Should I tell someone?
Yes. Talking to someone is often the first step to getting out of the cycle. It isn’t an easy thing to do and you might find it difficult to talk about. This is normal - lots of people who self-harm find asking for help very difficult. Talking about your feelings isn’t a sign of weakness.
It shows that you are taking charge of your well-being and doing what you need to stay healthy. Feeling listened to can also help you feel more supported. A part of recovery involves trusting people enough to let them help you.
Who can I talk to and how?
It is important that you trust, and are comfortable with the person you tell. This might include friends, family, a trusted teacher, a healthcare professional, or a helpline. There are no rules about how you should tell someone. Remember you can set the pace and it is up to you how much you want to tell them.
If you find speaking about it too difficult, you can tell someone in writing or in an email. You can even ask a friend to speak to a trusted adult on your behalf. Let them know you need help with how you are feeling. Don’t feel obligated to talk about details if you are uncomfortable, instead try to focus on the thoughts and feelings behind your self-harm rather than the behaviours.
What help is available for me?
If you seek help from your GP, you will likely be directed to counselling. Here, a mental health professional will listen and help you to work on solutions and strategies to cope with the problems you are dealing with.
Talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) focus on building coping strategies and problem-solving skills and have been found to be very effective in helping to reduce self-harm.
Other forms of counselling, like psychodynamic therapy, for instance, will help you to identify the problems that are causing you distress and leading you to self-harm. It is important that you talk to a professional to decide the best treatment option for you.
How can I stop harming myself?
In addition to counselling, distraction techniques like the ones discussed below provide a release from emotional pressure, without the need to self-harm. However, while it may provide temporary relief, therapy is a more long-term solution.
Distraction techniques can be a useful way to ‘ride the wave’ of emotion and overcome the urge to harm yourself. For example:
The 5 minute rule: When you feel the need to self harm, wait for 5 minutes, then see if you can go another 5 minutes, and so on, until eventually the urge to self harm is over.
Write down distressing thoughts and feelings on a page; crumple it, rip it, and throw it as a way to let go of that thought.
Get some play-dough: stretch it or squeeze it to relieve tension.
Go for a walk to take yourself away from triggers. Being in a public place gives you the time and space to reduce the urge to hurt yourself.
Make lots of noise, either with a musical instrument or just banging on pots and pans.
Call a friend or family member and talk to them. This doesn’t have to be about self-harm.
Do something creative: make a collage of colours to represent your mood or to remind you of your favourite things.
6 Tips For Looking After Yourself:
Keeping safe: Wounds and injuries of any type can be dangerous and carry the risk of infection, so they need to be looked after. If you have a serious injury, feel unwell or feel that you are going into shock (fast breathing, racing heart, feeling faint or panicked) you should seek help immediately. This is about allowing someone to support you medically in a moment of crisis.
Make a ‘safe box’: Fill this safe box with things that make you happy and calm, to help you through times when you feel overwhelmed by emotion and have the urge to harm yourself.
Make a list of people you trust: Knowing who you can talk to at any time can make it easier to ask for help when you need it. Add these to your safe box.
Avoid alcohol and drugs: Just like self-harm, the effects of these are only temporary, and can end up making you feel worse.
Do something you enjoy: Doing things that you enjoy and makes you feel happy, helps you look after your mental health, and improves your self esteem.. Remember that there is more to you than self-harm.
Don’t be too hard on yourself: Many people who self-harm can be perfectionists and high achievers. Try to not be so hard on yourself about not getting things perfect.
It’s important to remember that you won’t always feel the way you do now. The problems that are causing you to self-harm can, with help and support, become more manageable over time or even go away. Things can and do get better! People heal in different ways, so take time and be patient with yourself.