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FAQs Frequently Asked Questions

Below is a selection of the questions that we are often asked about self harm and about Harmless - we hope you will find them useful, but if you can't find the answer you are seeking you can ask us a question directly and we will respond as quickly as possible.

  • What is Harmless?
  • Harmless is an organisation that combines personal and professional experience to support people who self harm, their friends and families, and professionals. We believe in recovery, and through our work we want to promote health and well being. So many people who self harm feel overwhlmed by their emotions, and this is something we want to work hard to change.

  • Where can I find out more about Harmless and the issue of self harm?
  • There is a lot of information on this website - have a look around. In the downloads section there are loads of recources, which we will be constantly updating. There are leaflets and posters for you to download and print out.

    If you have specific questions you can contact us here and we will be sure to answer them and if you want to email us, in confidence, you can do so at info@harmless.org.uk

  • Are people that self harm a risk to others?
  • So often, people who self harm are stigmatised by ignorance about what self harm is and what it isn't.

    Self harm is an act of harm against oneself, used to express or manage internal stress or distress. Individuals who self harm usually struggle to outwardly express their feelings, so they become internalised and expressed on the body in some way. By virtue of this, people who self harm are in fact less likely to express their feelings outwardly, for example due to lack of self esteem, or a belief that their feelings are valid. People who self harm take their pain out on themselves, they don't take it out on others. We must NOT confuse self-inflicted violence, with violence towards others, nor should we stigmatise individuals who self harm further, by associating them with being a risk to others.

    Arnold (1994) encourages us to challenge the stigma that surrounds self harm, stating that one of the common myths about people who self harm is that they are a risk to others. This is not the case, and to fall into this trap causes prejudice and pain to those already in distress.

  • Are people that self harm attention seeking?
  • This is a hot topic for discussion. In much of our literature we state clearly that people who self harm are not 'attention seekers' - the term suggests that someone is harming themselves in some manipulative attempt at taking attention from others. What we would argue is that self harm is always an attempt to cope with things, in some way. For some, self harm is a means of communicating distress - but seeking attention (or care, or support) is an important and natural human need. If someone is upset they may call a friend, or ask for help, or scream and shout, but sometimes, for people who self harm, this can be a very difficult process; they may use self harm as a way of communicating their need for care and support.

    It is SO important that when we consider the term 'attention seeking' that we do so with compassion. If people who self harmed 'just' wanted attention then there are many more ways that they could achieve this. But in the cases where self harm is used in such a way, it is used because the individual really feels that there are no other options, that their desperate need for support overshadows everything else.

    Our advice: if someone is seeking support through self harm, then for goodness sake, give them the support. We all need support in times of distress, and if someone is harming themselves, treat them with compassion and care. Let them know that there are other ways, and you can help them, and don't blame them. If they were aware that there was another option for managing their distress, they'd be using it!