Self harm is often a very private and personal act, and many people who self harm struggle to approach others for help. To mark Self Harm Awareness Day, we wanted to do something to increase understanding and awareness around self harm, and to reduce stigma. We have created the hashtag #talkingisharmless, which we feel embodies our ethos that the most important thing is to talk about self harm.

This is the first of four #talkingisharmless articles, which we hope will raise awareness of self harm, debunk myths, and provide information on how to get help for self harm. You may also see our posters and #talkingisharmless plasters dotted around in various locations to promote awareness and conversation.

What is self harm?

“I think that’s all a form of wanting to let go, of wanting to get out… It’s not something easily described or understood” – Marilyn Manson

Self harm is defined as any non-accidental, non-suicidal behaviour which causes damage to a person’s body with the intent of gaining an emotional release. Self harm is a coping strategy.

The term self harm can be used to describe a range of harmful behaviours including but not limited to: cutting, burning, hair pulling, overdosing, and risk taking behaviour e.g. risky sexual behaviour, or starting fights.

How many people self harm?

It is very difficult to gain an accurate picture of the prevalence of self harm, as many people are reluctant to share their experiences, and may not come forwards for support. Research suggests that between 1 in 12 and 1 in 15 young people in the UK self harm (Mental Health Foundation, 2006). Much of the research available focusses on self harm among young people, however self harm can affect anyone of any age, gender and background.

Share to raise awareness

Please help to spread awareness by sharing this article. You can also use the #talkingisharmless hashtag to share your own thoughts on self harm.

Get help

Find a Penumbra self harm service near you:

Join in the conversation on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – #talkingisharmless