Self-harm, what can help?

Talking about it can be really helpful and is often the first step to feeling better. Speak to a trusted friend or family member, or contact our Therapy Service on to talk to one of our therapeutic counsellors. They can offer one-off drop-in appointments or weekly counselling sessions.

Understanding and taking control of your self-harm can be challenging. You can help by:

Learning to recognise the triggers:

  • ‘Triggers’ are what creates the urge to hurt yourself. They can include feeling or avoiding specific emotions, situations, people and thoughts

Different distractions will work for different people, and different things might help at different times:

  • Different distractions will work for different people, and different things might help at different times:
    • Apps like Calm Harm and DistrACT can help
    • If you feel sad – wrap a blanket around you, spend time with an animal, walk in nature, let yourself cry or sleep, listen to soothing music, try a breathing exercise
    • If you feel angry – exercise, hit cushions or a punch bag, shout and dance, bite on bunched up material, tear something up into hundreds of pieces
    • If you feel out of control – write lists, have a clear out, write a letter saying everything you are feeling then tear it up, weed a garden, try a relaxation exercise
    • If you feel numb or disconnected – flick elastic bands on your wrists, hold ice cubes, smell something with a strong odour, have a very cold shower
    • If you feel self-hate – write a letter from the part of you that feels the self-hatred, then write back with as much compassion and acceptance as you can, find creative ways to express the self-hatred through writing songs or poetry, drawing, movement or singing, or do physical exercise


  • The urge to self-harm can pass and it is thought that it is at its strongest for 5-15 minutes
  • Begin to identify ways you can distract yourself from the urge, or at least delay self-harming
  • Slowly increase the time you wait and gradually build up the gaps between each time you self-harm

Keeping a journal:

    • Regularly write or record how you’re feeling and what’s been happening in your life. You could do it every day, or whenever you feel you want to. It can help you to:
      • let your feelings out
      • see what you’ve written and think about things differently
      • learn more about what happens before, during and after so you can start to see patterns
      • think about new ways to cope or different things you could try
    • This can be a distressing thing to do. So be nice to yourself after each time you write, or get some support from a trusted person

Caring for your injuries with first aid and accessing medical attention when needed

Additional Resources: