Self-harm is where someone does something deliberately to hurt themselves. Self-harm is a coping mechanism and a way of trying to deal with painful and confusing feelings.

Why do young people self-harm?

A young person may self-harm because they:

  • Are feeling sad, worried or angry;
  • Are not feeling very good about themselves;
  • Are being hurt by others, physically, sexually or emotionally;
  • Are feeling under a lot of pressure at home or school;
  • Want to fit in with a group of friends;
  • Have lost someone close to them.

How can you cope with self-harm and overwhelming feelings?

Replacing the self-harm with other, safer, coping strategies can be a positive and more helpful way of dealing with difficult things in your life. Helpful strategies can include:

  • Finding someone to talk to about your feelings;
  • Talking to someone on the phone, e.g. you might want to ring a helpline;
  • Writing and drawing about your feelings if it is difficult to talk about your feelings;
  • Scribbling on and/or ripping up paper;
  • Flicking an elastic band on your wrists, or arms or legs;
  • Listening to music;
  • Doing some exercise;
  • Getting out of the house and going somewhere where there are other people;
  • Keeping a diary;
  • Having a bath/using relaxing oils;
  • Hitting a pillow or other soft object;
  • Watching a favourite film.

For further information on harm minimisation and where to get support see the leaflet in the Local Publications list below called 'Self-harm: Information and Advice for Young People'.

If you are worried about a friend

You can really help by just being there, listening and giving support:

  • Be open and honest. If you are worried about your friends safety you should tell an adult. Let your friend know that you are going to do this and you are doing it because you care about them;
  • Encourage your friend to get help. You can go with your friend or tell someone that he or she wants to know about it;
  • Get information from telephone helplines, websites, a library, etc. This can help you to understand what your friend is experiencing;
  • Allowing them to talk about how they feel is probably the most important thing you can do for them. Just feeling that someone is listening and that they are being heard can really help. Good listening is a skill. Always let the person finish what they are saying and, while they are talking, try not to be thinking of the next thing you are going to say.

For further information and where to get support see the leaflet in the Local Publications list below called 'Self-harm: Information and Advice, My friend has a problem how can I help?'


Local publications

National Advice and Help Lines

  • Childline
    24hrs helpline for children and young people under 18 providing confidential counselling
    Tel: 0800 1111
    Offers a helpline to give support, practical advice and information to anyone who is concerned that a young person may be suicidal
    HOPELineUK: 08000684141
  • Bristol Crisis Service for Women (national support available)
    Supports women and girls in emotional distress, especially those who self-harm, or their friends or relatives
    Limited opening hours: 0117 925 1119
  • National Self-harm Network
    Support for people who self-harm, provides free information pack to service users.
  • Samaritans
    Confidential, emotional support for anybody who is in crisis.
    Tel: 08457 90 90 90
  • Young Minds
    Information on a range of subjects relevant to young people.
  • Young Minds Parents Information Service
    Tel: 0808 802 5544