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If you think someone may be in an immediate life threatening situation, call 911, Campus Security (563)588-6393, or local community Mental Health offices immediately for assistance.


What is self-harm?

Self-harm, also known as self-injury, self-inflicted violence, self-injurious behavior or self-mutilation, is deliberate, direct injury of one’s own body. It may be done in order to deal with an overwhelming or distressing situation.

Why do people harm themselves?

There is not just one answer to this question. Most commonly, people choose to use self-harm as a way of coping with something that is going on in their life. Listed below are some of the other common answers people have given.

  • Self-harm relieves the pressure of emotional tensions (i.e.: bullying, abuse, deaths, relationships)
  • Cutting makes the blood leave the body, taking away the bad feelings with it.
  • Pain makes them feel more alive when they feel numb or dead inside.
  • Punishing themselves relieves feelings of shame or guilt.
  • When it’s too difficult to talk to anyone, it’s a form of communication about their unhappiness – a way of saying they need help.
  • Self-harm is something they can control when other parts of their life may seem out of control.

What can you do if someone you know is practicing self-harm?

  • Listen — Allow the individual to talk about how he or she feels.
  • Be clear and honest about your feelings. Explain that this behavior upsets you, but you understand.
  • Take this seriously and respect feelings.
  • Don’t blame him or her for self-inflicted hurt. Avoid being critical even if you feel shocked.
  • Offer to tell someone, or accompany him or her to speak to someone.
  • Encourage him or her to seek professional help.

Other ways of coping and dealing with life stressors

  • Deep breathing or yoga.
  • Call a friend, your therapist or a crisis line; try not to be alone.
  • Listen to music or write in a journal.
  • Hold ice cubes in your hands – the cold causes pain in your hands, but it is not dangerous or harmful.
  • Punching a bed/ pillow or scratch a picture on a thick piece of wood with a screw driver (when nothing but a physical outlet for your anger and frustration will work).
  • Try to find your own creative ways as outlets for emotions.
  • Learn to confront others/make your own feelings known instead of keeping them inside
  • Go outside and scream and yell.
  • Take up a sport (a form of exercise can help you release tension).
  • Work with paint, clay, play-doh, etc.
  • Instead of harming yourself, try massaging the area you want to harm with massage oils or creams, reminding yourself that you are special and you deserve to treat yourself and your body with love and respect.
  • Break the object that you use to self-injure as a way to show that you have control over it.
  • Recite a poem, prayer or anything else familiar that comforts you multiple times.
  • Write down positive points and why you don’t deserve to be hurt.
  • Allow yourself to cry. Getting the tears out can make you feel better. Let the bad leave through your tears, not your blood.

Not all of these will work for everyone. Everyone must find the options that make them feel best about themselves.