How to talk to somebody about suicide
Discussing suicidal thoughts may seem like a daunting prospect. Learn to shape these discussions with clear and practical advice.Read more
Self-harm behaviour describes someone deliberately inflicting injury, pain or damage to their body. It is important to take incidents of self-harm seriously and assist the person in getting professional help. Learn how to support someone who self-harms.
Self-harm behaviour describes someone deliberately inflicting injury, pain or damage to their body.
Self-harm is usually neither a suicide attempt nor intended to be fatal but sometimes the outcome results in serious bodily injury or accidental death.
There are a number of ways people generally hurt themselves, including:
Self-harm is often used as a means of coping with, or feeling relief from strong and sustained negative emotions such as guilt, depression, anxiety or self-hatred, and in a number of cases is associated with experience of earlier trauma. People who self-harm often report that they experience some relief from these emotions when they harm themselves.
Self-harm may be a one-off incident (when someone is in acute distress) or it may be that the person is using self-harm on a regular basis as their main way of coping.
When someone regularly self-harms as a means of coping over a period of time, it can become difficult to change that behaviour. Self-harming behaviour is a complex combination of emotions, actions and reactions to the external world and requires expert assistance to manage and resolve.
People who use self-harm have often experienced difficult times in their lives.
Some situations that have led people to hurt themselves include:
Self-harm is usually a response to the powerful distress associated with these situations.
These emotions can range from hopelessness, anxiety, rejection, anger, and despair through to guilt. People who self-harm may find it difficult to express strongly negative feelings or may feel helpless and powerless in the face of overwhelming difficulty. People self-harm as a means of relieving, controlling or expressing the distress and emotional pain of these intense emotions.
Self-harm can be a very confronting experience, particularly if you witness the event. It is important to take incidents of self-harm seriously and assist the person in getting professional help.
If you are with the person during an incident there are some things you can do to help them:
It is helpful for the person to start to move through a process of exploring and understanding the reasons for their self-harm and at the same time learn other ways of coping with the thoughts and feelings that precipitate the self-harm.
Stopping self-harm is something a person needs to make a conscious decision to do, and this decision cannot be made for them. However, there are a number of ways you can help someone who self-harms.
How you can support someone who self-harms:
Things to avoid when caring for someone who self-harm:
Caring for someone who self-harms can be emotionally demanding and stressful, so it is important to look after yourself and use extra support when you need it.
See our Looking after yourself page for suggestions on relieving stress.
If you are with someone who is in immediate danger, or concerned for their safety in any way:
If you are worried about someone, and need someone to talk to, call the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 to speak to a counsellor.
If it is an emergency, please call 000.
A person who is thinking about suicide may give some clues or suicide signs to those around them that indicate they are distressed. These are often referred to as suicide warning signs. Suicide prevention starts with recognising these suicidal warning signs and taking them seriously.Read more
Depression is not always obvious and there can be many signs something is wrong. If you’re worried about your friend, here are some things to look out for.Read more