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Ways to help avoid self-harm

Finding ways to prevent or distract yourself from self-harm may help you get through a difficult moment. Many people who self-harm will eventually stop on their own.

However, support and treatment is available if you need it to help address the underlying cause.

It can feel like a big step to speak to someone you do not know about your feelings or experiences. But with support it may feel easier to make changes that help reduce or stop your self-harm.

Ways to help avoid self-harm


  • try talking about your feelings to a friend, family member, trained volunteer or health professional. You could contact Samaritans, call: 116 123 or email: if you need someone to talk to

  • try working out if feeling a certain way leads to your self-harm – for example, when you're feeling sad or anxious you could try expressing that emotion in a safer way

  • try waiting before you consider self-harm – distract yourself by going out for a walk, listening to music, or doing something else harmless that interests you; the need to self-harm may begin to pass over time

  • try calming breathing exercises or other things you find relaxing to reduce feelings of anxiety

  • write down your feelings – no one else needs to see it

  • read about mental health and wellbeing – including help for common feelings such as stress, anxiety and depression

  • if you struggle with suicidal thoughts, it may help to make a safety plan to use if you need it – the Staying Safe website has a guide on how to make a safety plan

  • search and download mental health apps from the NHS apps library – the free distrACT app gives you easy, quick and discreet access to information and advice about self-harm and suicidal thoughts


Further information and support

Page last reviewed: 23 July 2020
Next review due: 23 July 2023