Sometimes people deal with emotional distress and pain by hurting themselves physically.

Why do people self-harm?

Self-harm is where people physically hurt themselves. This is usually with behaviours that cause injury but can also include the use of alcohol, drugs and food.

This is usually an attempt to find some relief from emotional distress – the person focuses on the physical pain rather than their distressing thoughts. It can also be a way of telling others that the person needs some help.

What to do if someone is self-harming

Self-harm can be highly distressing for the friends and family of the person, as well as the person themselves.

If you or someone you know is harming themselves, we strongly encourage you to seek professional help. A professional can help someone to understand what is causing their distress, and help them to develop alternate strategies to support them.

In an emergency, call 000

If you are in an emergency situation where you are worried about your safety or someone else's, call 000 for an immediate response.

If you need to talk, contact Lifeline, SuicideLine or Beyond Blue.

Links & documents

Beyond Blue
Beyond Blue provides information and support to help everyone in Australia achieve their best possible mental health, whatever their age and wherever they live.
Lifeline is a national charity providing all Australians experiencing a personal crisis with access to 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention services.
Health.vic: Mental Health Community Support Services
Mental Health Community Support Services (MHCSS) are distinct from clinical mental health services. They play a vital role in supporting people with a severe mental illness and psychiatric disability throughout the recovery process.
SANE Australia: Self-harm
Factsheets, podcasts and forums about mental health and illness.
Headspace: What you need to know about self harm
For some young people self-harm is a one-off event, but for others it becomes a repeated behaviour that can be hard to change.
Last updated 08 March 2023