If you have any concerns about your risk for suicide, or someone you care about, please give us a call at (619) 594-5220, the San Diego Access and Crisis Line at (888) 724-7240, or dial 911

Self-harm is an action that people engage in where they harm themselves, generally physically, in some manner. There can be many misperceptions about why people engage in self-harm.

One misperception is that everyone that engages in self-harm is doing it because they want to kill themselves. While individuals that do this may have thoughts of suicide, there are often other motivating factors for why someone might harm themselves.

These may include:

  • Feeling like they need to punish themselves
  • Trying to feel physical pain to take the focus off of mental pain
  • Trying to bring themselves back to the present moment

While the intent may not to be to attempt suicide, self-harm behaviors can be very harmful for multiple reasons.

  • The person may unintentionally significantly injure themselves.
  • They may use self-harm as a means to cope with distressing emotions when there may be more effective manners out there.

Most individuals that self harm have a significant amount of shame about the behavior. In fact, if you have a history of self-harm, it may make more sense to develop more coping strategies for distressing emotions prior to fully discontinuing harming yourself.

If you are trying to make the decision to stop engaging in self harm, it is highly recommended that you contact a mental health professional to guide you through that process. 


Identifying what your most effective personal coping skills are can be a good strategy for coping with emotional distress. For self harm, there may be activities that you engage in that help take your mind off of what is distressing you. Some common coping strategies are exercise, talking to a supportive friend or family member, or listening to music.

There are more aspects to identifying what coping strategies work for you and to learn more about coping, follow this link.

If you are experiencing significant shame about your self harm and have kept it to yourself, try to identify someone or some people in your life that are particularly supportive of you. Disclose a part of your struggles with your support.

If you do not believe that you have someone that is supportive right now, you can experiment by calling the Warm Line if you are not in immediate crisis at (800) 930-9276 (between 3:30 to 11 p.m. daily) or the San Diego Access and Crisis line at (888) 724-7240 (available 24 hours a day) if you do believe you are in an immediate crisis.


Note which ones are the most helpful for you
See if you can do at least one of them each day.
If you like it, try it more.