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Tips on handling Self-harm

What is Self-Harm?

Self-harm is when somebody intentionally harms their body without the intention of wanting to die. Examples of self-harm include:

  • Cutting or severely scratching the skin
  • Overdosing on medication, poisonous substances or other inappropriate objects
  • Burning or scalding yourself
  • Hitting the body with an external object or with other parts of your body
  • Scratching or picking the skin
  • Excessive hair pulling
  • Sticking objects onto your skin
  • Intentionally preventing wounds from healing

Self-harm may also include ways of hurting yourself that aren’t so obvious and physical. These include having unsafe sex, driving recklessly, binge drinking, and excessive drug taking.

Although self-harm is not the same as a suicide attempt, people who self-harm are more likely to have had suicidal thoughts or previous suicide attempts. Over time, people who self-harm may also be at increased risk of dying by suicide. This is because self-harming can become an addictive process. Moreover, those who repeatedly self-harm may feel more trapped, hopeless and lonely.

Why Do People Harm Themselves?

People from all backgrounds, lifestyles, genders and ages may experience self-harm as a way of dealing with problems. Self-harming is often the only way a person knows how to:

  • Cope and deal with feelings such as anger, sadness, emptiness, guilt. These feelings are often associated with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
  • Relieve feelings of loneliness or isolation
  • Punish themselves for something they’ve done or something they have perceived as their fault
  • Express feelings that cannot be put into words. For example, self-harm may be a way of communicating to people that they need their support
  • Relieve pain or tension
  • Distract yourself from difficult situations or emotions (e.g. relationship breakdown, recent abuse, dealing with grief)
  • Feel alive to combat feelings of numbness
  • Feel more in control of their life

How to Deal With Self-Harm

1. Talk to someone

This is the hardest step, because it requires you to talk about your feelings and behaviours. Ask yourself who in your life makes you feel accepted and supported, but this doesn’t necessarily have to be someone you are close to. Sometimes it’s easier to talk a doctor, counsellor, teacher or even a crisis line supporter.

2. Recognise your triggers

This is a vital step towards recovery so you can learn what situations you need to avoid and how to deal with these situations. If you’re finding it hard to pinpoint the exact feelings, it is also vital to work on the ability to identify and express your moment-to-moment emotions, and to understand the connection between your feelings and actions.

3. Find other coping strategies

This may simply be to wait for 15 minutes and seeing if the urge goes away. However, if you have identified your triggers, it may be easier to think of specific coping strategies:

  • If you self-harm to express pain and intense emotions, you could find other ways of expressing pain and emotions (e.g. painting, listening to music, writing down your thoughts and feelings).
  • If you self-harm to calm yourself, try taking a shower, massaging your body, keep yourself warm, listen to calming music, hug a person or animals
  • If you self-harm because you feel numb, try talking to a friend or family, take a cold shower, eat something with strong taste.
  • If you self-harm to release tension, try exercising, punching a pillow instead, holding tightly onto something, make some noise, tearing a sheet of paper apart.

It can be any sort of activity, but as long as you distract yourself with other activities, it’s better than harming yourself.

4. Get professional help

Find someone who specialises in helping someone who self-harms. Sure, you may have completed all these coping strategies, but these mental health professionals are there to help you maintain these strategies in the long run and to prevent future self-harming.

Learn more about self-harm at Seribu Tujuan