NHS Lothian

Taking control of self-harm 

1 min read

Understanding the triggers  

 What leads you to self-harm? Increasing your understanding of the situations, feelings or thoughts that are likely to trigger the urge to self-harm can help you begin to make changes. 

 Find other ways of coping 

 Make a list of the things you enjoy and build these into your day: 

  • Listening to music 
  • Being creative: painting, drawing, writing 
  • Cooking 
  • Eating something nice 
  • Walking 
  • Watching a movie 
  • Reading a good book 
  • Connect with people; write a letter, call a friend, text someone 
  • Exercise  
  • Try mindfulness  
  • Try relaxation 


Find other ways to communicate your distress

You may feel that self-harm is a way that you communicate emotional pain, a way of expressing your distress. If so, it may be helpful to understand that better and to work on communicating your distress in other ways.  

Here are a few questions you can ask yourself: 

  • What do I feel like when I harm myself? 
  • Have I ever tried to express in words how I feel? If not, can I think of words to describe what I feel like? If I have tried and it didn’t work, can I try a different way? 
  • Could I share my feelings with anyone?  
  • Might it help to write my feelings down 
  • What do I fear might be the response of people to what I have to say?  

Try to learn to describe how you feel. Try to learn to say no when you would like to.  

 Looking after yourself 

Make sure you look after yourself when you self-harm, even if youre not able to stop yet. For example, keep your cuts clean and use clean instruments.  

Try to do as little as you can, just enough to ease your distress. Set limits. Decide how much youre going to allow yourself to do and keep to it.  

Don’t share things you use to self-harm with anyone else. If you do, you risk infection.  

Try to keep your cuts shallow. Run cool water on your burns. Use clean dressings and antiseptic cream afterwards.  

Keep first aid supplies on hand and know what to do in case of emergencies. Get medical attention if needed. Be kind to yourself. 

Urgent Help


If you, or someone you know, is in crisis and in imminent danger of causing harm to themselves or others, call 999 immediately

Help within 24 hours