Self-harm (also called self-injury) is when you hurt yourself on purpose – you cut, burn, or scratch yourself, for example – mostly in secret.
Why do people harm themselves? People who harm themselves have often had tough experiences or relationships in their lives. Maybe others have made fun of them, been mean, or not let them join their group or activities. They could have lost someone close to them, been physically or sexually abused, or have problems with family, school, or peer groups. Self-harm may be used as a way to deal with strong feelings. Self-harm might be a way to cope with stress, anger, depression, self-criticism or it might be a cry for help. It might help in the short term, but it doesn’t help over time.
Finding help. Reach out to someone who can help you find healthier, positive ways to lessen the pain you feel inside even if it seems hard. Ask for support from a friend, family member, counselor, or health professional. It’s important. It might take some time, but you can become happier and healthier.
If you or a friend are harming yourselves, you need to take care of your injuries. If necessary, ask your doctor for help. If injuries are serious, go to a hospital emergency department.
Coping without harming yourself. Along with support from others, think of things you can do for yourself. Make a list of ways to manage your emotions. What can you do instead of hurting yourself? Here are some ideas for helping you feel better:
•Wait 15 minutes. Choose to put off hurting yourself until you’ve talked to someone else or waited for 15 minutes. Can you wait another15 minutes? Do it again until the bad feelings pass.
•Exercise. Go for a run or walk in the park to use up some of your energy.
•Relax. Practice taking long, slow breaths in and out. Do yoga or meditate – they can help lessen your anxious feelings.
•Cry. Crying is a healthy and normal way to express your sadness or frustrations.
•Punch a pillow or punching bag.
•Eat a chili, or something really spicy.
Donna Noonan, MPH, CHES
Youth Suicide Prevention Coordinator