Why do people self-harm?

People self-harm to escape from unbearable feelings, gain relief from tension, change the behaviour of other people, perhaps to “get back” at them, or as a cry for help.

Self-harm can be considered deliberate behaviour resulting in damage to body tissue without intent to die. It is a symptom of serious psychological distress or mental illness, rather than an illness in itself. It is more prevalent in females, survivors of sexual abuse or trauma, and people with depressive symptoms.

How to help

Ways to help people who self-harm include:

  • Understanding its function and costs
  • Learning ways to manage emotions, especially negative emotions
  • Learning to judge yourself less critically
  • Developing a sense of connection belonging to something healthy and positive.

Seeking help is the first step to overcoming this problem. Concerns that you may have about self-harm can be addressed by contacting Counselling and Psychological Services.

External links and resources

  1. Orygen Youth Health: Self-harm and Young People (PDF)
  2. Reachout: What is self-harm?
  3. healthdirect: Self-harm

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