If you or someone you know is struggling or in a crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org.

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What Is Self-Harm And Ways To Get Help

Understand what self-harm is, so you, or someone you know can seek the support needed

Mental health challenges can show up in lots of different ways among young people. For example, certain situations can make someone feel anxious, while others might feel stress. You are unique and so are your experiences, and it’s important to understand and respect that.

However, there are certain patterns that can be similar from person to person. Knowing these can help you to understand what you might be going through which may lead to better, more focused help.

We dive into some mental health challenges, such as self-harm.

What Is Self-Harm?

Self-harm or self-injury is hurting yourself on purpose. It is also called non suicidal self-injury, self-injury and self-directed violence. Self-Harm is not a mental illness, but a behaviour that indicates a need for better coping skills. Thinking about causing yourself harm – or actually hurting yourself – is a sign of emotional distress. Any time a person hurts themselves on purpose it is classified as self-harm.

Self-harm is an extremely serious issue that some young people face. It tens to begin in teen or early adult years. According to one study, known rates of self-harm are between 7-24% in adolescents, and 9th grade girls seem most at risk as they engage in self-harm at 3 times the rate of boys.

Even though it is not a healthy or effective solution, people might self-harm because they feel like it is their only way to control or relieve overwhelming emotions or feelings. Some people do it because they want to change the emotional pain that they are having into physical pain.

If you or someone you know is struggling or having thoughts of suicide, call or text 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org. In life-threatening situations, call 911.

Signs And Symptoms Of Self-Harm

Ways in which someone can self-harm include:

  • Cutting or piercing the skin with a sharp object
  • Hitting or punching oneself, or punching things (like a wall)
  • Burning with cigarettes, matches, or a candle

Warning signs and symptoms of self-harm include:

  • Fresh cuts, bruises, or burns on the skin
  • Unstable or unpredictable emotions or behavior
  • Talking about feeling worthless or helpless
  • Wearing long sleeves or pants to cover up, even in hot weather
  • Scars

What To Do If You Or Someone You Know Is Self-Harming

If you or someone you know is developing self-harming habits:

  • Take care of the injuries. Get access to first-aid equipment to treat your injuries so that they do not get worse.
  • Talk and reach out to a trusted adult, like a parent, a teacher, or a mental health counselor. Let them know what is going on and they will be able to provide better solutions.

Even though you might feel a certain, temporary, relief after self-harm, it is not a long-term solution. Do not be afraid to seek help, it will help you find better ways to cope with your emotions and improve your wellbeing.

If you don’t know where to start, we’ve gathered some trusted, free, 24/7 national text and helplines:

Additional Resources And Support On Self-Harm

National Alliance on Mental Illness explainer on Self-Harm.

Mental Health America have a resource on ‘Helpful vs Harmful: Ways to Manage Emotions.’

Check out our resource on ‘Self-Care: What is it and Why is it Important for your Mental Health,’ or ‘How to Cope with Big Issues at Home and Beyond as a Teen.’

Disclaimer: This website offers general information and is not a substitute for professional advice. We are not clinicians or trained professionals; this information should not replace seeking help from a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult a healthcare provider for personalized guidance.