Self-harm Guidance


What is self harm?


The straightforward definition is ‘self harm happens when someone hurts or harms themselves’

More broadly, it can also be that some of us harm ourselves in less obvious ways - but still serious  ways. We can behave in ways that suggest we don’t care if we live or die – we may take drugs recklessly, have unsafe sex, or binge drink. Some people simply starve themselves.


It can be difficult to understand why young people harm themselves, and how it could possibly help them feel better. By deliberately hurting their bodies, young people often say they can change their state of mind so that they can cope better with ‘other pain’ they are feeling. They may be using physical pain as a way of distracting themselves from emotional pain. Others are conscious of a sense of release. For some, especially those that feel emotional scarred, it may be a way to feel alive where they are so numb they can’t feel anything. Young people often cannot explain why they self harm, especially when the self-harm itself is a means of communicating what cannot easily be put into words or even thoughts. Self-harm is a way of expressing emotional pain.


Early intervention can tackle the cause of the emotional pain, or offer alternative ways of coping. Creating an environment that will strengthen young people’s emotional resilience and promote wellbeing is keyA free e-book about health and happiness for young people is available here. Resources that support learning and teaching about mental health can be found here on this website.


“Some people do it for attention…that doesn’t mean they should be ignored. There are plenty of ways to get attention, why cause yourself pain? And if someone’s crying for help, you should give them it, not stand there and judge the way they’re asking for it.”


To learn more about self harm and how you can help, here are a few guides that we have found helpful :

Self-harm in children and young people handbook

The truth about self-harm - Mental Health Foundation


Some websites recommended by young people include:


The draft Somerset Multi-agency self-harm pathway provides information and advice for

professionals if they are concerned about a child or young person who has self harmed, or expresses intent to self harm.