What is Self Harm?

Self harm is a difficult topic to talk or write about. It is hard to write in words what goes on in the mind of a person who harms him/herself. It is hard to not make the victim seem crazy while not promoting or glorifying self harm itself. I am going to try my best at describing what it is like what goes in our minds to the general public and to anyone reading this, I will also give you some tips on how to avoid harming yourself in case you cannot control it by yourself. So I will begin with some individual anecdotes, move on to the perception of it by the normal people and then talk about what (If any) is the appropriate response when you see something like this on the body of someone. I will end with some tips on how to avoid harming yourself and replacing it with other stuff.

My Experience.

People mutilate themselves for many reasons, some to relieve emotional pain, to feel something, to tackle the numbness within themselves or as a punishment for themselves out of guilt. Self mutilation is basically defined as breaking the skin resulting in bleeding.  When people have talked to me about their personal experiences with self harm, the most common reason I have heard for doing so is to relieve the emotional pain because they couldn’t see any other way out. The sight of blood oozing out of their skin makes them feel relieved which could be caused by the endorphins released in our brains whenever we cut ourselves.

The cuts are generally superficial although the degree of depth may vary in different people depending on the state of mind the victim was in while doing it. I have had experience with self harm myself. Over the last 15-18 months, I have had a lot of experience with self mutilation. I used various different means at times and some marks were so deep that they can still be seen on various parts of my body. Most of the scars faded away, leaving just a slight tan against the rest of the skin which will eventually fill up, a few were deep enough to leave a permanent scar and they are all over my body, my abdomen, my forearms and my shoulders. These are going to stay with me now, so I might as well learn to be comfortable with them.

I wouldn’t exactly say I am embarrassed of these scars, I was in a really bad state of mind when I got them and they do serve up as a constant reminder to me on how bad things could have gotten and how much better I am now. They also serve as a reminder to not make the same errors I made previously and be better at managing and controlling my own thoughts.


When people see someone else with scars on their arms, or any other body part, there are a lot of things that instantly pop up in their head. This is something that is totally natural and should be expected from anyone seeing it for the first time. There are some misconceptions I would like to clear up at this point. People who self harm are likely to be suffering from a mental disorder, like depression or anxiety or BPD but calling them “crazy” or “dangerous” is not helpful to anyone involved. If you are scared of triggering the person by saying something wrong, keep the words limited. Choose your words carefully and be careful with how you say them. Prioritize face to face interactions over messaging or voice call as you can’t really see or perceive a person’s emotions with these methods. If you can, try and be available to these people even though they don’t really talk back to you. Let them know you are there, and constantly keep reminding them of the same.

For Every Self-Harmer:

To anyone who does harm themselves at regular intervals, this paragraph is for you. Cutting yourself does seem like a good option as it relieves us of the pain and then at most times doesn’t leave many permanent marks so why not just cut yourself? There are many reasons why the relief provided by cutting does not lead to any good. The relief that you feel is temporary and the pain will come back no matter what, in a short while. Moreover the secret of self harm is something that makes us more isolated and detached from society. We are constantly afraid of contacting someone, for they may judge us and people are constantly afraid of talking to you in case something they say hurts us and we become even more detached. The relief you feel is because of the endorphins released in your brain which develop a resistance over time. So the more you cut yourself, more you will have to cut the next time to feel relieved, this could lead to serious injuries even if you don’t  want them.

Coping Techniques.

Now coming to the coping techniques for self harm, there are various ways to seek help, or to be helpful to yourself.

  • Confide in someone. Pick a person you believe is compassionate and caring enough to listen to your problems and help you through them. Tell them about your feelings but also be careful to be patient with them. They may not understand on the first go or may panic, it is up to you to give them some time to process this stuff and come up with a response.
  • Contact a hotline service or seek therapy. There are many help lines all over the world to deal with these issues. Call one and talk to a stranger without any fear of judgment.
  • Pick up a pen and draw something on yourself instead of cutting. It does help and this is something I drew on my left arm a few days ago. It is basically a distraction and any or all distractions are helpful in this case.20170609_140748
  • Write down a journal or diary, video or audio journals work just fine as well. Document your thought process at these times and device new ways to tackle your problems when they return at a later time

Self harm is not something that is ideal, but it doesn’t mean people who do this need to be shunned from the society as a whole. We can make things better, we just have to maintain hope and be available to help anyone, whenever and wherever it is.

Help Lines In India.

If you reside in India, here are the various help lines you can contact when you feel like you need some help

Befrienders India – National Association 
c/o Sneha, 11 Park View Road
600 028
Website: befriendersindia.org


Lifeline Foundation 
17/1A Alipore Road
Sarat Bose Road
700 027
Hotline: +91 33 2474 4704
Hotline: +91 33 2474 5886
Hotline: 2474 5255
Website: education.vsnl.com/n4h/

A-4, Tanwar View, CHS,
Plot NO – 43, Sector 7
400 701
Contact by: Face to Face  – Phone  – Letter:
Hotline: +91 22 2754 6669
 Mon, Tues, Wed, Thurs, Fri, Sat, Sun: 09:00 – 21:00

255 Thyagumudali Street
Contact by: Face to Face  – Phone  – Letter:
Hotline: +91-413-339999
 Mon, Tues, Wed, Thurs, Fri, Sat, Sun: 14:00 – 20:00

1-8-303/48/21 Kalavathy Nivas,
Sindhi Colony
S.P. Road
500003 A.P.
Contact by: Face to Face  – Phone  – Letter:
Hotline: +91 40 7904646
E-mail Helpline: help@roshnihyd.org
 Mon, Tues, Wed, Thurs, Fri, Sat: 11:00 – 21:00

B12 Nilamber Complex
H.L. Commerce College Road
380 006
Hotline: +91 79 2630 5544
Hotline: +91 79 2630 0222

11 Park View Road
(Near Chennai Kaliappa Hospital)
R.A. Puram
600 028
Contact by: Face to Face  – Phone  – Letter:
Hotline: +91 (0) 44 2464 0050
Website: snehaindia.org
E-mail Helpline: help@snehaindia.org
24 Hour service:

The Samaritans Sahara 
Sir J-J. Road
Byculla Bridge
400 008
Contact by: Face to Face  – Phone  – Letter:  – E-mail:
Hotline: +91-22-2307 3451
Website: mumbainet.com/health/samarita.htm
 Mon, Tues, Wed, Thurs, Fri: 15:00 – 21:00
 Sat, Sun: 10:00 – 21:00

1 Bhagwandas Lane
Aradhana Hostel Complex
110 001
Contact by: Face to Face  – Phone  – Letter:
Hotline: 2338 9090
Website: sumaitri.org
 Mon, Tues, Wed, Thurs, Fri: 14:00 – 22:00
 Sat, Sun: 10:00 – 22:00

MAITHRI – Cochin 
Ashirbhavan Road
Ernakulam Kochi
682 018
Contact by: Face to Face  – Phone  – Letter:
Hotline: +91 239 6272
Website: maithrikochi.org
E-mail Helpline: maithrikochi@yahoo.co.in
 Mon, Tues, Wed, Thurs, Fri, Sat, Sun: 10:00 – 20:00