9 August 2018


Sal McKeown looks at the reasons behind self-harming, and how apps can help

According to the Mental Health Foundation, 10% of young people self-harm. That is three in every secondary classroom. It is especially high in the LGBTQI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning/queer or intersex) community. Hospitals in the UK report 200,000 cases of self-harming each year.

The urge can start at any age, but most people who self-harm are aged between 11 and 25. They are more likely to start if they know someone else who’s done it, such as a friend or a family member.

Those who self-harm are more likely to end their own life than others. However, many don’t want to end their lives. In fact, some experts believe self-harming may help them cope with emotional distress, so they don’t feel the need to kill themselves.

Self-harming is more often than not a private act and so allegations that it is attention-seeking are wide of the mark. Often people are only discovered to be self-harming after repeated episodes when they have built up a tolerance and need to hurt themselves more to get the same release.

Common reasons for self-harming 

  • Abuse: emotional, physical or sexual abuse including bullying

  • Bereavement: death of a family member friend, or pet

  • Disability

  • Emotional and mental health difficulties: worry, panic attacks, depression, anxiety, loneliness

  • Relationships: problems with family, friends, teachers

  • School worries and exam stress: pressure from parents and teachers, fear of failure

  • Substance abuse: alcohol, drugs or both

  • Gender identity or sexual orientation: uncertainty, keeping it secret, facing hostility. According to Queer Futures, published in 2016, just under half of young LGBTQI people have self-harmed.

  • To replace emotional pain with physical pain

Find out what apps are available from the Good Schools Guide here

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