Amy from our Counselling, Health and Wellbeing Team discusses self-harm and the help resources available.
As a Counselling, Health and Wellbeing Service we have frequent contact with students who are self-harming. We acknowledge that this is a coping strategy for many students and something that can be difficult to change.
This blog will summarise some of the ways people can manage self-harm and will give you the latest updated online resources, support services and how you can support yourself or someone else who is self-harming.
If you want to know more about what self-harm is, why people self-harm and some ways of coping with urges to self-harm, please have a look at our Self-injury Awareness Day blog.
Finding the motivation to change
Whilst staying motivated to make positive changes can be tricky, there are definitely ways to give your will power a boost. A simple pros and cons exercise can be a useful starting point as it can help clarify your reasons for using self-harm as a way of coping. This also explores disadvantages to self-harm, which can be a powerful incentive to stop. If you are struggling with your list then take a look at some of common reasons why people want to change their self-harming:
- To stop the physical pain
- To reduce the scarring
- To give yourself the opportunity to find other coping strategies
- To decrease the chances of infection
- To be able to wear different clothes that are less concealing
- To stop other people worrying
- To stop avoiding/escaping things
- To take back some control and build confidence in your ability to cope
- To experience different sensations in your body while recovering
- To be comfortable in your own company
- To take care of your body and be physically healthier
Finding other ways of Coping
- First steps for addressing self-harm can be to acknowledge the problem, talk to someone you trust, identify your triggers for self-harm and look at the function the self-harm serves. Sometimes doing a ‘Chain Analysis’ can be helpful for getting to know your triggers
- If you want to understand your self-harm in more detail, it can be helpful to keep a diary
- Try urge surfing, which shows you how urges come and go by themselves, even when they seem impossible to manage
- Delay the act
- Create a list of self-soothing activities, distractions or pleasant/mood boosting activities, and when you are struggling, choose one thing from this list and focus on it for at least 20 minutes
- Write down some coping statements and remind yourself of what has helped you before. (Coping statements could include: ‘This feeling has passed before’ or ‘I can tolerate this feeling’, ‘I know other ways of managing this urge’, ‘this is just a feeling, it will start to fade soon’)
- Look at ways of managing difficult emotions
- Connect with others
- Find ways of managing feelings of anger
- Find other ways of communicating emotional pain
- Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) Skills provide some specific strategies for managing emotions and feelings of distress. It also looks at communicating your needs to others and being more assertive. If you would like to know more about DBT you can have a look at this website. For other DBT self-harm avoidance techniques including Ice Diving, exercising and relaxing click here.
- Distraction with other strong sensations. For example, eating citrus fruit, ginger or something spicy. You could also use temperature to help regulate your emotion by taking a hot or cold shower. These are also examples used in DBT and are part of the ‘ACCEPTS’ skills for tolerating distress.
- Create a Self-harm Coping Plan.
Updated online resources
Self-Injury Support have improved their services by updating their:
They have developed an online hub of reliable and helpful information on self-injury that anybody can benefit from.
Other important updates include:
- They have produced a range of publications about self-injury, including leaflets, booklets and research
- They now have resources for specific groups
- ‘The Rainbow Journal’ is a self-help book for young people that self-injure
- They have information about self-injury for women from black and minority ethnics (BME) groups in English, Bengali, Chinese, Punjabi and Urdu
- In partnership with the Norah Fry Research Centre, a research project at the University of Bristol has developed resources for people with learning disabilities who self-injure and their carers/supporters
- They have also developed two online self-help tools – ‘The Spectrum Diary’ to track feelings and events related to self-injury and ‘Dealing with Feelings’ to support people coping with intense emotions
Their Women’s Self Injury Support Helpline CASS is now open Monday – Thursday 7-10pm:
This is a confidential, anonymous and non-judgemental helpline for women affected by self-injury. The helpline is staffed by specially trained volunteers and offers emotional support and information signposting.
Their text and email service (TESS) is open Sunday – Thursday 7-9pm:
TESS is a text and email support for girls and young women up to 24 years of age affected by self-injury. The service is confidential and offers a non-judgemental space for girls and young women to talk through and explore their feelings and what is going on for them.
They offer a well-regarded monthly ebulletin rounding up news, research and innovation in the area of self-injury. To receive the ebulletin sign up on their homepage: https://www.selfinjurysupport.org.uk/
When to get Medical Attention
Some basic starters are that if you self-harm it is important to have a first aid kit, including plasters, bandages, adhesive closure strips and antiseptic wipes or spray. If you have not had a tetanus vaccination in the last 10 years then get a booster as this can be a serious infection.
For a full explanation of assessing whether you require medical attention please use the published leaflet from the Royal College of Psychiatrists called ‘Self-harm: Limiting the damage’. You can also read up on basic first aid here, produced by the National Self-harm Network. The above resources have information on what to do with:
- Poisoning and Overdoses
Be aware that extensive blood loss can lead to shock.
For more information on this check out the Life Signs Website.
Are you experiencing suicidal thoughts?
Most people who practice self-injury don’t intend to kill themselves and may even see self-injury as a way of avoiding suicide. However, some people will practice self-harm with suicidal intent – the pain that causes people to self-harm may also drive a person to suicide.
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, there are online resources that can help you. Please have a look at:
For any student we see who is experiencing suicidal thoughts, we advise them to make an appointment with their GP, and to ask for an urgent appointment if they are experiencing urges to act on these thoughts.
Some students also find it helpful to use specific helplines such as
- Samaritans (02920344022, 116 123, Email: email@example.com )
- Nightline (02920870555: Term Time Only- 8pm-8am)
- A.L.L. (0800 132737 or Text 81066).
As a Counselling, Health and Wellbeing Team, we would always want to support a student who is struggling with suicidal thinking. Whilst we are not an emergency service we can:
- Offer support Monday-Friday, 9am-4.30pm
- We can be available to call or meet with you to discuss how you are feeling and how to get support (within these hours)
- We can help you contact your GP
- We can help you access more immediate support through NHS Services
- We can help you apply for extenuating circumstances, should you need your school to take your current difficulties in to consideration
If you would like to enquire about the support we offer then please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are struggling with suicidal thinking and have concerns about your safety, and are unable to access support through your GP, then please contact email@example.com
What to do if you have concerns that someone else is suicidal?
- Have a look at Samaritans’ guidelines on what to do if you have concerns that someone else is suicidal.
- As stated in the paragraph above, if you have concerns about a student who is talking about suicide and they have been unable to access support through their GP you can let us know by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note support is only available Monday-Friday, 9am-4.30pm. Outside this time we would advise that you contact the Emergency Services if you have concerns about a student’s safety
Become a Suicide-Alert Helper
If you would like to help us create a Suicide Safer University you can become a Suicide-Alert Helper and learn the skills to identify and support any person who may be having thoughts of suicide. If you want to know more, please have a look at our blog on Creating a suicide-safer University.
Contacting Counselling Health & Wellbeing
If you are currently self-harming, have self-harmed in the past or you know someone who is self-harming and need some support then please do not hesitate to get in touch with us. We have friendly and approachable staff who are able to listen to you non-judgmentally, in a safe and confidential space.
Please know that the Counselling, Health and Wellbeing Service can offer support to anybody experiencing any sort of difficulty, however big or small. We offer booked appointments via our online referral questionnaire, plus a daily Wellbeing Walk-In Service (3pm-3.45pm: Monday–Friday and Wednesday mornings: 9.30am-10.15am at the Student Support Centre at 50 Park Place; and Wednesday afternoons 3pm-3.45pm at Cardigan House, Heath Park Campus).
In relation to this, we would strongly advise you to make a GP appointment to discuss your self-harm if this is something that is affecting you at the moment. If you do not already have a GP, please contact Park Place Surgery. Also, we would advise you to seek support from the appropriate professionals (GP or A&E) should you think that you have caused an injury that requires medical attention. If you are concerned that you’ve taken an overdose or harmed yourself too severely, call 999 or go straight to your nearest A&E department.
Other Professional Support Services
If you need professional support, you can contact the following services:
- Your GP. If you do not already have GP please contact Park Place Surgery.
- NHS Direct on 0845 46 47 (England and Wales) or 08454 232323 (Scotland).
- Samaritans (the confidential emotional support service, available 24/7) on 116 123.
- CALL on 0800 132 737.
- Nightline(student-run listening service, 8pm-8am, term-time only) on 029 2087 0555.
- CALM (for young men) on 0800 58 58 58.
- HOPELineUK (support for young people up to the age of 35) on 0800 684 141.
- Get Connected on 08088 084 994.
- University Security on 029 2087 4444
Amy, Counselling Health and Wellbeing.
Your Student Life, Supported.
The Student Support Centre has a range of services dedicated to helping students make the most of their time at University, including: Advice and Money, Careers and Employability, Counselling, Health and Wellbeing, Disability and Dyslexia and International Student Support. The Student Support Centres are located at 50 Park Place, Cathays Campus and Cardigan House, Heath Park Campus.
For further details of services, events, opening times and more find us on the University Intranet.