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Self-harm: Things you can do to help yourself

It may seem hard, but reaching out to someone can help you work through some of the reasons for harming yourself. It may take time, but you can move to a happier and healthier outlook. It's important to trust the person you are speaking with.

Starting the conversation

If you find it hard to talk about what you're going through, try to start with words like:

  • right now, I'm feeling:
  • I think it started when:
  • I've been feeling this for:
  • lately, school/work/college has been:

Family support

If you feel comfortable speaking with a family member, they can help you find a counsellor that's right for you. They may be relieved at having the opportunity to listen and help.

If you don't get a positive response, this is not because you've done something wrong. It's more likely that the person you told may not know how to respond or may not understand self-harm.

Talking to a counsellor

You may need to talk to someone like a counsellor, psychologist, or psychiatrist.

They can help you to work through some of the reasons you are self-harming. They can help you to find other ways to ease the pain you feel inside.

Building trust with your counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist can take time. You need to find someone you feel comfortable with. This may mean seeing several people before finding one that's right for you.

Don't give up

If your first attempt at getting support doesn't go how you had hoped, don't give up. Try again or speak to someone else who you think you might be better.

If talking about it with someone is too overwhelming, email or write down what you want to say.

A first step might be to talk to Samaritans by emailing jo@samaritans.ie or calling 116 123. Samaritans provide 24-hour confidential support to anyone struggling to cope.

If you or a friend are self-harming, take care of your injuries. Visit your GP or hospital if you need to.

Understand, distract, delay

If you can understand your patterns of self-harm, you may discover certain triggers. This can then help you to delay self-harm, and stop over time.

Understand

Journaling and reflecting on self-harm can help you to better understand the patterns.

Learn to recognise triggers. Triggers are what give you the urge to hurt yourself. They could be people, situations, thoughts or feelings.

Recognising your urges helps you take steps towards reducing or stopping self-harm. Try writing down what you notice about your urges, to help you spot them more quickly each time they come.

Urges can include:

  • racing heart or feelings of heaviness
  • strong emotions like sadness or anger
  • a disconnection from yourself or a loss of sensation
  • repetitive thoughts – for example, 'I'm going to cut'
  • unhealthy decisions, like working too hard to avoid feelings

Distract

If you're feeling like you want to self-harm, try to distract yourself. This may pass some time until your feelings become more manageable.

It can be done when you feel the urge, or as soon as you become aware that you are hurting yourself.

You may need to create a list of other ways of managing your emotions, to replace self-harm.

If you can, make sure you are around other people. Remove any sharp objects or items that could be used to self-harm from the area.

Delay

Choose to put off harming yourself until you've spoken to someone else or waited for 15 minutes. See if you can extend it for another 15 minutes after that. Continue until the feeling passes.

Releasing energy or feelings

It's difficult to get strong evidence of what works for people to stop self-harming. What works for one, may not work for another. Here are some things you can try to cope with overwhelming emotions:

  • write in a journal
  • exercise to use up excess energy
  • scream or sing at the top of your lungs, on your own or to music - do this into a pillow if you don't want other people to hear.
  • yoga or meditation can help to reduce anxiety.
  • cry – crying is a healthy and normal way (not weak or stupid) to express your sadness or frustrations.
  • talk to someone – talk with a trusted friend or with the Samaritans (freephone 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.ie)

Self-care

Eat well, exercise and be kind to yourself. Doing all these things can help to:

  • improve your self-esteem
  • lift your mood
  • create a better sense of wellbeing making you feel happier, on the outside and inside

Related topics

Self harm: getting help

Page last reviewed: 23/09/2018
Next review due: 23/09/2021

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