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Self-Injury in Adolescents

The following blog post is intended to be read by adolescents who are looking for help, to help themselves or someone they know through a particularly distressing period of their life. If you are a concerned parent, the corresponding article for you can be found here.

The content in the following article is potentially triggering, and touches on topics such as self-harm, mental health and suicide. At Kari we want to provide educational resources for people facing these problems. If you think this information may cause further emotional distress, we recommend you stop reading here and reach out to your support network or the below-mentioned resources.

For reference, throughout this article we will refer to self-harm as self-injury – there are a host of connotations associated with the former which may trigger our audience, so we try to minimise that with more neutral language.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and like you can’t cope, you can access the following services:

 

Or, download one of the following recommended apps:

These services and apps have been approved for use by our in-house psychotherapist, Chloe Pollock.

If you feel like you may attempt suicide, or if you have seriously hurt yourself, you can:

  • Call 999 and ask for an ambulance
  • Tell somebody responsible you trust and ask them to call 999
  • Ask someone to take you to A&E

If you are reading this article, you might be experiencing a lot of distress. The good news is that you have already made the first step towards feeling better, and that is looking for help, and clicking on this article.

You might not be ready to talk to anyone about what you are going through, and that’s okay.

This article is supposed to be like a supportive friend or a family member. Think of us like a big sister, talking to you without you having to say a thing.

What we will be talking about:

  • Understanding your emotions
  • Reminding yourself that you are not alone
  • Some success stories to help you feel better
  • Where you can go to for more help
  • The benefits of speaking up

Why do I want to do this to myself?

One of the reasons that people may self-injure is that they may not have a lot of control in their lives. There are many other reasons that people self-injure, which we will not be exhaustive in detailing, but it is important to note that there is no right or wrong reason that people self-injure. This is something that happens when you may not know how else to cope with distressing thoughts and feelings.

The often physical pain that you experience might be momentarily relieving. However, what commonly follows is a cycle that might feel never-ending. Perhaps you start to experience feelings of guilt, or shame, followed by confusion, further distress, and even panic, and find that the cycle repeats itself before you know it.

*brief relief from tension is experienced*

It can be a complicated and emotional cycle to break out of, whatever your circumstances.

But, it can be done.

I feel so alone, I don’t know what to do.

The confusing thing is, that despite feeling alone, you might not want to reach out to anyone. That is completely normal.

What is important, is for you to be able to recognise the people who you can rely on and speak to, when the time comes to ask for help. Knowing who is in your support network is a great way to help yourself feel empowered to start breaking out of that cycle when you feel ready for it.

People like your friends, family, and your teachers, as well as helplines that you may well have seen come up on Google before you clicked on this article, are all there to help you when you let them in.

Although you might have had negative experiences with anyone which have led to where you are today, the important thing is to remember that there are alternative people who will want to help you.

There is no such thing as ‘someone who self-injures’. Self-injury can affect anyone, and for a lot of different reasons, too.

Remember that your emotions are always valid and the best thing you can do is be kind to yourself.

What to be wary of on social media.

It can be very tempting to take to social media when it comes to finding people who are going through similar things to you.

However, there is a lot of content online which can be damaging and make what you’re feeling even worse.

Finding photos on social media of other people’s self-injury might be inevitable in this space, and this can be a trigger. However, you can control what you see online, in order to protect your space. For tips on how to do this see here.

Where you can go to for confidential help.

It might not feel like it yet, but at some point you may feel like you want to speak to someone else about what’s happening.

When getting support from a medical professional, everything you say during your appointment will normally be kept confidential. The only reason why this might not be the case is if your medical professional thinks you or someone else is in danger.

When it comes to your school, or getting help from a trusted teacher, your school might have a different approach to how they deal with self-injury disclosures than your friends, for example. Your school has a duty of care to keep you safe, and trusted adults have a responsibility to keep young people safe.

These are the only conditions under which confidentiality of your matter will be overridden, but this will be done so sensitively and with as few people as needed to ensure your safety. If you choose to go down this route, you can ask to have your trusted adult of choosing informed, and they can help to address the situation with your best interests in mind. This can be an important part of the conversation if you have adults in your life that you’d rather be kept out of the loop with regards to your self-injury, for whatever reason that may be.

What does it look like on the other side?

As alone as you might feel, and as heavy as your emotions might feel, there is always going to be light at the end of the tunnel.

It can be hard to visualise it, but there are success stories you can find.

Charlotte, for example, began self-injuring at age 14, and kept going because of the relief it allowed her to feel. However, by getting help, she found some alternative coping mechanisms which got her to a safer space. She finds that journaling her thoughts and challenging herself physically are helpful strategies. She spoke up, and she says ‘don’t let fear prevent you from getting the support you deserve’.

Helena remembers how she believed that there was no point in speaking up because she didn’t think anyone would believe her or be able to help her. However, coming out of the other side of it, she now says that ‘my advice to other young people is to tell someone. If they don’t believe you, tell someone else, and tell someone else, until you get the help you need’.

So, what next?

The person you tell may access the help you need straight away, but equally, if you choose to confide in someone, it may also be best to prepare for the worst outcome. Some people might not understand what you’re going through, but that is not your fault. Finding a trusted individual who knows how to listen to you, rather than find solutions for every step of the way, may help you with this.

Other people’s negative, or unhelpful reactions are nothing to do with the truth, with what is right, nor about how you should be coping or acting.

If someone is unresponsive, tell someone else. If they are the same, tell someone else, and someone else.

Just remember that your feelings are valid, what you are going through is not fake, and there is nothing wrong with looking out for yourself.

We are here at Kari to support you. Whatever you may be feeling may feel overwhelming right now, but this won’t be the case forever.

Remember,

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and like you can’t cope, you can access the following services:

 

Or, download one of the following recommended apps:

If you feel like you may attempt suicide, or if you have seriously hurt yourself, you can:

  • Call 999 and ask for an ambulance
  • Tell somebody responsible you trust and ask them to call 999
  • Ask someone to take you to A&E
Evidence Based
This article has been reviewed by our Kari Health Experts and Editorial Board to ensure accuracy and reliability of the information presented. However, please note that the content provided is for informational purposes only and should not replace advice from your medical professional.

Did you find this article helpful this article? 

If so, you can read related Kari Health articles here:

Surviving Sexual Assault – How To Get Help

How To Feel More Body Positive During Your Period

I’m Worried My Child is Self-Injuring. What Do I Do?

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