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What is self-harm?

Self-harming is when you hurt yourself on purpose. This can be:

    • cutting or scratching
    • burning
    • pulling out your hair
    • causing bruises
    • punching or banging your head against a wall
    • breaking bones.

Why would someone self-harm?

There are lots of reasons why people self-harm and they might not know why they do it. Sometimes, when people feel sad, angry, worried, or low they may self-harm to help them cope with how they feel.

It may feel like the only way to deal with their problems or express their emotions.

Self-harm can also be used as a way of punishing yourself if you feel bad about something. Lots of different people self-harm, of all ages and backgrounds, but they’re not doing it for attention.

It can affect anyone and can happen once, go on for just a few days, or be much longer and go on for weeks, months or years as a way of coping. Some people find it easier to deal with physical pain than their feelings.

Self-harming can start after difficult experiences such as losing a loved one, being bullied, or being abused either physically, emotionally or sexually.

It’s OK if you don’t always know why you self-harm or find it hard to explain – telling someone is the first step to feeling better.

I’m worried about my friend:

If you think a friend, family member or someone else you know is self-harming, look out for these signs:

    • bruises, burns or cuts (and they can’t say how they got them)
    • if they feel low, sad, worried
    • if they don’t seem to want to do things they used to, like go out or play music
    • if they don’t seem themselves, like they’re not chatting to you or others

More signs to look out for can be found on the NHS website.

If you’re worried, ask them how they’re feeling and let them know that you are there to support them.

I self-harm – what can I do?

Share how you’re feeling with someone

This can be a parent, family member, teacher, youth worker or friend. Tell someone you feel close to and trust.

They can help you understand how you’re feeling and sharing your feelings can help make you start to feel better. Together you can chat about what to do next.

Chat to a Childline counsellor

Visit Childline’s Deafzone to talk to a counsellor online or using a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter.

See your doctor

Your local GP is there to listen to you about your self-harming and can help you get treatment.

They can make sure that you go to the right person for your mental health (such as a counsellor) and will treat any injuries caused by self-harm.


If you’re going to the doctor about self-harming, you may not want your parents to know.


If you’re not sure how to communicate with your doctor when going alone, watch our video about Luke and how he communicates with staff at the doctors.

Also, our My Life, My Health page, for more information about going to the doctors’, what help you can get and how to chat to them.

Where else can I get help?

Lots of organisations have information and advice about self-harm.


Remember, you’re not alone and you can get help – it’s better to chat to someone than keeping it all inside.

Get in touch with our friendly Helpline by emailing or chatting online at


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National Deaf Children's Society

Registered Charity: England and Wales (1016532) and Scotland (SC040779)

Helpline: 0808 800 8880

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