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What is Self-Harm?

Zainab, Lechelle, Debbie and Ben talk about their experience of self-harm, what causes it, how it feels and how they think people can help.

I came across this video from MIND on a recent Self-harm and Suicide training. There are various ways people can self-harm but how to stop it? For many, distraction can be a useful place to start:

Different distractions work for different people, and the same technique won't necessarily work for you every time. As distracting yourself from fear is very different to distracting yourself from anger, it's important that you have a number of different strategies to choose from.

The following are simply suggestions. Writing your own personal list of distractions that you've found helpful or that you would like to try out is a good idea.

For Anger and Frustration:

You could try:

  • exercise

  • hit cushions

  • shout and dance

  • shake

  • tear something up into hundreds of pieces

  • go for a run.

Expressing your anger physically, or by doing things like shouting, won't work for everyone and could intensify feelings. Try things out and continue with any that have a positive effect.

Sadness or Fear:

You could try:

  • wrapping a blanket around you

  • spend time with a pet

  • walk in nature

  • let yourself cry or sleep

  • listen to soothing music

  • tell someone how you feel

  • massage your hands

  • lie in a comfortable position and breathe in – then breathe out slowly, making your out-breath longer than your in-breath. Repeat until you feel more relaxed. Check the Mindfulness or meditation blogs.

A Need to Control:

You could try:

  • writing lists

  • tidy up

  • declutter

  • write a letter saying everything you are feeling, then tear it up

  • weed a garden

  • clench then relax all your muscles.

Numbness or Disconnection:

You could try:

  • flicking elastic bands or hair bands on your wrists

  • hold ice cubes or bags of peas

  • smell something with strong odour

  • have a very cold shower.


You could try:

  • stop spending time with anyone who treats you unkindly

  • recognise when you are trying to be perfect and accept that making mistakes is part of being human

  • remind yourself that there are reasons for how you behave – it is not because you are 'bad'.

Self-Hatred and Punishment:

You could try:

  • write a letter from the part of you that feels the self-hatred, then write back with as much compassion and acceptance as you can

  • find creative ways to express the self-hatred, through writing songs or poetry, drawing, movement or singing

  • do physical exercise (like running or dancing) to express the anger that is turned in on yourself.

No-one can do this for you. This is the first step and only you can do it. Yes, there are others out there that can help and support you. Find out if there are counsellors at your school, college, university or work place. Maybe you have medical insurance that could help you. Check out if there is a counselling service near by - some offer low cost if money is an issue. Don't forget your GP too.


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