Self-harm is exactly what it sounds like, harming yourself intentionally. This may sound like a strange idea to someone who has never felt like hurting themselves on purpose, but it is extremely common and you may know people who do this. In Australia there has been more than 20,000 hospitalisations each year since the turn of the century, and possibly many more that never get reported.
Self-harm may involve people cutting themselves or taking a drug overdose for the purpose of causing pain and suffering. Self-harm is not always linked with attempted suicide, although of course suicide is the most extreme example of self-harm. Many people who self-harm report that they do so because they want to live, not because they want to die.
People can have many complex reasons for wanting to self-harm. Some do it because they are depressed or bullied. Some are numb and want to feel something. Some do it out of a sense that they are bad and deserve punishment. Others report a temporary feeling of release from emotional pain after they self-harm. They try to replace their emotional pain with physical pain.
Self-harm is not the solution. Hurting your body cannot make you a better person. It cannot fix your problems or take away your pain. It may make you feel better for a time, but it cannot give you lasting peace.
We can, however, find true and lasting peace in Jesus. Jesus is the one who can forgive us, and make us clean and whole again. He says:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28–30).
Seeking healthy advice if you feel tempted to harm yourself is vital. There are some links and contacts below if you or someone you know is struggling with this. Be aware, however, that not all advice on the internet is helpful. Some sites glorify self-harm and fail to address the underlying issue. Speaking to someone you trust is important, especially someone who can help you understand and work through the reasons why you self-harm. You are not alone.
People to talk to include parents, a teacher or school counsellor, or a pastor. Counselling hotlines are also available 24 hours a day. Lifeline can be contacted on 13 11 14.
- 'Lessons from the confessional on dealing with cutting' by Father Terrance Klein
- ‘Understanding self-harm – for health professionals’
- Pregnancy support
- Beyond Blue Support Service (1300 224 636)
- Kids helpline
- Parent helpline
- Raising children parent helpline and hotline
- Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service
- Alcoholics Anonymous Australia
- Gambling help online
- Family Drug Support
- Suicide call back service (1300 659 467)
- Lifeline crisis support and suicide prevention (13 11 14)