Self Harm Awareness 01/03/2022

We think it’s important to talk about self harm so we can understand what it is, why people might do it, how they can do it safely and how they can access support.

Self harm is difficult to talk about but it’s a common problem and you can beat it.

What is Self Harm?

Self harm takes many different forms and can include any behaviour that is not in our best interests, that we use to try and deal with an emotional pain.

Someone who is self harming might do things like cutting or burning themselves, or they might also do a wide range of other things to help them deal with painful feelings. Self harm is a coping mechanism, it’s a way of feeling in control when your emotions are spiralling. And it’s often temporary relief for difficult feelings that a person is otherwise struggling to express.

If you are self harming, we want you to feel safe and comfortable opening up about your experiences and sharing your stories with others, so you know that you are not alone.

Why Do People Self Harm?

Self harm is when you hurt yourself on purpose to relieve feelings of distress. People sometimes self-harm when life feels hard to cope with.

If you self harm, you might be dealing with lots of intense thoughts and feelings and hurting yourself feels like the only way to let those feelings out. Or you might feel numb and want to hurt yourself so that you can feel something.

It is important to note that self harm is not always obvious. You might find yourself doing things which are harmful, but not think of them as ‘self harm’.

Often self harm only brings temporary relief. This means that later, when things start to build up again, we might feel like we have to harm again. It can be really hard to break out of this cycle. And it can be upsetting to think that this is our only way to cope. But there are things you can do to stop self-harming and get better.

Things can happen in life that can leave us feeling overwhelmed, angry and hurt. Instead of finding ways to express those feelings to the world, we start to take this pain and anger out on ourselves.

We might self harm because we have learnt that in order to be accepted or loved we have to be ‘perfect’. When we don’t live up to this ‘perfect’ image we can feel like a ‘failure’. The constant guilt, or worry about disappointing people, can make us feel like we need to punish ourselves for not being ‘good enough’. With the right support, you can stop feeling this way, and learn to love yourself for who you are.

We might self harm because we are angry and upset about being treated badly. If we are treated in a way that makes us feel invisible, unimportant or unloved, it can make us feel like there is something wrong with us. But the truth is, you matter. You are worthy of respect and love exactly the way you are, and you deserve help.

Self harm is a way to show the feelings you have inside on the outside. It might cause you to experience:

  • pain or discomfort
  • temporary physical marks
  • scarring
  • feelings of sickness or dizziness
  • feelings of weakness, shame or disgust
  • feeling scared, out of control or confused by why you are doing this
  • feelings of isolation and loneliness

Breaking The Stigma

The stigma surrounding self harm is a bit like the stigma around mental health; people in the past haven’t wanted to talk about it, they haven’t wanted to acknowledge it and they haven’t known how to approach it. But that was the past. This is the future. And it’s all about communicating, opening up and talking.

This is important:

Talking about how you’re feeling with someone you trust can feel like a relief. This person could be a friend, family member, teacher, school counsellor/nurse, or youth worker. Think about who you feel safe with and how you would feel most comfortable communicating, whether it’s face to face, over the phone, by text or email

It’s understandable if you’re worried no one will understand you, or that people might judge you. But don’t worry, there are lots of trained people who do understand and really care. That’s because they speak to thousands of young people who are going through this too. Nothing you can say will shock them, and they are here to listen and support you. Please take a look at the list of organisations at the end of this page, and don’t struggle on your own.

Professional support can make a massive difference. It’s ok to ask for help when you need it. We all need help sometimes, it doesn’t make you weak – in fact reaching out takes bravery and strength.

Your GP can refer you to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) so you can have an assessment and get the treatment that is right for you. You might be offered counselling or talking therapy, where you can talk with trained mental health professionals about what you are feeling and ways you can cope.

Things that might help:

We’ve said it before, and we’ll keep shouting it from the rooftops. You. Are. Not. Alone. It sometimes might feel like that, but we promise, you really aren’t. It really does help if you talk to someone, but if you’re not ready just yet, there are other ways you can slowly move to recovery:

Read about Maddie Bruce’s story on recovering from self harm HERE

This is pretty inspiring, and shows just how not alone you really are. It also shows that any one can self harm, but there is a way out and you will get there.

You can find out about how to approach your GP about self harming HERE

If you think you’re ready to take the step to speak to your GP, this article gives you some really good advice and tips

Make yourself a Soothe Box

When you start to feel the emotions becoming uncontrollable, it might be worth making yourself a Soothe Box, something that you know will help calm you down and take away a bit of the anxiety.

Some Ideas:

There are some ways that can help, these are by no means quick fixes, but having an action plan for when you feel bad can be really helpful:

Take a few minutes every day to write down how you are feeling. This can be a helpful way to let out your emotions. It can also help you to recognise what is bothering you and any patterns in what triggers you or causes you to feel bad.

If you don’t like writing, try doodling or drawing. Remember this is just a way to express yourself, there’s no right or wrong way to do this.

If you want to, you could show your journal to any mental health professionals who are supporting you to help them understand what you are going through.

  • Consider how your use of social media is affecting your mood. Only follow accounts that make you feel positive and safe.
  • Make sure you get enough sleep and stay hydrated – this can reduce your stress levels.
  • Take time out when you need to.
  • Think of three things you are grateful for each day.
  • Be as kind to yourself as you would be to your best friend – think about the advice and support you would give someone else if you heard they were struggling.
  • It’s really important to keep yourself as safe as possible and reduce your risk of serious self-injury. Even though you want to stop self-harming, you might not feel able to stop straight away. Sometimes it can take time to find new ways to cope, and that’s normal. In the meantime, think about other things you can do in the moment when you feel the urge to self-harm building. You could try to:
    • go for a walk or do some gentle exercise
    • focus on your breathing
    • text a friend and let them know you need them to help you take your mind off things
    • play music and sing or dance along
    • hold an ice cube
    • write down your thoughts
    • hit a cushion or pillow
    • tear up a magazine or newspaper

A Friend Has Told Me They Are Self Harming...

If someone you care about has told you that they’re self-harming, this can be quite shocking and scary. It’s important to withhold judgement, and focus on keeping them safe – particularly if they’ve expressed suicidal thoughts. The best thing you can do is reassure them that you’ll be there for them, and to encourage them to seek professional support when they feel ready

The Mix have an amazing resource about how to support someone who is self harming, you can find it HERE.

We also have a KC blog post about How To Be A Better Listener which has some great advice in it.

Where To Get Help:

  • Calm Harm – A free app providing support and strategies to help you resist or manage the urge to self-harm.Can be downloaded from Google Play or App Store.
  • You can get confidential help with self-harm from ChildLine – either over the phone or through an online chat.
  • The Mix  have a Crisis Messenger provides free, 24/7 crisis support across the UK. If you’re aged 25 or under, you can text THEMIX to 85258
  • Papyrus supports young people who are feeling suicidal – you can call, email or text them. Call on 0800 068 41 41.
  • Young Minds have a text support system, text YM to 85258. It provides free, 24/7 text support for young people across the UK experiencing a mental health crisis.
  • The Charlie Waller Memorial Trust helps young people learn more about depression and the importance of looking after your mental health.
  • Our KC Safeguarding Team are always available, you can either speak to them when you’re in college or email them on:
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