Do you need information about self-harm?
If you have self-harmed and need to treat a minor wound, you can:
- Get advice about treating the wound at home on NHS Choices.
- Or, if you are unable to apply first aid, you can see your GP or go to an NHS walk-in centre. Advice is also available by calling NHS 111 (freephone, open 24 hours a day) - a highly trained adviser, supported by healthcare professionals, will ask you a series of questions and tell you what to do.
What you will learn in this section:
What is self-harm?
Self-harm is when someone hurts themselves, on purpose, as a way of coping with or releasing, strong emotions that feel overwhelming.
People self-harm in different ways - this can include:
- Cutting, often to the arms.
- Burning, sometimes with cigarettes.
- Scratching or biting.
- Punching and hitting.
- Pulling out hair or eyelashes.
- Head banging.
- Sniffing or swallowing harmful or toxic substances.
- Over-eating, under-eating or exercising too much.
- Taking overdoses of medication.
- Emotional harm such as obsessive negative thinking.
- Behaving in other ways that puts them in danger such as risky behaviour.
It's possible for both men and women and all kinds of people with different backgrounds, experiences and ways of life to self-harm at times. The reasons why people self-harm are not always understood and can be different from person to person. It can be a way of:
- Feeling in control, when life around you feels out of control.
- Releasing built up pressures or feelings of anger, sadness, fear, anxiety, guilt or worthlessness.
- Expressing how you are feeling on the inside, on the outside.
- Punishing yourself and dealing with feelings of low self-esteem.
- Getting relief from feeling great upset about something that is happening now or an experience in the past.
Some people may self-harm every day while other people hurt themselves from time to time when experiencing extreme levels of distress or pressure.
Self-harm often starts in adolescence, the time when we move from being a child into an adult. This is the stage in our lives when we develop:
- A sense of identity and self-worth and form thoughts and opinions about who we are and how well we think we do things.
- Our own ways of managing or coping with distress and strong emotions.
The way we develop these thoughts and ways of coping can often be shaped by difficult experiences in life and whether we are made to feel secure, valuable and supported by the people around us.
Who can I talk to about self-harm?
Finding effective ways of managing self-harm can often involve changing a pattern of behaviour which may have been adopted over a period of time. This may take time and the right support. Many people fear that they might be judged, misunderstood or pressurised into stopping before they are ready, and self-harm in private for a long time before seeking help.
Talk to someone you know and trust, or an experienced professional such as your GP who can talk though different options for support with you and refer you to other services that can help. You can also find information about different kinds of support in Leeds (including group and one-to-one support) which you can access directly, here.
There may be situations or relationships which have led to the distress that you can feel at times. For example, experiences such as domestic abuse, sexual violence, relationship problems, bereavement or alcohol use. These issues may be difficult to start to understand and manage. You may find it helpful to work through this with professional help. You can find information about available support for a range of issues through I need help now.
What can I do to help manage my self-harm?
Talk to your GP - you can use the Doc ready website to help you prepare.
Battle Scars runs survivor-led groups which provide support to people who self-harm, their carers and families, as well as professionals. Battle Scars run several adult support groups (each running every four weeks) in different areas of Leeds, as well as some online groups. They also have a Facebook support group. You can find out all the times, places or details on their website.
Harmless - national online support portal for people who self-harm, their carers and families and professionals.
Self Injury Support - national organisation that supports girls and women affected by self-injury or self-harm.
Elefriends is a supportive, safe online community, run by Mind, where you can listen, share and be heard.
Need to talk to someone now?
Call Connect helpline on 0808 800 1212 (free phone) 6pm-2am every night. Trained volunteers and workers based in Leeds can provide compassionate, non-judgemental support and can give information about other services, if needed.
The Women's Self Injury Helpline - for women of any age and their friends, families and carers - 0808 800 8088, open Tuesday to Thursday evenings from 7-10pm.
Call Samaritans helpline 116 123 (freephone). Open 24 hours, seven days a week.
Tools and apps
Young Minds - help for children/young people.