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What is self-harm?

Self-harm is a term used when someone injures or harms themselves on purpose rather than by accident. Common examples include ‘overdosing’ (self-poisoning), hitting, cutting or burning oneself, pulling hair or picking skin, or self-strangulation. Self-harm is always a sign of something being seriously wrong.

Why do young people harm themselves?

Some young people use self-harm as a way of trying to deal with very difficult feelings that build up inside. This is clearly very serious and can be life threatening. People say different things about why they do it.

  • Some say that they have been feeling desperate about a problem and don’t know where to turn for help. They feel trapped and helpless. Self-injury helps them to feel more in control.
  • Some people talk of feelings of anger or tension that get bottled up inside, until they feel like exploding. Self-injury helps to relieve the tension that they feel.
  • Feelings of guilt or shame may also become unbearable. Self-harm is a way of punishing oneself.
  • Some people try to cope with very upsetting experiences, such as trauma or abuse, by convincing themselves that the upsetting event(s) never happened. These people sometimes feel ‘numb’ or ‘dead’. They say that they feel detached from the world and their bodies, and that self-injury is a way of feeling more connected and alive.
  • A proportion of young people who self-harm do so because they feel so upset and overwhelmed that they wish to end their lives by suicide

The risk of suicide is higher if the young person:

  • Is depressed, or has a serious mental illness
  • Is using drugs or alcohol when they are upset
  • Has previously tried to kill themselves, or has planned for a while about how to die without being saved
  • Has a relative or friend who tried to kill themselves.

Hampshire Context

Number of CYP Affected