Self-harm describes a wide range of things that people do to themselves in a deliberate and usually hidden way. In the vast majority of cases self-harm remains a secretive behaviour that can go on for a long time without being discovered.
Self-harm can involve:
- hitting or scratching
- breaking bones
- hair pulling
- swallowing toxic substances or objects.
Although some very young children and some adults are known to self-harm and it often continues from childhood into adulthood, the majority of people who self-harm are aged between 11 and 25 years.
Why do young people self-harm?
Self-harm is a symptom of underlying mental or emotional distress. Young people who self-harm mainly do so because they find it helps relieve distressing feelings and helps them cope with problems in their lives. It is rarely about trying to end their life.
A wide range of factors may be involved. Very often there are multiple triggers, or daily stresses, rather than one significant change or event. Factors can include:
- feeling isolated
- academic pressures
- suicide or self-harm by someone close to the young person
- family problems, including parental separation or divorce
- being bullied
- low self-esteem.