Managing Self-harm
What is self-harm?
Self-harm is an act in which someone hurts themself intentionally. It can take many different forms such as cutting, burning or biting, over or under-eating or consuming harmful substances. Sometimes, when someone is struggling with extremely painful and difficult emotions, memories or situations, they may resort to self-harm as a way to cope. The reasons why someone might turn to self-harm can be complicated Self-care techniques can help prevent some mental health difficulties developing as well as to manage any ongoing symptoms. and vary from person to person. Some people try harming themselves once or twice, particularly if their friends have done so too. For others, however, it can become a dangerous habit which may later be difficult to break. It is important to remember that self-harm can carry real risks and needs to be taken seriously rather than minimised or dismissed as, “just attention seeking”.
Ways to Manage self-harm for myself
Recognise your Patterns
Recognising your patterns of triggers and urges to self-harm helps you take steps towards reducing or stopping self-harm. ‘Triggers’ are what give you theurge to hurt yourself. They can be people, situations, anniversaries, sensations, specific thoughts orfeelings. Urges can include physical sensations like:
  • racing heart or feelings of heaviness
  • strong emotions like sadness or anger
  • a disconnection from yourself or a loss of sensation
  • repetitive thoughts about self-harm
Try writing down what you notice about your triggersand urges to help you spot them more quickly eachtime they come.
Practice alternative behaviours
Once you have a better idea of your triggers and can notice the urge to self-harm, you can practice doing things differently. Instead of acting on the urge, try to replace it with something else that might help with how you feel, for example:
  • Exercise
  • Hit cushions
  • Shout and dance
  • Bite on bunched up material
  • Tear something up into hundreds of pieces
  • Go for a run
  • Wrap yourself in a blanket
  • Watch some funny videos
  • Send a friend a message
  • Take some slow deep breaths
  • Write down everything you are feeling (you can rip it up afterwards if you like)
  • Flick rubber bands against your wrist
  • Hold a piece of ice in your palm
  • Take a very cold shower
Seek professional help
Tackling self-harm can be difficult and often people find it useful to get help from a mental health professional to do this. They can support you with understanding your self-harm better and implementing strategies to manage it.
Ways to support someone else
How can I be helpful?
There are lots of things you can do to make a difference to someone you know who practices self harming behaviours. Here are some things to keep in mind:
  • Try to be non-judgemental
  • Let the person know that you are there for them
  • Relate to them as a whole person, not just their self-harm
  • Try to have empathy and understanding about what they are doing
  • Let them be in control of their decisions
  • Remind them of their positive qualities and things they do well
  • Try to have honest communication, where you take responsibility for any fears you have
What doesn’t help?
Sometimes, even with the best intentions, attemptsto support someone can backfire. Here are somepotential pitfalls to watch out for:
  • Trying to force change
  • Acting or communicating in a way that threatens to take control away from them
  • Either ignoring their injuries or overly focusing on them• Labelling self-harm as ‘attention seeking’