Self-harm is an intentional act of self-poisoning or self-injury and is an expression of emotional distress.

Though it’s not a mental illness itself, self-harm is linked to emotional distress and is a coping strategy. You may be finding it difficult to cope with your emotions and feel like hurting yourself is a way of punishing yourself or relieving emotional distress.

However, this is unlikely to have disappeared and self-harm can make you feel worse. It also carries serious physical risks and can be potentially fatal.

There are many reasons people may self-harm, including social problems and psychological trauma.

If you’re worried that a friend or relative may be self-harming, there are a number of signs you can keep an eye out for. These include:

  • Unexplained cuts or bruises, usually on the wrists, arms, thighs or chest
  • Keeping themselves covered at all times, no matter what the weather
  • Common depression symptoms including low mood and a lack of motivation
  • Self-loathing
  • Becoming very withdrawn
  • Blaming themselves and having low self-esteem

It’s important you or the person you’re worried about seeks help as people who self-harm can cause serious harm to themselves.

You can check out our advice for talking to a friend if you're worried about how they're feeling.

If you’re in a mental health crisis and need urgent help, call the Single Point of Access on (01472) 256256 and select option 3. They are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Alternatively, you can call NHS 111 free from a landline or mobile phone.

You should speak to your GP if you’re self-harming. They will be able to signpost you to the most appropriate support, which may be a referral to our community mental health team. If that is the case, you will undergo an assessment from a member of the team and they will provide a care plan to help you, which may include seeing a therapist and learning healthy coping strategies.

You could also consider speaking about your feelings with someone you trust, such as a family member or close friend.

If you’d rather text than talk on the phone, you can text ORANGE to 85258 to contact a trained volunteer from Shout. They’ll be able to help you reach a place of calm and, if necessary, signpost you to local services. This is a free, 24/7 service.​​​​

It might be necessary to use medication if you are depressed. You may be prescribed antidepressants such as SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors). You can see a list of medicines we might offer you on our Choice and Medication portal.

Safespace provides instant support if you’re vulnerable and need assistance with you mental health out-of-hours. You can speak to the team using Zoom or by calling in via telephone, between 6pm and 10pm, Monday to Friday.

Rethink Mental Illness: Rethink have prepared a comprehensive factsheet that answers a wide range of questions on self-harm. 

Orcha Apps Library: This library lists thousands of NHS-approved health apps by condition, making it quick and easy for you to find support.

No Harm Done: A project that aims to show young people struggling with self-harm that things can and do get better. 

Samaritans: If you’re thinking about self-harming, Samaritans have provided information and signposting. 

Self-Injury Support: Self-Injury Support offer support to both adult and young women, who are more likely to self-harm. 

NICEYou can find more information about self-harm on the National institute for Health and Care Excellence website.

Found a useful resource we haven't included? Know an organisation or group we could be signposting to? Contact us and let us know!