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Birmingham and Solihull Mental health NHS Foundation Trust
Better Together

Self harm

Self harm is a broad term used to describe a range of acts that cause a person harm. These acts can range from cutting, scratching or burning yourself, to taking an overdose, swallowing harmful objects or abusing alcohol or drugs.

For some people, self harm can be used as a way of coping with distress that they can't put into words. It can be a way of letting out these intense feelings, and expressing them in a physical form. People self harm for a variety of different reasons. This can include stress, relationship problems, abuse and many other personal difficulties.

Self harm

 It can often help to find support and understanding by talking to someone, such as a friend, family member, doctor or counsellor. This can be a general source of support for a person who has self harmed, and can also help them to explore their feelings and to gain an understanding about their problems.

Self harm is quite different to a suicide attempt. A suicide attempt is a deliberate attempt by a person to end their own life. Often suicide attempts are unsuccessful for various reasons. Whilst the person may feel disappointed that they are still alive, this gives doctors and nurses an opportunity to intervene, and to find out what help and support may be needed. Suicide attempts are often an indicator of serious but treatable mental health problems, which require prompt and specialist attention.

The following links below offer more detailed information and advice on a wide range of mental health conditions:

Self-injury Support


Royal College of Psychiatrists

The Mental Health Foundation

NHS Choices