What is self-harm?

Mental Health   ›   Self-Harm  ›   What is self-harm?

Some people hurt themselves when they are dealing with difficult situations. This is called self-harm. There are many reasons why people do this; find out what they are and learn what to do if you’re facing something similar.

Self-harm means injuring oneself. It can take different forms: cuts, scratches, burns, blows to the head, etc.


What drives a person to self-mutilation?

  • To express intense, painful emotions when the person feels overwhelmed
  • To relieve psychological pain and distress
  • To ask for help and support
  • To get the impression of controlling a situation where they’re afraid of losing control
  • To calm a feeling of emptiness or numbness


Self-harm = Suicidal thoughts?

Someone who self-mutilates is trying to manage overly intense emotions by using a negative strategy. Often, the injuries they inflict on themselves aren’t an attempt to end their life but instead a clumsy way of fighting against emotional distress.


Risks or dangers of self-harm

The relief that self-harm may give doesn’t last. But the scars will be permanent. self-harm can also drag you into a vicious circle: your emotions are too intense, you harm yourself, the emotions don’t disappear, they grow… you feel guilty and powerless, and your self-harm grows more and more frequent and dangerous.


What should I do?

There are different ways of expressing your painful emotions: scream into a pillow, let off steam in sports, cry, use art (drawing, singing, etc.), take deep breaths. Repeat to yourself that you can control your desire to hurt yourself, that this desire doesn’t control you. Write a positive word on the part of your body that you hurt most often. You can also call a friend to help you or contact Tel-jeunes.


Can I stop this behaviour by myself?

Some people can stop by themselves, by using other ways to blow off steam and express their emotions, such as sports, art, outings with friends, deep, conscious breathing, etc. Other people need help and support. If you feel powerless about your situation and the desire to hurt yourself remains too overpowering, don’t hesitate to consult a health care professional who can give you the tools to help you break free of the vicious circle of self-mutilation.

Sabrina Talks About Self-Injury [French only]

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