What Is Self-Harm?

The National Alliance on Mental Health states ‘Self-harm or self-injury means hurting yourself on purpose. Hurting yourself—or thinking about hurting yourself—is a sign of emotional distress. These uncomfortable emotions may grow more intense if a person continues to use self-harm as a coping mechanism. Self-harm is not a mental illness, but a behavior that indicates a lack of coping skills. Once a person injures herself, [they] may experience shame and guilt. If the shame leads to intense negative feelings, that person may hurt herself again. The behavior can thus become a dangerous cycle and a long-time habit. People often keep their habit a secret, but the urge to self-harm isn’t uncommon, especially in adolescents and young adults. ‘

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, ‘self-injury can affect anyone, but it’s more common during the teenage years and among females. Self-injury is also more likely to affect people who have experienced stressful or traumatic life events, people who have a hard time coping with their feelings, and people who experience low self-esteem.’

While self-harm can be alarming for both the person self-injuring and for family and friends around them, it’s important to remember that coping skills can be developed with a mental health professional to help avoid future harm and to increase overall mental well-being.

Dealing with self-harm alone is not a good game plan.

Discover tools, information, resources and support.

More On Self-Harm:

Self-harm can affect a person in different ways. Learn more about self-harm

Struggling to cope with your emotions? Find out why emotions can cause a person to self-injure

Struggling to avoid self-harm? Use these distraction techniques and coping strategies

Have more questions about self-harm? Self-harm FAQ’s

Ways To Find Support:


*** The information provided is not to be used for diagnostic or medical referral services. If you are currently experiencing a crisis or are unsure of what to do next, call a hotline below: Canada: 1-888-893-8333       |        USA: 1-800-273-8255