What to do if you are considering self harm
There are other, healthy ways to deal with difficult emotions without self harming
Written by spunout
Fact checked by experts and reviewed by young people.
When someone is dealing with difficult emotions or struggling with mental health issues, it can be hard to know how to cope. Some people end up expressing how they’re feeling or releasing the tensions that they feel from holding in their emotions by beginning to self harm.
It’s important to know that there are other ways to cope when things are tough aside from self harm. It is possible to work through this without hurting yourself.
Understanding why you want to self harm
People self harm when they are having difficulty coping with something. This could be a mental health issue, going through a traumatic experience, going through a lot of change, bullying, or something else.
If you are thinking about self harming, ask yourself what might be driving this feeling to hurt yourself. It might be difficult to face some of these issues and think about them, but knowing why you want to do it can help you to find other ways to cope. It can help to speak to someone about what is going on in order to help you to understand your thoughts and feelings.
What to do if you are thinking of self harming
There are other ways to deal with your emotions. If you are thinking of self harming, reach out to someone for help.
Talk to someone
The best thing you can do is talk to someone about how you’re feeling. The idea of telling someone you are going through a hard time or that you want to hurt yourself might seem scary. However, it is really important that you tell someone you trust. Opening up about your mental health can be a huge relief, and having someone to support you will be helpful as you recover.
If you feel like you can’t tell someone you know, like a parent, friend, or someone else in your life, there are a number of support organisations out there who can help you. There are people out there who care about you and who want to help you.
Pieta House are there to talk for free at 1800 247 247 any time of the day or night to talk to someone, or text HELP to 51444.
Avoid the topic online
Try to avoid following accounts or visiting websites that promote self harm. Seeing images and reading about self harm can make it difficult to keep the topic off your mind, and it can be harder to resist any urges to self harm. It’s best to block these accounts and websites, and mute any hashtags that relate to self harm on your social media accounts so that you don’t see the content. If anyone you follow or know in real life talks a lot about self harm, or promotes self harm, try to avoid them.
Make a list of triggers
Every time the idea of self harm comes into your head, take note of what made you think of it. Knowing what your triggers are and when you’re more likely to experience the urge to self harm can help you to make a plan for the next time those urges comes up. Take time to find a coping mechanism that works for you so that you can resist the urge to harm yourself.
Finding other coping mechanisms
When the urge to self harm hits, it helps to know what you will do instead. You might need to try a few different things before you find what works for you. You may also decide to use a different coping mechanism depending on what has triggered your urge – it’s all down to what works best for you.
There are short term solutions, like:
- Talking to someone
- Writing out how you feel in a journal
- Going for a walk
- Expressing yourself through art
- Doing something with your hands like drawing or knitting
- Other distraction techniques
There are also longer term solutions that involve developing healthy coping mechanisms, such as:
- Doing breathing exercises
- Practising mindfulness
- Developing an exercise routine
- Other coping mechanisms to avoid self harm
Get professional help
If you are thinking of self harming, it is a good idea to see a professional who can help you to navigate your feelings and work on finding other ways to cope. Going to a counsellor gives you a chance to talk about what’s going on in a safe and confidential space where no one will judge you. You can visit your GP and let them know how you’re feeling and ask to be referred to a counsellor in your area.
You can also contact Jigsaw, a youth mental health service with centres around Ireland, and ask for an appointment to see a counsellor.
Pieta House offer advice, support and free counselling to people who are self harming or suicidal. Find your nearest Pieta House online or call 1800 247 247.
If you are a young Traveller and would like to speak to a counsellor who specifically works with the Travelling Community, the Traveller Counselling Service can support you. The service works from a culturally inclusive framework which respects Traveller culture, identity, values and norms and works from a perspective of culture centred counselling and psychotherapy. They offer counselling both in person and online.
Feeling overwhelmed or want to talk to someone right now?
- Get anonymous support 24/7 with our text message support service
- Connect with a trained volunteer who will listen to you, and help you to move forward feeling better
- Text SPUNOUT to 50808 to begin
There are several different ways to reduce harm and find support for self harming. You may need to try a few different methods and supports until you find the one that works best for you. For information on self harm reducing and finding supports visit our Mental Health section.