Get help if self harm is a problem for you

Self help if you are cutting or self-harming

Is self harm becoming a habit or ritual for you?

When you’re young, your first experience of loss or distress can be overwhelming. It might be that someone close to you has died, that you are being bullied or sexually abused, that you’ve been dumped or excluded, or that you just feel really, really hopeless. But whatever the cause,  nothing prepares you for the emotional pain, and it can be the loneliest time in your life.

Yet even though you’re desperately unhappy, and you really want to scream or sob or just tell someone how you feel, you just can’t. You believe that if you tell someone what is really going on in your life, they will judge you or be shocked, or both. So you hurt yourself as a way of coping.

It might seem like you’re releasing all your pent-up emotions, but you’re not – whatever caused them is still there. It might also seem like you’re taking back some control of your life. But the truth is that self-harm begins to take control of you.

The more you self-harm, the longer you avoid facing what is really bothering you, until eventually you reach the point where you forget why you started doing it. All you know is that you have to keep hurting yourself.

But there are other ways of relieving the intense internal pressure, such as talking to people who care, exercising, using relaxation techniques or training your mind to think of other things.

1. Don’t judge yourself for self harm

You have nothing to be ashamed of. Lots of people use self harm or cutting until they learn better techniques to manage stress.

But self-harm isn’t a badge of cool. So if by any chance you have friends who know that you do it and want to see you do it, don’t indulge them. This isn’t like getting your eyebrow pierced or a statement tattoo. It’s harmful and you’re doing it because you are in a cycle you can’t break out of.

2. Talk to someone

You don’t have to hide your pain, and you don’t have to be ashamed of being you. There are people who will listen and who can help you gain control over your emotions and your life. But they won’t know how you are feeling unless you tell them.

Call a close friend (not one who encourages you to self-harm) or a relative who you’ve always been able to relate to. Or better still, talk to your doctor. GPs don’t judge. They know you’re not stupid and that you make your own choices, but they can look at any injuries and advise on treatment.

3. Find another way

A counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist can help you explore the reasons why you are self-harming and give you alternatives. Call or web chat with a trained counsellor at eheadspace (1800 650 890; 9am–1 am 7 days), Youth Beyondblue (1300 224 636) or Kids Helpline (1800 551 800). In the meantime, boxing in a gym is a great outlet, or even just punching or screaming into your pillow.

You will get through this! Life changes all the time.