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Self Harm

The reasons children and teenagers can self-harm are often complicated and will be different for every child or young person. Sometimes a child or teenager may not know the reasons they self-harm. 

For many young people, self-harm can feel like a way to cope with difficult feelings or to release tension. The physical pain of hurting themselves can feel like a distraction from the emotional pain they're struggling with.

Some difficult experiences or emotions can make self-harm more likely in children:

  • experiencing depression, anxiety or eating problems
  • having low self-esteem or feeling like they’re not good enough
  • being bullied or feeling alone
  • experiencing emotional, physical or sexual abuse, or neglect
  • grieving or having problems with family relationships
  • feeling angry, numb or like they don't have control over their lives.

It can be hard to recognise the signs of self-harm in children and teenagers, but as a parent it’s important to trust your instincts if you’re worried something’s wrong.

Signs to look out for can include: 

  • covering up, for example by wearing long sleeves a lot of the time, especially in summer
  • unexplained bruises, cuts, burns or bite-marks on their body
  • blood stains on clothing, or finding tissues with blood in their room
  • becoming withdrawn and spending a lot of time alone in their room
  • avoiding friends and family and being at home
  • feeling down, low self-esteem or blaming themselves for things
  • outbursts of anger, or risky behaviour like drinking or taking drugs.

If you have any concerns at all about a child’s safety or wellbeing, contact the NSPCC Helpline 0808 800 5000

18 or under? Childline offers free, confidential advice and support whatever your worry, whenever you need help. Call 0800 1111