Self-harm and self-injury awareness

Self-harming and self-injury behaviours are increasing at an alarming rate, particularly among children and young people – 1 in 12 young people in the UK have self-harmed. Children as young as 5 have been known to self-harm, but there is a sharp increase in self-harming behaviours when children reach 11 years old, continuing throughout teenage years and adulthood.

We all self-harm…

Self-harming is a continuum of activity and behaviour. When life is going well and our innate human needs are being met well and in balance, we will often have a good amount of positive self-care. But as soon as stress is introduced into our lives, we can tend to be more reckless with ourselves, our self-care reduces and our behaviour starts to change – until the point where we are really overwhelmed with emotion and may willfully harm ourselves with excess alcohol, drugs, reckless behaviours or other addictive behaviours, including self-injury

Listen to our self-harm expert Emily Gajewski’s podcast where she explains this in more detail – Why do adults and children self-harm?

The difference between self-harm and self injury

Self-harming is any behaviour that you feel compelled to do in moments of stress – self-injury is actual physical harm.

Self-harming and self-injury behaviours include:

  • cutting, ripping or carving skin
  • burning skin
  • punching or hitting themselves
  • scratching or pinching (including dermatillomania)
  • poisoning themselves with tablets or liquids (to similar)
  • over-eating and under-eating (anorexia or bulimia)
  • biting yourself (dermatophagia)
  • Inserting objects into your body
  • overdosing, exercising excessively
  • pulling your hair (trichotillomania)
  • getting into fights where you know you will get hurt

Why would you want to hurt yourself?

People who haven’t suffered from self-harm or worked with people who self-harm, often wonder why people would want to hurt themselves.

Looking back to the beginning of the continuum, we all self-harm – why would you eat the extra slice of chocolate when you already feel full, or have an extra glass of wine before you have to get up early for work, or purchase five scratch cards when you don’t have enough money for the weekly food shop… it’s to fulfill the desperate need to soothe yourself and sometimes it’s these self-harming behaviours that can give us a brief release from the overwhelming stress we are experiencing.

Top tips for working with someone who self-harms

Together we need to change the stigma around self-harm that stops children and adults seeking the help and support they need.

Helpful resources

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