What is self harm?

Self-harm is generally thought to affect between 1 in 12 and 1 in 15 young people, aged around 11-25, at some point. More recent evidence suggests that it might affect as many as 20% of young people. Self harm can include any form of hurting yourself.

Self-harm is a coping strategy used to help manage difficult feelings, experiences and emotions. It is important to recognise that self-harm is different for everyone – for some, it relieves stress whilst for others, it can be used to make a person feel ‘real’ and connect them with their body.

Whilst it is a way of coping, it’s not a particularly healthy one. Understanding a little about self harm might help to find other ways of coping that are less harmful.

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Self harm and LGBTQ+ people

Whilst most of the time it isn’t related to anything to do with gender identity or sexuality, self-harm does affect a high proportion of LGBTQ young people. Experiencing homophobic, biphobic or transphobic bullying can cause a great deal of distress and can sometimes be a factor in self-harming.

Difficult or unsupportive environments at school, home or work can often contribute as well. Feeling you have to be a different person depending on who you’re around can cause a lot of stress as well, and around 80% of LGBTQ young people who self-harm felt they had to hide their identity in one environment or another or feel they wouldn’t be accepted because of who they are.

Sometimes feeling that you are outside of “normal” sexual or gender identities is enough. This is sometimes called the impact of hetero-normativity (for sexuality) or cis-normativity (for gender).

There’s a big piece of national research on young LGBTQ+ people who self harm called Queer Futures. If you want to know a little more about it you can on their site.

What helps?

Feeling you can’t talk about what you’re going through can cause things to spiral further. It is important to talk to someone you trust if self-harm affects you – a friend, family member, GP, teacher – someone you trust. Don’t go through things alone! Keeping things bottled up and to yourself can make self harm harder to get control of.

You can find someone to talk to on our Support page if you need and 42nd Street supports lots of young people who use self-harm to cope (you can get in touch at

It sometimes helps to find an activity you can do whenever thoughts around self harm start, something that takes up your attention and can distract you a little in the moment (anything from reading to exercising, playing games, cooking – you get the idea)

Some people also find keeping physical things on them helps, like fidget spinners or rubber bands to snap.

“Truth About Self-Harm” is a downloadable guide for those worried about self-harm, produced by the Mental Health Foundation

For more videos and resources, check out The Mix website, which covers a big variety of topics around Self Harm

SANE is also a self harm helpline which is open 24 hours 0300 304 7000

If one of your friends has told you they self-harm there’s some useful tips in the video below too.


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