If you think about self-harm and suicide, there are strategies to put in place that might help. If you or someone else is in immediate danger, call 000.


About self-harm and suicide

People harm themselves for lots of different reasons. Self-harm 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.

Thinking about suicide

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

If it is not a crisis, read on.

Many people think about suicide, and can feel that life isn’t worth living. Most people don’t act on these thoughts and, with some help, are able to get over feeling this way. If you or someone you know has felt like this at some point, you may find the following helpful;

  • 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. You can use the Personal Support Network on the Operation Life app to create a list of people to call when you need support.
  • Ring Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling (formerly VVCS):  1800 011 046 - it is a 24/7 service.
  • Contact a helpline like Lifeline on 13 11 14, Crisis Support Services on 1300 659 467, or Men’s Line on 1300 789 978.

Reasons you might want to hurt yourself

There are many reasons why you might want to hurt yourself. It could be related to thoughts of suicide but it might also be to escape from distressing feelings, cope with life stressors or a way of expressing pain.

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 post-traumatic 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 counsellors 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.

Take action: Use problem solving strategies

If you are finding it hard to deal with your problems you might feel overwhelmed and feel like life is too difficult.

The Problem Solving tool will guide you through a step by step process for tackling day to day problems to help you to feel calmer and more in control.

When you’re starting out, practice using the tool on a problem that is not too complex. Once you’ve learned the skills you can start to apply the problem solving approach to all sorts of situations that arise in your day to day life.

What you can do about it


Try to 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 issues that brought you to this position, you are much less likely to want to hurt yourself. In addition, some other 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 – often the intense and immediate urge to self-harm will pass with time. 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.

Take action: Distract yourself from thoughts of self-harm or suicide

If you are thinking about harming yourself, get involved in a distracting activity and allow the urge to pass. You can choose a range of activities through the Distraction tool. It’s best if you choose these tools when you are feeling relatively well. You can then have these activities on hand to use when you feel the urge to harm yourself.

This tool is also available on the High Res app to use on the go. You can also use the Positive Reminder tool on the Operation Life app to create personalised reminders of the things that make your life worth living.

Manage your unpleasant feelings

When you feel the urge to hurt yourself, try using strategies like controlling your breathing, relaxation and helpful self-talk to manage the unpleasant feelings that you are experiencing

Take action: Connect to your current surroundings and manage unpleasant feelings

Feeling overwhelmed by strong emotions can put you at risk of harming yourself.

The Guided Grounding tool helps you to connect to your current surroundings when you are feeling overwhelmed. The Managing Emotions tool helps you to identify your emotions, regain your composure, think about your situation and decide on a helpful course of action.

When you’re starting out, practice using the tool when you are feeling calm. Once you’ve learned the strategies you can use them whenever you feel yourself becoming upset or overwhelmed.

The Managing Emotions tool is also available on the High Res app to use on the go. For guided grounding you can use the Keep Calm tool on the Operation Life app.

Take action: Build connections

Spending time with other people helps you to feel better and reduce thoughts of harming yourself.

Use the Social Connections tool to identify the people in your life who can offer you support and the different kinds of support they can offer.

When you’re starting out you can focus on strengthening relationships with people you can trust and talk to about personal things. Over time, you can work on building a wider support network by reaching out to people that you do not see as often or have lost contact with.

The Social Connections tool is also available on the High Res app to use on the go. You can also use the Personal Support Network on the Operation Life app to create a list of people to call when you need support.

If you don’t have people you can talk to easily, writing things down can help you express your feelings and stop distressing 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: