Self harm

What is it?

Self-harm is usually defined as some form of intentional self-injury. It may include actions such as cutting parts of your own body, taking a potentially harmful substance, and burning or punching oneself but there are many other ways in which people can harm and injure themselves.

The reasons why people may harm themselves are usually very complex, and are rarely the result of a single problem or difficulty. In recent years, there has been a greater awareness of self-harm and some reports suggest an increased incidence amongst certain groups, such as adolescent females and people who have mental health problems. For some individuals, there is a link between self-harm and suicidal thinking, but this is not always the case, and suicidal thinking is certainly not an inevitable outcome of self-harm.

How do we know it's happening?

Most people who have harmed themselves are aware that they have a problem. For some people, their self-harm can be a very private experience which is not obvious to others; although many forms of self-harm result in physical injuries which are very obvious to other people.

Why does it happen?

There are many theories as to why people self-harm, but it is generally recognised that it is most likely to be a symptom of some other form of psychological or emotional difficulty.

Self-harm can be very difficult to understand and to deal with, both for the person themselves and for those close to them, and often leads to feelings of frustration, guilt and shame.

What we offer

Self-harm is most likely to be one of a number of problems that the person needs help or treatment for. We usually work with the person on identifying the underlying causes and difficulties, so that these can be addressed.

There is no single treatment approach, but all approaches offer a way of addressing the person's underlying psychological difficulties.

Specific interventions may include focusing on communication, relationships, dealing with stress effectively and coming to terms with any past trauma or abuse.


Don't be afraid to raise the issue with your GP. You may prefer to contact a helpline such as Samaritans.

If you are a service user, please tell the person you are seeing if you are harming yourself in any way.

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