Self harm

There are many different ways in which young people self-harm, but the thing that they all have in common is it is used as a way of managing difficult and distressing feelings or experiences. 

Self-harm can be a way of coping for lots of different people in society – young or old. If you are struggling with difficult thoughts, feelings or experiences and using self-harm as a way of dealing with them, there is a strong possibility that you are not the only one in your class or circle of friends.

Common things we might consider being self-harm include

  • Cutting or causing abrasion to skin eg scratching
  • Burning yourself
  • Taking overdoses of tablets (this can be prescribed medication, over the counter medication or illegal drugs)
  • Anything that causes you to be harmed or placed in danger in some way

Other examples might include:

  • Using food to deal with feelings,
  • Not allowing yourself fun-time or friends
  • Working so hard you don’t go to bed 
  • Putting yourself in risky or dangerous situations
  • Banging your head against a wall
  • Breaking your own bones
  • Throwing yourself down the stairs
  • Pulling your hair out

Some of the risky or dangerous things young people might do include:

  • Having unprotected sex
  • Getting into fights
  • Driving too fast or getting into cars being driven dangerously
  • Using drugs or alcohol to escape or have a break from their current life

Some people describe self-harm as

  • A way of having a break from difficult things in their life
  • A way of punishing themselves – perhaps because they feel so bad about themselves and their life
  • A way of communicating to other people how much emotional pain they feel, perhaps when they cannot find the words to describe all their thoughts and feelings 
  • A way to express or release built up emotion or negativity


There are many different reasons why young people self-harm and these are just some of things that young people tell us about why they harm or hurt themselves.

Self-harm is not about ending your life or committing suicide, however sometimes people feel unsure whether they want to die or not.  Sometimes people do harm themselves in ways that are very dangerous, and it can be possible to accidentally kill yourself.  For this reason it is really important to know when to ask for help or get immediate medical treatment.

Cutting can be very dangerous, especially if you cut deep and cut on certain parts of the body.  If you cannot stop a cut bleeding or it is deep then you may need stitches or other treatment. Creating an open wound on any occasion can result in potential infection and serious illness if left untreated.  You should see a medical professional if this is the case. You can go to your local A&E department, or depending on how severe the cut or bleeding is you could go to an NHS Walk-in Centre

If you think that you would like to talk to someone about your self-harm and what else might be going on in your life that you are finding difficult, there are lots of different people who can help. You can find a list of useful services here.  

Published 1st May 2024