signs that a person may be self-harming could be a change in behaviour, withdrawal from normal activities, wearing long sleeved tops to cover up, unexplained injuries or low mood.
Someone who is self-harming can seriously hurt themselves, so it is important that they speak to someone for support and advice. This could be a GP, another health professional, or a trusted adult.
As well as services/helplines, there are resources which provide information to help people understand why people self-harm. They provide advice on how to resist or manage the urge to self-harm.
Our self-help resources below include:
- Approved websites which help people understand self-harm, as well as providing advice.
- Approved free apps, which provide information and advice to help you resist or manage the urge to self-harm.
- Helpful information including the Samaritan’s ‘Finding Your Way’ guide, which includes advice on how to develop a self-harm safety plan. There is also information produced by PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide.
- Finding ways that help you avoid, delay or reduce self-harm may help to get you through the feelings you are experiencing. This can include talking to someone, exercising, listening to music, watching TV, drawing, singing, screaming into a pillow, hitting a cushion or keeping a diary.
- If you need some other ideas for distractions, you could download the Calm Harm App
- You could make a comfort box. This is a box where you keep a collection of things that bring you comfort that may help you deal with stress and difficult emotions. Try to include things in the box that will soothe all your senses and focus on your physical senses when you use them e.g
- Sight – a photo album, a book you enjoy, reminder for films that make you feel good.
- Hearing – a happy playlist, an audio book, helpline numbers so you can speak to someone.
- Smell – a scented candle, coffee, perfume.
- Taste – a favourite treat or drink.
- Touch – hand cream, make-up, a blanket, stress ball or fidget toy.
- You might want to find out about Mindfulness which encourages us to become more aware of our thoughts and feelings so that we can manage them in a different way with more positive outcomes.
- If the information, advice, resources and courses on this page have not been helpful and/or you think you need more help, there are many free support services available. See below.
If you need further help
- If you feel you may harm yourself and/or are already self-harming, you don’t need to experience these feelings alone. Talk to someone you trust or speak to your GP. You may find it helpful to talk to a free listening or support organisation. See our ‘helplines’ section below.
- If you or someone you know need urgent help – go to our ‘urgent help’ page immediately.
- Self-harm or injuries can often be treated at home; however, you should seek immediate medical attention if bleeding doesn’t stop, there is a burn bigger than a 5p piece, the person has ingested something or taken an overdose. If you have wounds on your skin and they look like they have become infected or are not healing properly, contact your GP for assessment.
- If you are aged under 18 and need advice/self-referral to local mental health and wellbeing services in the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, contact SPACE Wellbeing. Details can be found on the website.
- If you live in the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board area, and are aged over 18, you can make an appointment with a Psychological Health Practitioner (PHP) or GP by contacting your local GP surgery. PHPs are NHS mental health practitioners who provide a free service for people experiencing mild to moderate mental health problems.
Last updated: 25.09.2023