Self harm – a mental health crisis

A balck and white image of a person sitting alone on a beach with their head bowed

Self-harm is the act of deliberately hurting oneself, for example by cutting or burning yourself, pulling one’s hair out, or punching oneself. It is a type of coping mechanism that people use when they are feeling emotionally overwhelmed or unable to cope with what they are experiencing.

There are different types of self-harm and it is not an uncommon phenomenon amongst adolescents and young adults. Self-harm can be addictive and cause serious problems in a person’s everyday life.

Self-harm can be a result of an emotional reaction, such as stress or anger, but also may indicate other mental health conditions. Mood disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and attachment disorders are just some of the potential causes that have been shown to contribute to self-harm.

Self-harm is becoming a greater issue in society but it still remains a topic that people try to avoid talking about. Self-harmers are typically doing it because they want to feel something – anything – other than the internal pain that threatens to overwhelm them mentally. They don’t want to actually hurt themselves, they just want to feel alive again.

There are risk factors to self-harm

  • The physical risks: cuts, bruises, infections
  • The emotional risks: depression, anxiety, difficulties with relationships
  • The social risks: feelings of isolation, at home, work, or school

According to research, the majority of individuals who self-harm do not intend to take their own lives. However, in a crisis situation, self-harmers who have become desensitised and habituated to pain through repeat harming episodes, may view a suicide attempt as less frightening.

It is therefore vital that more awareness is raised and support given to prevent people from hitting crisis points.

If you would like more support to understand or manage self-harm please check out the following resources:

Self-injury support

Self Injury Helpline – 0808 800 8088