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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury


Te whakamamae i a koe anō

Self-harm is when you hurt your body on purpose. It affects people from all walks of life and takes many different forms. Some of the more common ways include cutting (for example, cutting the skin on your arms, wrists or thighs), burning your skin, picking at wounds or scars, self-hitting or deliberately overdosing on medication, drugs or other harmful substances.

Why people self-harm

Often self-harm happens when you're trying to cope with strong feelings and emotions. It lets you express how distressed you are, and it can feel like it relieves tension. Sometimes it does both.

Many people who self-harm have had tough experiences or damaging relationships that they're trying to cope with. Sometimes you may not even be aware of the feelings and emotions that you're trying to cope with but just know you feel better when you self-harm.

Self-harm may make you feel better in the short term, but it doesn't help you overcome a problem over time.

Self-help for self-harm

If you use self-harm as a way of coping with difficult feelings, it can be really hard to stop. Self-harming can become addictive and can damage your physical and mental health and relationships.

Learn what situations make you want to self-harm – these are called triggers.

Learn to recognise when you might be about to self-harm.

If you think you might self-harm, think of things you can do instead. This might be reaching out to talk to someone you trust, doing some physical activity, painting, meditation or using an app such as Calm Harm. Keep a record of these things so you can use them when you need to do something.

Look after your general health by getting enough sleep and eating well.

Keep good contact with your whānau (family) and friends who you can talk to.

Getting help for self-harm

The best thing to do is talk to someone about it. See your general practice team or talk to your school counsellor, another counsellor or a mental health professional. If you feel the first person you speak to isn't helping in the way you want, keep trying until you find someone you're comfortable with and who can guide you in the right direction.

If you feel it might be easier to talk to someone you do not know, see Getting help for a mental health issue for services to contact for help.

If you're concerned someone you know is self-harming, there are ways you can support them (follow the link, scroll down the page and open the Supporting someone who is self-harming block).

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed May 2023.


See also:

Anxiety in teens & young adults

Depression in teens & young adults

Page reference: 53215

Review key: HISEH-53215