Suicide & Self-Harm

Help with these feelings

At times in our life, we can all find it difficult to cope, sometimes we harm ourselves or think of ending our lives.

Self-harm is a way of coping with very deep distress. The ways in which people harm themselves vary and can be physical such as cutting or less obvious such as putting themselves in risky situations or not looking after their physical or emotional needs.

There are many different ways people can intentionally harm themselves. These include:

  • Cutting or burning their skin
  • Punching or hitting themselves
  • Poisoning themselves with tablets or toxic chemicals
  • Misusing alcohol or drugs
  • Deliberately starving themselves (anorexia nervosa) or binge eating (bulimia nervosa)
  • Excessively exercising.

People often try to keep self-harm a secret because of shame or fear of discovery. For example, if they're cutting themselves, they may cover up their skin and avoid discussing the problem. It's often up to close family and friends to notice when somebody is self-harming, and to approach the subject with care and understanding. 

Self-harm is not about trying to get other people's attention. Usually, self-harm comes from feeling numb or empty, or wanting some relief. It might be linked to feeling depressed or anxious, low self-esteem, drug and alcohol abuse, relationship problems, bullying or worries about sexuality.

There are many reasons people engage in self-harm. If you are self-harming it may be because:

  • You want to feel in control in response to overwhelming feelings inside, low self-esteem or a feeling of powerlessness
  • You feel you need to punish yourself because you feel “bad” inside or guilty or ashamed about something
  • You feel numb or empty inside and want to feel something “real” or “physical”
  • You experience difficult memories or flashbacks of past abuse and harming yourself is a way of bringing yourself back to the present.

Self-harm is not a mental health problem in itself, but it is a behaviour, which is often linked to the experience of mental health problems, whether that is depression, anxiety, personality disorder or trauma.

If you are self-harming, you should see your GP for help. You can also call the Samaritans on 116 123 for support.

Suicide is the act of intentionally ending your life. Many people who have had suicidal thoughts say they were so overwhelmed by negative feelings they felt they had no other option at the time. However, with support and treatment they were able to allow the negative feelings to pass.

There is no single reason why someone may try to take their own life, but certain things can increase the risk. A person may be more likely to have suicidal thoughts if they have a mental health condition, such as depressionbipolar disorder or schizophrenia or if they have experienced abuse or trauma in their past. Misusing alcohol or drugs and having poor job security can also make a person more vulnerable.

What helps

Many people experience thoughts of suicide or self-harm. You are not alone in feeling like this.  People struggle to cope at one point or another and going through a range of emotions during this time is common.

Self Harm

There is no magic solution or quick fix for self-harm, and making changes can take time and involve periods of difficulty. It is common to make some progress and then get back into old behaviours again. If this happens to you, remind yourself that this is all part of the process.

It can help to:

  • Work out your patterns of self-harm. Are there certain times of the day or week when you are more likely to self harm? It might help to keep a diary to chart this.
  • Learn to recognise triggers – What situations are likely to trigger the urge to self harm?
  • Learn to recognise urges – What feelings do you have before you self harm? Whereabouts in your body do you feel them?
  • Distract from the urge to self-harm –You will often find that the urge will reach a peak and then pass.  Listen to music, do housework, exercise, cook a meal, phone a friend.  Relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation can help.
  • Build your self-esteem –You might want to seek counselling or support for this or use a self-help book or website.
  • Look after your general wellbeing – eat regular healthy meals, ensure you get enough sleep, take regular exercise.
  • Reach out for support– If you are self-harming regularly it is important to get help.  You can speak to your GP or call a support helpline such as the Samaritans (116123 freephone) or Breathing Space (0800 838 587 freephone)
  • Do something creative this can help you to express your feelings. For example, write a song, story or blog, paint or draw.
  • Spending time every week doing things that you enjoy, such as seeing friends or going for a walk, is also important. Try to make time to do this, no matter what else is going on.

Suicide

Thoughts of killing yourself can be complex, frightening and confusing. Many people have thoughts of suicide at one point or another.   Not all people who die by suicide have mental health problems at the time of death. However, many people who kill themselves do suffer with their mental health, typically to a serious degree.  

Sometimes, if a person has been feeling low for a long time, suicide can seem like the only logical way to stop feeling like that. However, feeling actively suicidal is often temporary, even if someone has been feeling low, anxious or struggling to cope for a long period of time. This is why getting the right kind of support at the right time is so important.

If you're reading this because you have, or have had, thoughts about taking your own life, it's important you ask someone for help.  It's probably difficult for you to see at this time, but you're not alone and there is help available.  

Samaritans 116 123

Breathing Space 0800 838 587 (Freephone)

If you find yourself in an emergency please call NHS24 on 111.

Living with thoughts of self-harm or suicide

Thoughts of harming yourself can be deeply distressing.  Having these thoughts and urges can make you feel isolated from other people as you don’t want to worry them or burden them with your difficulties.  This can make it difficult to be supported by others at the time you need it most.  It is important to remember that feeling actively suicidal is often temporary, even if you have been feeling low or struggling to cope for a long time.  The urge often reaches a peak and then passes.  This is why getting the right kind of support at the right time is so important. 

The same applies to living with the urge to harm yourself. Self harm often develops as a way of managing difficult feelings.  Once you become dependent on it as a way of managing these feelings, it can be difficult to stop.  Again, it is important to remember that the urge often reaches a peak and then passes.  Acknowledging that you are struggling and seeking help and advice is an important first step towards recovery.

If you're reading this because you have, or have had thoughts about taking your own life, it is important you ask someone for help.  It's probably difficult for you to see at this time, but you are not alone and there is help available.  

If you find yourself or someone you know in an emergency please call NHS24 on 111

These are free phone numbers, which offer confidential listening, advice and support: 

Samaritans 116 123

Breathing Space 0800 838 587 (Freephone)

Looking after someone who has suicidal or self harming thoughts

It can be very upsetting to be close to someone who self-harms - but there are things you can do. The most important is to listen to them without judging them or being critical. This can be very hard if you are upset yourself - and perhaps angry or frightened - about what they are doing. Try to concentrate on them rather than your own feelings – although this can be hard. It is important to remember that most people who self harm do it as a way to cope and live with difficult feelings.  It does not mean that they are suicidal. However, self harm should always be taken seriously and it is important not to minimise or dismiss the behaviour.

Things that you can do to help include:

  • Let your friend or family member know that you are there, if and when they are ready to talk. It is common for people to worry that they will be judged for their self-harm or that they will be a burden on others, so it’s important to let them know you are there for them if they want.
  • Show concern for their injuries, but at the same time, relate to them as a whole person rather than just someone who self-harms.
  • Offer them a chance to talk about how they are feeling. Try to understand and empathise with what they are saying even when it is hard to hear.
  • Try to understand that they may be scared of stopping self-harm if they use it as a way of coping. If they are finding it hard to stop, try to help them find other ways of coping and to seek help if they need it.
  • Let them be in control of decisions about support and any plans to reduce or stop their self-harm.
  • Emphasise other parts of their life where they are doing well and the good qualities that they have.

Supporting someone who is self-harming can be a long process with many ups and downs. It’s important to take care of yourself– this will help you to be able to stay involved for longer and avoid becoming unwell yourself.

Supporting and caring for a person who is thinking about suicide, or may have attempted suicide previously can be very stressful and difficult.  You may feel alone and scared and not know how best to help the person in your life. There are organisations, which can help you.

One of the best things you can do if you think someone may be feeling suicidal is to encourage them to talk about their feelings and to listen with patience to what they say. Try to understand how they must be feeling and try to engage with any part of them that wishes to live.   

If there is immediate danger, make sure they are not left alone and contact NHS 24 (111) for advice

Further information for carers is available on our Looking After Someone page and from the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde carers site

Further information and support

At times in our life we can all find it difficult to cope, sometimes we harm ourselves or think of ending our lives, for help with these feelings please try the following sites.

Self Harm

There is more information about self harm from MIND

The Royal College of Psychiatrists provides a helpful leaflet with information about seeking help for your self harm.

MIND provides information about what family and friends can do to try to help someone who self harms.

The Scottish Association for Mental Health produced a video called "suicide are you worried" about supporting someone you are worried may be experiencing suicidal thoughts.

If you feel you are drinking too much alcohol or taking illegal drugs these websites may be useful. 

There is more information if you are harming yourself through restricted eating or excessive exerciserestricted eating and then bingeing or if you are self harming through intentionally poisoning yourself.

Domestic Violence

Personality Disorder

There is information should you feel you may be experiencing a personality disorder

Survivors of Trauma

For survivors of trauma and abuse these websites may be helpful. 

There is information on improving your general self esteem and confidence.

If you have been bereaved or affected by suicide these websites may be helpful.

Self Help Resources

There are self-help guides from Get Self HelpMoodjuice and Help Guide

BSL - Suicide & Self-Harm

NHSGG&C BSL A-Z: Mental Health - Self-Harm

At times in our life we can all find it difficult to cope, sometimes we harm ourselves or think of ending our lives. Self-harm is a way of coping with very deep distress. The ways in which people harm themselves vary and can be physical such as cutting or less obvious such as putting themselves in risky situations or not looking after their physical or emotional needs.

NHSGG&C BSL A-Z: Mental Health - Suicide

Please note that this video is from a range of BSL videos published by NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde

URGENT HELP

EMERGENCY – If you, or someone you know, need an immediate response call the emergency services on 999.

CONFUSED / DISTRESSED - If you are experiencing confusing or distressing thoughts, or if people around you have expressed concern about your well being, arrange an appointment with your GP or call NHS 24 on 111.

If you, or someone you know, are currently being seen by someone from a community mental health team and require urgent attention, please contact the Out of Hours Team by the number you will have been provided with.

SUPPORT - If you just need to talk with someone, then the following organisations are here to help:

Samaritans - 116 123 (freephone)

Breathing Space - 0800 83 85 87 (freephone)

Please note: if you go to an Accident and Emergency Department because of worries about how you are feeling or what you are experiencing, they will be able to assess your difficulties and arrange for you to see a specialist if needed. But Accident & Emergency is a busy and stressful place, and you may have to wait a long time. It can be quicker to phone NHS 24 on 111, as they can arrange for you to get to the right help.

Heads Up is not continuously monitored and is not able to provide direct advice or support to those in mental health distress.