Self-Harm (Injury) or Self-Neglect are two very similar ways of causing injury to yourself and often occur as a way of dealing with very difficult feelings, painful memories or overwhelming situations and experiences.
Self-harm is when somebody intentionally damages or injures their body. Ways in which people self-harm can happen in many forms including: cutting / hitting yourself, misusing alcohol, prescription and recreational drugs, over eating or under eating, biting, picking, scratching or burning their skin or inserting sharp / harmful objects into their body.
Self-Neglect is a lack of ‘self-care’ to an extent that it threatens personal health and safety, in other words it is “failing to provide one’s own essential needs”. It results in a mind-set of ‘giving up’ and an inability to avoid harm. This can include getting into fights where you know you will get hurt, knowingly refusing to seek help or access services to meet health and social care needs. Self-Neglect also includes lack of care for personal hygiene, health (Dehydration, malnutrition, untreated medical conditions) or living conditions (Unsafe living conditions – no plumbing, no heat or running water, animal/insect infestation).
Recognising the signs
Both Self-Harm and Self-Neglect can be a result of someone trying to express or cope with emotional distress, it can be seen as a way of being in control or punishing themselves. It can sometimes be hard to recognise when someone has started to self-harm, as it is often kept secret, here are a few signs to look out for:
- keeping themselves fully covered at all times, even in hot weather
- Unexplained cuts, bruises or burns, usually on the wrists, arms, thighs and chest
- unexplained blood stains on clothing or tissues
- signs that they have been pulling out their hair
- Not eating or overeating
- becoming very withdrawn and not speaking to others
- signs of depression, such as low mood, tearfulness or a lack of motivation or interest in anything
- signs of low self-esteem, such as thinking they’re not good enough
- talking about ending things or not wanting to go on
It can be difficult to know how to talk to your friends, family or a health professional about self-harm / neglect. But many people feel more supported and less alone after talking to someone.
- Find someone you can trust – such as a close friend, family member, trained volunteer, health or other professionals, it may feel easier to write something down, talk online or call and practise what you want to say first
- Talk honestly and openly – be clear about how you’re feeling, why you’re asking for help and things they may be able to do
- Let the other person ask questions – but do not feel you have to answer them all right away
- Decide if you want to show the other person any injuries or scars – if you’re talking to a health professional they may want to check if you need treatment
If you think someone you know has started to self-harm, it’s important to approach the subject with care and understanding.
Sometimes it can be helpful to just be there for that person and let them know they are not alone however it is important to remember you may not be able to help them on your own.
Tips for family members and friends
There are some things you can try that may help someone feel more supported and able to get help:
- ask how they would like to be supported
- try to understand their emotions and experiences, without judging them, rather than focusing on their self-harm
- consider that any amount of self-harm might be a sign that they’re feeling extremely distressed
- let them be in control of their decisions, but get them medical attention if needed
- do not try to force them to change what they’re doing
- do not threaten to take away their control
- Encourage them to speak to a GP or professional service about self-harm
Self harm and suicide
There is evidence of a clear link between suicide or suicidal thoughts and people who have previously self-harmed.
However, not everyone who self-harms wants to end their life. Some people describe their self-harm as a way of staying alive by responding to or coping with severe emotional distress.
Mind is an independent local which offer a variety of services including one-to-one counselling, group sessions, support for young people, training and services for employers.
Tel: 01709 919929
RDaSH Crisis Team
0800 652 9571 (calls to this number are Free)
If you or someone you know has concerns about their immediate health RDaSH Crisis Team can help. One of our trained call handlers will signpost you to the most appropriate service depending on your level of need. This may include your out of hours GP, a voluntary organisation or our access/crisis team.
Hard of hearing? Deaf? For anyone unable to use the standard telephone line, i.e. hard of hearing, there is a text phone service available.
Please text 07974 603610
Improving Access to Psychological Therapies service
Monday to Friday, 9am–5pm
Local venues (dependent on Coronavirus restrictions)
Interpreting service available
Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust (RDaSH) provides an Improving Access to Psychological Therapies Service. The service, provided by local therapists, is for Rotherham residents who require support with:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Social anxiety
- Health anxiety
- Obsessive compulsive disorder
The service offers:
- Patient consultation in a way to suit every patient’s needs by:
- Face-to-face contact (dependent on Coronavirus restrictions)
- Group therapy
- Stress classes
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
- Guided self-help with Psychological Wellbeing Practitioners
- Couples therapy for depression
- Online CBT with Minddistrict
- Online Be Mindful course
- Interpersonal therapy
Hoarding Disorders UK
Expert advice and practical support for people affected by hoarding
The NHS App gives you a simple and secure way to access a range of NHS services on your smartphone or tablet.
You can use the app if you are aged 13 or over. You must be registered with an NHS GP surgery in England or the Isle of Man. You can also log in through the NHS website on a computer to use NHS App services.