Self-harm is not a new, however, it does seem to be becoming a more widespread topic of conversation within my field of work and in general. Social media also plays a role in its expansion. What is the truth about self-harm? Why, when a person is already in emotional pain, would they want to hurt themselves even further?

We all experience difficult challenges, that can cause stress and worry. Some people can manage these troubles by talking to friends and family, while others may find these difficulties overwhelming. When we are unable to understand, feel and/or express our emotions, we miss a chance to talk about them. Therefore, by avoiding talking about the things that make us distressed, angry or upset, creates a build up and this pressure can mount and become unbearable. At times, some people turn this in on themselves and use their bodies as an outlet and a way to express the thoughts and feelings they are unable to vocalise.

Some people use self harm as a coping strategy, for when emotions become overwhelming. If you self-harm, you might find that when you feel angry, distressed, worried or depressed, you will feel the urge to hurt yourself even more. This might give temporary relief from the emotional pain that you feel. It’s important to understand that this relief is only temporary because the underlying reasons are likely to remain. In turn, feelings of guilt and shame might follow, which can continue the cycle. Understanding triggers and building new ways of coping with difficult emotions are the first steps towards breaking the cycle.

If a person is cutting, burning or hitting themselves, it is important to remember that, self-harm isn’t a suicide attempt or a cry for attention.  Self-harm should be taken seriously, whatever the reason behind it. Reaching out to find someone to talk to, will help whoever is hurting themselves, by empowering them to take charge of their mental well-being.  Counselling offers ways of identifying triggers and building coping strategies, enabling you to take the first steps towards change.

These are professional services that may help you.

Samaritans – call 116 123 (open 24 hours a day)
Mind – call 0300 123 3393 or text 86463 (9am-6pm on weekdays)
Harmless – email
National Self Harm Network forums
YoungMinds Parents Helpline – call 0808 802 5544 (9.30-4pm on weekdays)