Preventing self-harm

Reading time: 2 min
Woman talking with a child with glasses

Identifying people at risk and offering them strategies for dealing with stress.

Family talking

Encourage family relationships. Build a trustworthy home environment. Perform leisure activities with all family members.

People talking and a positive symbol

Encouraging social relations. Many people who self-harm feel alone and isolated. Talking to people who do not self-harm may improve social and communication skills.

Family talking

Raising public awareness of the problem. For example, teaching adults who work with children or adolescents how to detect self-harm and how to help a person who may be self-harming. Designing programmes which encourage adolescents to look for help.

Two people in front of a computer and a clock

Supervise and regulate the use of Internet in teenagers.


Teaching adolescents to think critically about references to self-harm in music and on social networks. 

What to do to avoid self-harm

If you can manage to control your distress without self-harm, it will be easier to avoid self-harming the next time you feel bad. To try to calm down without self-harming, it’s a good idea to:

Mobile chat

Talk to someone, or if you’re alone, call or write to a friend.

Person listening to music with headphones

Distract yourself by listening to music, watching TV or doing something you like.

Person doing yoga

Do something relaxing, like going for a walk, dancing, doing relaxation exercises, or squeezing a stress ball.

Hand writing with a pencil

Finding another way to express your feelings, like drawing or writing a diary.

Arm and pencil

Doing a displacement activity instead of self-harm, such as rubbing yourself with ice cubes, putting a hairband on your wrist, or using a soft red crayon to colour the place where you would usually self-harm. 

Each person is different and some of these strategies work for some people and not for others. You just have to try different options and find the right one for you.

It’s also possible that the same strategies won’t always work, so you’ll have to change them when they stop being useful.

What can I do if a friend or family member is self-harming?

It can be very worrying if a friend or family member is self-harming, and we don’t always know what to do to help.


What to do

  • Let them know that you care about what’s happening to them.
  • Talk about their self-harming calmly and without judging them.
  • Get information about self-harming and what to do about it.
  • Ask for professional help, and if necessary offer to accompany them when they go to see the healthcare professional.
  • Help the person understand the things that have happened to cause the self-harming.
  • Suggest alternative activities.

What not to do

  • Ignore self-harming.
  • Try to be their therapist.
  • Get angry or punish them, as this will probably just make them feel worse.
  • Make them promise not to do it again.
  • Feel guilty about the self-harm or think you are responsible for stopping it.

Información general de Mental Health in Children and Adolescents

Consulta toda la información relacionada con Mental Health in Children and Adolescents

Read more

Substantiated information by:

Iria Méndez

Published: 30 October 2019
Updated: 30 October 2019


Receive the latest updates related to this content.

Thank you for subscribing!

If this is the first time you subscribe you will receive a confirmation email, check your inbox

An error occurred and we were unable to send your data, please try again later.