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Updated : August 1, 2022 4.5 mins read

Self harm | Support for AFYP

Updated : August 1, 2022 4.5 mins read

Article Self-harm

Common questions about self harm

I only started self harming during lockdown, so it will get better once this is over.

Lockdown was an extremely unsettling time, especially for young people. It was confusing, isolating, upsetting at times and made a lot of young people anxious about their future. It’s understandable that these feelings could lead to you using self harm as a way to cope. If you started to self harm during lockdown you might feel that things are now better, which is great especially if you’ve been able to stop. But, it can still be a good idea for you to talk to someone and find other ways to manage difficult feelings or situations in the future.

If you haven’t been able to stop even though lockdown has finished you might need some support to understand your feelings.

Only girls self harm

It’s true that more girls self harm than boys, but boys still experience the same difficulties that girls do and can use self harm to manage their feelings. It is possible that there are more boys who self harm than we know of but because of the feelings of guilt and shame, especially mixed in with the stigma for boys and men to have mental health problems, less boys come forward for support.

Self harm is an emo or goth problem

Not true. Self harm is stereotypically associated with the groups goths or emos but anyone from any walk of life can self harm.

Are people who self harm are trying to kill themselves?

Some people who self harm say that self harm actually helps them to not take their life because it gives them a way to cope with intensely distressing emotions rather than letting them build up. However, there are many people who self harm who don’t have thoughts about suicide and don’t have the intention to end their life.

What should I do if I’m worried about someone else?

If you’re worried about a friend, are you able to try and talk to them? It’s common for people who self harm to feel isolated from others and feel that they don’t deserve to be helped. By you noticing it shows them that people around them care for them. Starting a conversation about self harm should be done sensitively, don’t tell them to stop or that they’re silly for what they’re doing. Also, it might take some time before they feel comfortable talking to you about what’s going on, take things slow, offer them time and reassurance that you’re there when they are ready.

What if I’m not ready to stop?

It can be scary thinking of how you’ll survive in the future without self harm. For some people it becomes part of who they think they are and the only way they know how to cope with the challenges life throws at them. There are healthier and safer ways of dealing with distressing emotions, and getting help to address the reason why you’re having them will also help you to understand why you have them and how you can manage them differently.

If you don’t feel ready to stop, are there ways that you can reduce or change to safer ways? If you can find some ways to distract yourself you can start to show yourself you can do this

5 Tips for managing your self harm

  1. Remember that if you tell someone about your self harm, it won’t stop or change overnight. It takes time for you to understand the reasons why you self harm and how you can use better ways to cope with your emotions and feelings.
  2. Set yourself small goals. This can keep you focused and helps you move forward.
  3. Use distraction techniques to help you to reduce and stop risky self harming behaviours.
  4. Make a safe box. These are boxes (shoe boxes are a good size) filled with items that make you feel safe or remind you of positive things. Some people include; a strong smelling fragrance they like, pictures of happy memories, reminders they’re written to themselves, a favourite cd or film.
  5. Make a positivity jar. Use an old jam jar, each time you have a positive thought or a good day write it down. It can be as simple as Today was a tough day, but I got through it and I’m really proud of myself. When you’re feeling the need to self harm or on bad days you can read through the notes to remind yourself this feeling can pass and get better.

Getting professional mental health help

A professional is someone who has a lot of knowledge of mental health and experience treating mental health issues.

This might be a GP, mental health nurse, psychologist or therapist.

In some ways professionals aren’t different to anyone else you might speak to about your mental health. They will offer time and space to talk, reassurance and practical tips on what might help.

What makes professionals different is they have the training to give you advice, to offer therapeutic services that might help or to prescribe you medication.

There are a few ways that you can get some professional help:

  • You can speak to your GP, or you can contact NHS 24 out of hours
  • You can contact your local CAMHS team. CAMHS stands for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service. You can find where your local team is here (scroll down to CAMHS section)
  • You can contact a mental health charity or organisation who might be able to offer you self help guidance or time to talk about your feelings

Get Help now

If you are concerned about your mental health, or if you have found yourself feeling concerned about someone else, you can:

Call 111 – NHS 24

Call 116 123 – The Samaritans

Call 0800 83 85 87 – Breathing Space

Text: ‘YM’ to 85258 – Young Minds crisis chat

If you think you are in danger of hurting yourself or other people, you should call 999 or present to your local A&E department.