What is self-harm?

Self-harm is when someone deliberately injures or damages them self. Often this leaves a mark, a scar, draws blood or leaves a bruise. The most common ways of doing this are cutting, scratching or pricking to draw blood; burning, picking at old wounds, punching or head-banging a wall.

Who self-harms?

All kinds of people self-harm, but it is most common among 15-19 year olds. It is not known exactly how many people self-harm, as it is often hidden.

What should I do if I self-harm?

You don’t have to keep it secret or let it rule your life. Talk to someone today. Start with someone you can confide in, even a friend or a teacher or go to your GP. The most important thing is that you tell someone, so you can start to get better.

There is a website for young people, in Bexley and Greenwich called Headscape, which has been set up specifically for young people in the Borough:

It is a ‘one stop’ source of self-help about a range of mental health issues and conditions to browse and get help if needed. Mind have also produced guidance that explains how to manage self-harm in more depth, tailoring coping mechanisms to the cause of your actions:

A few techniques some recommend are: installing a punch bag, beating up a pillow, squeezing an ice-cube or flicking an elastic band.

What if one of my friends self-harms?

The most important thing is to be accepting and not judgemental. Offer to listen if they want to talk, and gently try to persuade them to get professional help and not to keep it secret. But remember, it’s not your fault if they harm and you mustn’t feel guilty if they carry on. Don’t join in. Peer pressure is a powerful thing. Self-harming is good for nobody and the marks last forever.

Why do people self-harm?

The reasons people self-harm are often misunderstood. It isn’t about attention seeking or wanting to die – but it can be a cry for help. Most people who self-harm have been through bad experiences in life like bullying, abuse or bad family relationships. It leaves people feeling bad about themselves, and as pressure builds up, self-harm can feel like the only way of dealing with it. Sometimes a physical pain provides relief to emotional feelings. Some people may want to punish themselves because they feel guilty or worthless. Or that the harming acts like a pressure valve, allowing them to relax. Self-harmers usually want to stop, but don’t know how else to cope. They may not know how to express emotions, or perhaps there is a belief that they’re bad and deserve to be punished.

Information for this page is taken from the BBC Advice webpage on self-harm.

Other resources

  • Mind – Resources on how to manage self-harm – both in the long and short-term. Mind in Bexley also run support groups for friends and relatives of someone suffering with a mental health problem – more details can be found on their website:
  • Good Thinking – Resources tailored to how you are feeling e.g. anxious, sleep deprived, stressed, sad/low.
  • – a forum where you can speak to others who are going through the same things as you, the community help each other through difficult times.
  • Childline – If you’re under 19 you can confidentially call, email, or chat online about any problem big or small. Sign up for a Childline account on the website to be able to message a counsellor anytime without using your email address.
    Freephone 24h helpline: 0800 1111
  • Samaritans – If you’re in distress and need support, you can ring Samaritans for free at any time of the day or night. Chat 1:1 with an online advisor.
    Freephone (UK and Republic of Ireland): 116 123 (24 hours)
  • The Mix – If you’re under 25 you can talk to The Mix free on the phone, by email or on their web chat. You can also use their phone counselling service, or get more information on support services you might need.
    Freephone: 0808 808 4994 (13:00-23:00 daily)