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  • Becoming very withdrawn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.

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.

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.