Self Harm

Self Harm can bring up really difficult feelings for lots of people but it is more common than you might think. As many as one in ten people self harm at some point in their life.
Self-Harm is a term used to describe when someone inflicts pain or damage on themselves in some way. This may include cutting, scratching, burning, biting, head-banging, tying ligatures and ingesting substances and taking overdoses. It is usually a sign that someone is trying to cope with overwhelming feelings. It seems that sometimes people’s difficulties build up to the point where they feel unmanageable and young people often describe a sense of release related to self- harming. It is often used as a way of coping. People self-harm for a variety of reasons and each episode of self-harm isn’t always for the same reason. Common reasons for self-harming include (but are not limited to):

Relieving tension

Communicating distress

Gaining a sense of control

To feel something

To make emotional pain physical

To punish themselves

Sometimes, but not always, self-harm can be used as an attempt to commit suicide. Often people who self-harm are experiencing mental health problems although self-harm in itself is not a mental illness. Nevertheless, the key to addressing and managing self-harm is often to get help with underlying issues.

Self-harm can be dangerous and people who self-harm sometimes risk killing themselves accidentally. If you are self-harming it is important that you seek help as soon as possible. At CAMHS we will work hard to understand what the underlying issues are and work with you to help you to manage in a more helpful and less damaging way. In the meantime, this self-help booklet might help:

You might also find talking to Childline helpful: 0800 1111

The following techniques have been used by many people who harm themselves.  They seem to be helpful in the short term to ‘surf the urge’ but they won’t solve the underlying issues and emotional distress at the root of the urges.


□    Using a red (water soluble) felt tip pen to mark instead of cut

□    Hitting a pillow or punch bag to vent

□    Squeezing or rubbing ice instead of cutting

□    Physical exercise

□    Making a lot of noise (pots and pans, musical instrument etc…)

□    Writing negative feelings down then tearing the paper up

□    Scribbling on paper with red crayon or pen

□    Flicking an elastic band on your wrist

□    Writing poetry

□    Using fake blood

□    Using ‘flash cards’ with slogans on

□    Putting it off…waiting for half an hour to see how you feel

□    Writing a diary or journal

□    Making a scrapbook/ collage or artwork

□    Talking to a friend (not necessarily about self harm)

□    Going online to look for self-help websites

□    Listening to your upbeat theme tune or creating an upbeat playlist

□    Unravelling a ball of string/ wool and re-ravelling it

□    Mindfulness techniques (practicing being in the here and now)

□    Safe space exercises


More information can be found by following these links:

Royal College of Psychiatrists:

Young Minds:

National Guidelines: