The Safa way to get help…

Why do I self-harm?

Usually people self-harm because they have yet to discover other ways of expressing or coping with painful feelings. Self-harm is a way of coping with these difficult emotions.

Lots of people do not know why they selfharm, so it would be useful to record your thoughts in a journal so you can look back on them. You may also wish to share your thoughts with a counsellor.

As you ask yourself the following questions think about the last time you self-harmed:

  • What was happening in your life when you first began to self-harm?
  • What happened just before you felt the need to self-harm?
  • Would it be useful to keep a mood diary (maybe as part of your journal) that shows how what is happening influences your mood?
  • Where are you when you need to selfharm?
  • Who is with you when you want to selfharm?
  • What thoughts are going on in your mind that lead to you feeling so overwhelmed?

Cycle of Self-Harms


and Tension

Build up

A trigger

event increases


Guilt or

shame at the



action takes


Relief from

Tension is


What Steps can I take to stop Self-harming?

One of the best ways to get help is to find someone you can talk to and trust.

Plan for times you feel you are going to self-harm as when that time comes you cannot always think clearly. Make a list of things you enjoy doing and that relax you.

These may include:

  • Phoning / visiting a friend you can trust
  • Playing or listening to music
  • Writing your feelings down in a journal
  • Counting down slowly from 10 to 0
  • Drawing your emotions – they can be as abstract if you like
  • Physical exercise – dancing, walking etc
  • Reading
  • Listening to relaxing tapes or doing deep breathing exercises
  • Pamper yourself – have a relaxing bath, wash your hair, buy yourself something
  • Focus on objects around you, think about what they look, sound, smell, taste, feel like

Remember initially the aim is to delay when you are going to self-harm; at first maybe 5 minutes and building up from there as you begin new strategies.

SAFA support includes:

  • Offer some immediacy in supporting people who are in distress
  • Fill a gap in local health services
  • Offer people choices about the type of support they receive
  • Do not have the stigma often associated with local mental health services

What if I still want to hurt myself?

These are other distraction exercises you could try. These do not work for everyone but some find them useful:

  • Using a punch bag or punching pillows
  • Put your hands into a bowl of ice-cubes or rubbing them on the part of the body you want to self-injure (only do this for a short time, you don’t want to end up with frost bite!)
  • Use non-toxic pens to draw feelings on your skin
  • Put plasters on the part you want to self-harm

It is all about little steps. Take time out to acknowledge every one of those little steps you take towards healing yourself

Talking it out

Talking it out helps to prevent the build up of tensions by regularly venting feelings and thoughts, e.g. regular counselling. Being listened to by someone who is NOT trying to change you but simply their to support you can help.

Who do I talk to?

  • Face-to-face with someone else (e.g. a counsellor)
  • On the phone to a trusted friend
  • On the phone to another organisation who listens e.g. MIND, The Samaritans

You are not alone.

There is always hope!