The image that often comes to mind is of someone cutting themselves. But self harm can be any action that causes injury or pain to yourself. Over-eating, over-exercising, participating in unsafe activities, drinking too much are all just harmful to yourself as causing immediate physical injuries.
Many people think those that self harm are just attention seeking. If they were serious, they would attempt suicide, right? But in reality they will often do their best to keep their behaviour a secret. It is a coping strategy, a way of dealing with extremely difficult emotions and feeling some control over unmanageable emotions.
MHFA plenary speaker and self harm awareness trainer Satveer Nijjar discusses and explains more in this video.
According to a report published in the British Medical Journal, non-suicidal self harm has tripled in the UK in the last 10 years though people aren’t accessing services.
The co-author of the report Louis Appleby, from the University of Manchester, commented: “An increase in the prevalence of using self harm to cope with emotional stress could have serious long term implications. There is a risk that self harm will become normalised for young people, and individuals who start to self harm when young might adopt the behaviour as a long term coping strategy.”
Appleby warned, “Non-suicidal self harm may be associated with later suicide. As young people get older, reaching age groups that already have higher suicide rates, the self harm they have learned may become more serious and more likely to have a fatal outcome.”
Where to go for help
Self harm can be successfully treated when caught early and it’s important to get help as soon as possible.
Self Harm UK have launched a free online support group for 14-19 year olds called Alumina.
Young Minds are always an excellent resource for all mental health matters for younger people and they have some great pages around self harm. They also support parents of young people too.
The mental health charity Mind have useful contacts if self harm affects you or someone you know.If you’re in crisis contact The Samaritans on 116 123. In 2019, people discussed self-harm in calls with Samaritans once every two minutes.
In the Adult MHFA courses we learn about crisis first aid for self harm and positive coping strategies to help reduce stress.