This is a very sensitive, yet important topic. I have to issue a trigger warning for self-harm and suicide. If you are struggling with self-harm, suicidal thoughts or attempts, please speak to a GP or mental health professional immediately. If you feel you are in immediate danger, call 999.
The Samaritans provide 24hr support for people who are in need of someone to talk to for various reasons. You can call them on 116 123 or you can email them at Jo@Samaritans.org (this is anonymous)
Mind charity is an amazing mental health charity offering support and information regarding various mental health conditions. You can call them on 0300 123 3398 or text them on 86463 (open between 9:00 am and 6:00 pm on weekdays)
Harmless – You can email: firstname.lastname@example.org
National Self Harm Network Forums – A place where you can ask for and receive help and support in regards to mental health and self-harm.
YoungMinds Parents Hotline – 0808 802 5544 (9:30 am till 4:00 pm on weekdays)
What is Self-Harm?
According to The National Health Service, self-harm is when someone intentionally damages or injures their body, usually as a way of coping with or expressing overwhelming emotional distress.
Over 50% of those who lose their life to suicide have a history of self-harm. There are other people whose intentions may simply be to punish themselves or express their distress and relieve tension.
There are various types of self-harm, the main types being:
- Cutting and/or burning their skin
- Punching or hitting themselves or tough surfaces
- Poisoning themselves with tablets and/or other toxic chemicals
- Misusing drugs and/or alcohol
- Deliberately starving themselves or binge eating (anorexia/bulimia)
- Excessively exercising
People tend to try and keep their self-harm a secret due to shame, fear and guilt. They may cover themselves up all year round to hide self-harm markings and will often avoid talking about the problem.
It is often up to friends and family to notice when a loved one is harming themselves. It is important in this case that they approach the matter with care and understanding.
Signs Of Self-Harm:
If you feel as though a loved one could be self-harming, here are some signs for you to look out for:
- Unexplained cuts, bruises or burns, usually on wrists, arms, thighs or chest (but not limited to these areas). Making excuses for cuts on their body,
- Keeping themselves covered at all times, even in warm/hot weather.
- Signs of depression – low mood, tearfulness, lack of motivation and/or interest in anything.
- Self-loathing and showing a wish to punish themselves.
- Saying that they do not want to go on living anymore.
- Becoming isolated and withdrawn, not speaking to people.
- Changes in eating habits, being secretive about any unusual weight loss or gain.
- Low self-esteem and blaming themselves for everything and feeling as though they are not good enough.
- Signs of pulling out their own hair.
- Signs of misusing alcohol and/or drugs.
- Finding razors, scissors, lighters, matches, knives etc. in strange places (under their bed or in bedside tables for example)
- Spending long periods of time locked in the bathroom or bedroom.
Self-harm may not always be physical harm, if an individual is intentionally neglecting their health, by not eating well, not washing or taking general care of themselves, this can also be a form of self-harm or self-punishment.
The individual may intentionally look for things that will hurt them emotionally, maybe by reading negative comments about themselves online or provoking people to say negative things about them.
It is important to look for these emotional signals too.
Why Might People Self-Harm?
Some people may self-harm as a way of coping with emotional distress or a way of dealing with life stressors, such as losing a job, going through a divorce, financial issues or losing a loved one.
It may be a way for them to punish themselves for what is going on in their life. They may have a lack of coping strategies or skills and have low self-esteem and so they feel as though they deserve to be harmed.
Some people may self-harm as a way to feel euphoria. When we cut ourselves or injure ourselves, the body releases endorphins which give us a ‘natural high’ or a sense of euphoria. Some people may self-harm in order to feel this way. Self-harming behaviours can become addictive and habit-forming.
It is estimated that around 10% of young people self-harm at some point in their lives. However, this figure could be underestimated as not everyone receives help for their struggles.
What Is Suicide?
Suicide is when someone decides to end their own life.
In some cases suicide can occur without any prior warning, however, there may be some subtle signs that you can look out for:
- Increasing their alcohol and/or drug intake
- Taking uneccesary risks and impulsivity
- Threatening suicide and/or expressing their wish to end their life
- Showing rage/anger more than what they would usually
- Talking about feeling hopeless or helpless
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Withdrawing themselves from others
- Displaying mood swings
- Saying goodbye to their loved ones
- Giving away their belongings to friends and loved ones
- Setting one’s affairs in order
- Referring to death in various ways, maybe through poetry, writing, drawings or in conversation
- Showing dramatic changes in personality or appearance
- Changing eating and sleeping patterns
- Declining in performance
More men than women tend to take their own lives, it is suggested that this could be due to the higher level of stigma surrounding male mental health, resulting in fewer men discussing their feelings with others.
If you are concerned for a loved one, reach out to them, ask them how they really feel, show them that you are there for them and that you care. Offer to seek help with them so that they do not have to go through it alone, research mental health conditions that they may be struggling with and increase your understanding.
If you are struggling please speak to someone you trust or get in touch with your GP or mental health professionals as soon as possible. Please know that you are not alone, there are people who care about you and who love you and support is available.