What is self-harm?
‘Self-harm’ ‘is when somebody intentionally damages or injures their body’ (NHS). It is also sometimes called ‘self-injury’ and the term applies to many different behaviours, which are not always visible to other people.
According to The Mental Health Foundation, self-harm is more common in certain groups of people, including the following:
- women and girls
- young people
- LGBTQ+ people
What is the link between self-harm and bullying behaviour?
People self-harm for a range of reasons ‘but often it is because feelings like anger, sadness and fear have become too painful to deal with’ (Self Injury Support). People who experience bullying behaviour might feel these negative emotions which may increase the likelihood of self-harming. [EG1]
Unfortunately, both bullying behaviour and self-harm are experienced by a lot of young people but remember that school staff and medical professionals are always able to help. Ditch The Label’s 2020 Annual Bullying Survey asked 13,387 young people how being bullied had affected them and found that 27% had self-harmed as a result. Remember, you’re not alone. There is support available to help stop any bullying behaviour you are experiencing and to help you find ways to cope with the difficult feelings it may have caused.
I'm self-harming, what should I do?
Check out the information below, as well as the links at the end of this article and consider what might be most helpful for you.
Here are some things you can do:
1. For urgent help, call999. If you don’t think you’re able to stay safe or if you have an injury that needs urgent medical attention, call 999.
2. Talk to a trusted adult. Whether this is a parent/carer, another family member, a teacher or pastoral care staff member, talking to a trusted adult is a good idea because they will be able to offer you long-term support. Discussing how you’re feeling might be nerve-wracking, so have a think about alternative ways you could bring this up. Could you write down what you want to say and ask them to read it? Or would you feel more comfortable talking about it on a phone call? Perhaps have a look at Childline’s letter template and see if you would find it helpful. Ahead of the conversation, it might also be helpful to reflect on what support you want from this person. Do you want them to help you stop self-harming and find a safer coping mechanism? Do you want them to support you to tell a family member how you’re feeling? Let them know what you need and, hopefully, you will be able to leave the conversation feeling positive about having reached out to someone.
3. Reach out to your school’s Anti-Bullying Ambassadors. You don’t have to tell them the specifics of your situation, but if your school has Anti-Bullying Ambassadors, they can help you to approach a school staff member to ask for help. The Anti-Bullying Ambassadors are trained to make sure everyone in school feels safe and supported, so they will be happy to advise you.
4. Visit your GP. The NHS recommends that you speak to your GP if you’re self-harming or thinking about self-harm. Your GP will be able to talk to you about how you are feeling and can explain what options there are for further support, including things such as counselling. If you would find it helpful to have someone with you, you can ask someone to come to the appointment with you.
5. Research alternative ways of coping. There is a lot of helpful information available online about what has helped others, including distractions and alternatives to self-harming behaviours. For example, some people find it helpful to go for a run or use breathing exercises. At the end of this article, we’ve shared some links to resources and guides for you to explore.
I think someone I know is self-harming, what can I do?
1. Stay calm. Try to address this with them as calmly as possible. Understandably, you may feel worried and stressed, but if you can approach the topic calmly and show confidence about being able to help, this will be reassuring for them.
2. Offer your support. Tell the person that you’re there for them and want to support them. Let them know you’re there to listen without judgement. Make sure to seek support and guidance for yourself too if you need it.
3. Let them know what options for extra support are available. There are many options for further support for young people who are self-harming, including visiting their GP, accessing a school counsellor, or arranging counselling through a local charity. The young person you’re worried about might not know about these options so try to reassure them that together, you’ll find ways to make sure they feel supported and able to process their emotions in a safe way.
4. Build up your knowledge. If you’re the trusted adult that a young person has chosen to reach out to about their experiences of self-harm, you may feel out of your depth at first. Don’t panic – there are a lot of resources available which will help you build up your knowledge, understand the many myths about self-harm, and provide support. Educators can check out YoungMinds’ guide for professionals and parents/carers can access their parent guide.
Where to get help for self-harm
The Diana Award Crisis Messenger
The Diana Award Crisis Messenger provides free, 24/7 crisis support across the UK. If you are a young person in crisis, you can text DA to 85258. Trained volunteers will listen to how you’re feeling and help you think through the next step towards feeling better. *Texts are free from EE, O2, Vodafone, 3, Virgin Mobile, BT Mobile, GiffGaff, Tesco Mobile and Telecom Plus.
Coping with self-harm – for young people.
Support for women and girls, resources and training for all.
Download their ‘I want to stop hurting myself’ information sheet
Download their ‘How do I tell someone?’ information sheet
‘You can contact Childline about anything. Whatever your worry, it's better out than in. We're here to support you.’
Mental Health Foundation
The truth about self-harm.
Blog: My story of self-harm recovery.