Self-harm is a behaviour that is commonly associated with a range of mental health problems, but is not a mental illness or disorder in itself. Self-harm can include behaviours such as cutting your skin or overdosing on medication. It can also include things such as burning, pinching, or scratching yourself.
Many young people self-harm as a way of coping with distress or dealing with intense emotions, and in some cases is used as a mechanism to continue to live, rather than end life. Self-harm may help the young person cope with intense emotions, thoughts or memories; it may also serve as a way of showing other people how they feel inside.
At times, it can be difficult for a young person to know why they are self-harming. They may be using it as a way to cope, but can also be experiencing thoughts of suicide at the same time.
The best way to help someone you know who is self-harming or contemplating suicide is to encourage and support them to seek professional help as early as possible. If you’re really worried about them, or they are in an emergency situation, the best thing to do in Australia is call 000 and stay with them (if safe) until help arrives.