Self-harm is when someone hurts themselves on purpose. They do it as a way of dealing with painful feelings or as a result of overwhelming situations. Parents separating could be one of those situations.

Self-harm can include the following:

  • Scratching
  • Cutting
  • Hitting yourself or other objects
  • Burning
  • Eating disorders
  • Taking overdoses
  • Hair pulling
  • Excessive exercising.

Why Do People Self-Harm?

People hurt themselves for a number of reasons.

For some, self-harming is a coping mechanism to deal with difficult emotions they are experiencing. This includes anxiety, depression, exam pressure, family issues, bullying or abuse. These people can find self-harm helps them to release these emotions and feel in control.

For others, whose emotions have left them feeling numb, self-harm can help them to feel a sensation.

For yet more people, the reason they self-harm is unclear to them and that can add to a sense of confusion.

Can You See It?

Sometimes the evidence of self-harming is noticeable to others – it may be these people are using it as a way of having their emotions taken seriously by others.

Other people who self-harm try to keep it hidden. This can lead to them feeling more isolated, making them feel worse and finding it even harder to cope.

What can I do?

There are certain things that trigger people to self-harm. Learning to recognise what these are helps sufferers to manage better.

If you are experiencing the urge to self-harm, it can be useful to make notes – of the situation, thought patterns or dates. This can help highlight any patterns of behavior.

One way to cope with the urge to self-harm is to distract yourself from the immediate issue. For example, you can:

  • Write down your feelings
  • Exercise
  • Hit a pillow
  • Tense muscles
  • Flick an elastic band on your wrist
  • Run an ice cube over your skin
  • Write a letter and then tear it up
  • Cry
  • Go for a walk
  • Rest or sleep
  • Stroke a pet.

Who can help me?

If you are self-harming or someone you know is self-harming, there are lots of people who can help. But it is important to get professional help as soon as possible.

Talking to someone is the first step. That could be your doctor (GP) or the local mental health services. Or you could pick up a phone or go online and talk to a counsellor at Childline.

If you feel that you want to end your life, please seek immediate help from the emergency services on 999. You can also contact HopeLine UK on 0800 068 41 41. If you are being abused you can contact ChildLine on 0800 1111 or Samaritans on 116 123.

Photo: Takashi .M. Creative Commons.