Self-harm and children/young people

Signs your child might be harming themself

Thoughts and Feelings 

Talking about self-harming or suicide/suicidal ideation. Expressing feelings of failure, uselessness or loss of hope, Self-loathing and expressing a wish to punish themselves, signs of low self-esteem, such as blaming themselves for any problems or thinking they’re not good enough for something.


Changes in eating/sleeping habits, increased isolation from friends/family, changes in activity and mood, e.g., more aggressive or withdrawn than usual, lowering of academic grades, becoming socially withdrawn.  Wearing long sleeves, tights/leggings, and trousers even in hot weather. Cuts, scratches or burns that may not be accidental. Changes in appearance, sudden /drastic weight loss/gain. Signs of depression, such as low mood, tearfulness or a lack of motivation or interest in anything. Signs they have been pulling out their hair. Bandages on their arm.

Physical symptoms 

Tired, trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, tummy ache and feeling sick from anxiety and worry.

How you can support your child or young person experiencing self-harm

  • Be non-judgmental.
  • Stay calm and try not to be shocked, as you will add shame to the person.
  • Let the person know that you are there for them, and listen attentively.
  • Encourage them to talk about their feelings.
  • Try to have empathy and show interest in their distress.
  • Let them be in control of their decisions.
  • Clarify whether there are immediate needs for medical attention.
  • Remind them of their positive qualities.