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Self-harm

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About self-harm

People hurt themselves for lots of different reasons. It can be used as a way of dealing with painful feelings, as a way to punish themselves, or perhaps as a way of asking for help. For others, life has become unbearable and suicide might seem like the only way out. If any of this sounds like you, read on to find out more about self-harm and suicide.

Are you thinking about suicide?

Many people think about suicide, and feel that life isn’t worth living at some point. But most don’t act on these thoughts and, with some help, are able to get over feeling this way. If you’re considering suicide, please take a few moments to read these comments and suggestions:

  • Many people have felt like you – that they can’t go on – but they’ve come through it and survived. There is light at the end of the tunnel, there is hope for a better future.
  • Give yourself some time and distance – just because you’re having suicidal thoughts doesn’t mean you have to act on them. Make a “contract” with yourself to wait for 24 hours…..or a few days, or a week. You’ve already put it off by reading this……you can put if off a bit longer.
  • You don’t have to go through this alone. Talk to someone you trust – a friend, your GP, a counsellor or psychiatrist, a minister, teacher, or anyone you trust to keep you safe.
  • Contact a helpline (like Lifeline on 13 11 14, Crisis Support Services on 1300 659 467, or Men’s Line on 1300 789 978).

If your life (or someone else’s life) is in immediate danger – call emergency services on 000 or go to your nearest hospital emergency department.

It’s not a crisis, but why do I still want to hurt myself?

There are many reasons why you might want to hurt yourself.

Sometimes, people who try to hurt themselves have just lost someone or something they cared about. Maybe a close friend or loved one passed away, or a relationship or career has come to an end. If this sounds like you, finding out more about grief might help.

Experiencing issues like depression or anxiety can increase the chances of self harm. People are also much more likely to try to hurt or kill themselves when they’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol. People who have been through very frightening or traumatic events, from childhood abuse to serious accidents to military deployments, may suffer from posttraumatic stress which can also increase the risk of self harm and suicide.

Sometimes the stresses and strains of life – things like financial problems, physical pain, unemployment – can build up to the point where it seems that life isn't worth living. But remember that all of these problems can be solved – not easily, not perfectly, but there are solutions and there are people who can help (financial counselors job agencies, health professionals, and so on). Things will get better. You might also find the Problem Solving module of the High Res website helpful.

What can I do about it?

Self-help

See if you can work out why you want to hurt yourself – is it for one of the reasons in the previous section? If so, the first step is to find out more about those problem areas. If you can work on the things that brought you to this position, you are much less likely to want to hurt yourself. Beyond that, some basic things will help:

Recognise the triggers

What sets off these feelings? What activities, times, places, people, and thoughts make you more likely to want to hurt yourself? And when do you NOT feel like it? Understanding more about the things that trigger self harm can help you deal with (or avoid) those situations.

Postpone it

When you feel the urge to hurt yourself, try to distract yourself for 15 minutes or so – a lot of the time the urge will go away. Focus on other things, like going for a walk, ringing a friend, reading a book, or having something to eat or drink. Choose things that take your mind off negative thoughts and keep you busy in a positive way.

Manage your unpleasant feelings

If you have any strategies to manage unpleasant feelings (like controlling your breathing, relaxation, sensible self-talk) now is a good time to use them. If you’re not sure about how to do this, check out the tools on the High Res website or app .

Talk to someone

Arrange to see a friend or go along to a club, church, or other social event. If you do have people you can confide in about your problems, that’s even better – talking about it usually helps. There’s an online tool with strategies for building Social Connections on the High Res website and app that you might find helpful.

Write things down

Especially if you don’t have people you can talk to easily, writing things down can help you express your feelings and stop depressing thoughts from going around and around in your head. Getting those thoughts on paper can also help you to come up with more helpful thoughts that will get you moving again.

Getting Help

If you feel like hurting yourself, you would probably benefit from some professional help.

  • Chat to your GP and ask him or her to refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist for an assessment. At least then you’ll have a better idea of what’s going on and how to deal with it.
  • This website has information on a range of professional care that is available to current and former serving members.

Online resources

There are many places to look for more information about self-harm and suicide. Good places to start are:

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