Recite Me

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Self-harm

It's important to know that support is available for anyone who self-harms or thinks about self-harm, as well as their friends and family.

It's best to speak to a GP about self-harm, but you may also find it helpful to speak to a free listening service or support organisation.

Urgent help

If you need help now for a mental health crisis or emergency, read about where to get urgent help for mental health.

If you just need to talk, any time of day or night

Free listening services

These services offer confidential advice from trained volunteers. You can talk about anything that's troubling you, no matter how difficult:

If you're under 19, you can also call 0800 1111 to talk to Childline. The number will not appear on your phone bill.

If you prefer a webchat, these services are available at certain times:

Speak to a GP if:

  • you're harming yourself
  • you're having thoughts about harming yourself
  • you're worried about minor injuries, such as small cuts or burns – without treatment there is a risk of infection

Some people who self-harm are at a higher risk of suicide.

It's important to get support or treatment as soon as possible to help with the underlying cause and prevent suicidal thoughts developing.

How a GP can help with self-harm

A GP will listen and discuss the best options for you, which could include self-help or support groups. They can also give you advice and treatment for minor injuries.

They may ask you detailed questions to help them understand the cause of your self-harm. It's important to be honest with them, even if you do not know why you self-harm.

If needed, a GP may discuss referring you for an assessment with a local community mental health team (CMHT). An assessment will help your care team work out a treatment plan with you, such as a talking therapy, to help you manage your self-harm.

Read more about assessment and treatments for self-harm.

Further information and support

These organisations offer information and support for anyone who self-harms or thinks about self-harm, or their friends and family:

If you struggle with suicidal thoughts or are supporting someone else, the Staying Safe website provides information on how to make a safety plan. It includes video tutorials and online templates to guide you through the process.

You could also download the free distrACT app. This gives you easy, quick and discreet access to information and advice about self-harm and suicidal thoughts.

Self-harm is when somebody intentionally damages or injures their body.

Some of the reasons that people may self-harm include:

  • expressing or coping with emotional distress
  • trying to feel in control
  • a way of punishing themselves
  • relieving unbearable tension
  • a cry for help
  • a response to intrusive thoughts

Self-harm may be linked to bad experiences that are happening now, or in the past. But sometimes the reason is unknown.

The reasons can also change over time and will not be the same for everybody.

Common causes of emotional distress

Self-harm is most often described as a way to express or cope with emotional distress.

There are many possible causes of emotional distress. It's often a build-up of many smaller things that leads people to think about self-harm.

Some examples include:

Self-harm and suicide

There is evidence of a clear link between suicide or suicidal thoughts and people who have previously self-harmed.

However, not everyone who self-harms wants to end their life. Some people describe their self-harm as a way of staying alive by responding to or coping with severe emotional distress.

It's important to find the right support or treatment to help deal with the underlying cause in a less harmful way.

Further information and support