Self-harm is when a person hurts themselves as a coping mechanism to deal with very difficult feelings, painful memories or overwhelming situations and experiences.
Self-harm is something which anyone can do, there is no typical person who hurts themselves. After someone has self-harmed, they may feel a short-term sense of release, which is why someone might repeatedly harm themselves, but the cause of the person’s distress is very unlikely to have gone away. Even if there are always reasons why someone is hurting themselves, it is important to know that self-harm carries serious risks.
Ways in which someone may harm themselves include, but are not limited to:
- Cutting or scratching themselves
- Burning themselves with a flame or something hot
- Causing bruising to the body by hitting themselves
- Throwing their body against something that will hurt
- Taking overdoses of tables or medications
- Inserting objects into their body
- Excessive and hard hair pulling
How can I look after myself?
There are a few ways how you can look after yourself, below is a list of a few things you can do, remember that this list is not exhaustive and what works for one person may not work for another.
- Attempting to understand your self-harm patterns - This includes recognising what your ‘triggers’ are, meaning that you should try to understand what causes you to self-harm. Is there a certain time of the day when you self-harm, is it related to talking to some specific people, do you do it after something in particular has happened, or after a thought has crossed your mind, these could all be considered triggers.
- Being aware of when you may be feeling the urge to self-harm - If you have started to see a pattern of when you self-harm, you might also have noticed what might happen to you both physically and emotionally before you self-harm. By being aware of both physical and emotional “signals” which occur before you self-harm you might be able to intervene before you self-harm. Physical signals might be an increase in your heart rate, sweating, restlessness, numbness, etc. While emotional signals might be stress, strong emotions, feeling like you are out of control of a situation, etc.
- Identifying ways in which you can distract yourself - You can have a look at Mind’s website on how you can distract yourself. You may find that one way of distracting yourself work in certain occasions and another way of distracting yourself works other times. It really is not very important what you do to distract yourself as long as it is not harmful in another way.
- Delaying self-harm - Other than distracting yourself, you could try another technique which is delaying self-harm. This could be very difficult at the start as your thoughts of self-harm might be very strong, however if you can work up how long you can delay self-harm you might eventually delay it until you have been able to access the support you need. This can be difficult to do when you are along in a space. It may therefore be a good idea to go out for a walk, go talk to a friend, call your parents, watch an episode of your favourite TV show, anything which ensures that you are not “alone with your thoughts”.
How can the University Support you?
If you are self-harming the University can support you through our Mental Wellbeing Team. You access support from the Mental Wellbeing Team by completing our Online Mental Wellbeing Referral Form.
What to do next?
Talk to someone you trust
Alternatively, if you want to you can talk to someone you trust. This could be a friend, someone from the Hall/Community Warden Team, a personal tutor or anyone you feel like could help you. They can then help you take further steps such as filling out the Online Referral Form to access help from the Mental Health and Wellbeing team.
If you are in immediate danger, you can call emergency services on 999, campus security on 01509 222 141 or if you live in halls you can call the Subwarden duty number.
What should I do if I am worried about somebody else?
If you suspect or know that someone is in immediate danger, you can call emergency services on 999, campus security on 01509 222 141 or if you live in halls you can call the Subwarden duty number.
It is important to know that you are not obligated to support someone if they are self-harming. If you do not feel like you want to or can support someone who is self-harming, that is totally OK. Instead, you can talk to someone who can help the other person, such as a member of the Hall/Community Warden Team or someone else you trust, or you can report it (anonymously, or not) using the Online Incident Form.
If you want to and can support someone who is self-harming it is important to ensure that you also think about your own mental wellbeing. If you feel like the situation is getting to you and affecting your mental health, you can receive support from the University’s Mental Wellbeing Team. You can access this by completing our Online Referral Form.
Some ways you can help someone include:
- Letting the person know that you are there to support them
- Practice empathy and try and be understanding about what they are doing, do not belittle their feelings. Everyone deals with situations in different ways and if someone tells you what is causing them to self-harm you should not belittle this even if to you, it might not seem like a big deal, it is a big deal to them. Additionally, do not call them stupid or say that self-harming is stupid or anything along those lines, as this will most likely only make them regret opening up to you and it could cause further self-harm or worse.
- Offer to help them find some support, this could be through the University by completing our Online Referral Form or with an external charity such as Harmless.
Trigger warning: please note that these resources contain sensitive information about self-harm which may be distressing to some.
Last Updated: 30th August 2022