Self-harming behaviour is often due to a set of complex issues that has roots in low self-esteem, difficult relationships, communication struggles as well as possible childhood trauma. It’s an issue that many young people face daily and most know someone for whom it is a current issue.

There are many reasons why you may self-harm. It may be how you try to deal with a stressful or upsetting situation that’s happening now or that you experienced in the past. Or you might not be sure why you hurt yourself. Whatever your reasons, there is help available.

You may hurt yourself if you’re overwhelmed by difficult feelings such as sadness, guilt or hopelessness. Self-harm may be a way to express these feelings, especially if you find it hard to put them into words. The physical pain can also be a distraction from the emotional pain you’re in.

You may self-harm to try to feel in control of your body, especially if you dissociate (feel detached from yourself and your environment).

Some people hurt themselves because they feel they need to punish themselves for not being ‘good enough’.

Self-harm can bring a sense of temporary relief. But the underlying issues won’t have gone away, and when your feelings build up you may feel like you have to hurt yourself again. It can be hard to break out of this cycle but it’s possible to find other ways to cope.

Who can help?

Decide who you want to tell first. Choose someone you feel comfortable with. Talking to someone else can help you figure out how you feel about it and if you want to tell others. For example, you may want to tell:

  • A friend or family member
  • Your GP
  • A teacher
  • Someone on an emotional support line, where you can remain anonymous if you prefer

Helpful Resources

Alumina -

Mind -

Telephone: 0300 123 3393

Mental Health Foundation -

Rethink -

National Self Harm Network –