General Psychiatry

Self-Harm & Suicide


Self-harm means any behavior which involves the deliberate causing of pain or injury to oneself — usually as a way of trying to cope with distressing or painful feelings.


People who self-harm may be secretive or feel ashamed about their behavior. It helps to talk calmly and non-judgmentally about your concerns.

  • Encourage the person to see a psychiatrist about the self-harming behavior.
  • Suggest options for getting help, rather than directing the person what to do.
  • Do not hesitate to call emergency services if you think the person is at risk of serious injury.

What Are The Alternatives To Self-Harm?

It can be hard for people who self-harm to stop it by themselves. That’s why it’s important to talk to someone and see a doctor. It can help to try alternatives to self-harm which can relieve distress in the short term. These include:

  • Delay

    for example, put it off until you have spoken to someone.

  • Distract

    for example, go for walk, play a game.

  • Divert

    for example, find an activity which has a similar effect to self-harm, but without causing injury, such as punching a pillow, drawing on arm instead of cutting, squeezing an ice cube.

These are not solutions to self-harm but can be useful as short-term alternatives while receiving treatment, and should be discussed with the treating doctor or psychologist.


Suicide is a major public health concern all over the world. Suicidal ideation can occur when a person feels that they are no longer able to cope with an overwhelming situation. This could stem from suffering from a severe mental illness like Depression, financial problems, the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, or a debilitating illness or health condition.


Some other common situations or life events that might cause suicidal thoughts include grief, sexual abuse, financial problems, remorse, rejection, and unemployment.

A Person Who Experiences Or Could Experience Suicidal Thoughts May Show The Following Signs Or Symptoms:

Talking about:

  • Wanting to die
  • Great guilt or shame
  • Being a burden to others



  • Empty, hopeless, trapped, or having no reason to live
  • Extremely sad, more anxious, agitated, or full of rage
  • Unbearable emotional or physical pain

Changing behavior, such as:

  • Making a plan or researching ways to die
  • Withdrawing from friends, saying good bye, giving away important items, or making a will
  • Taking dangerous risks such as driving extremely fast
  • Displaying extreme mood swings
  • Using drugs or alcohol



What You Can Do to Help

If someone indicates they are considering suicide, listen and take their concerns seriously. Don't be afraid to ask questions about their plans. Let them know you care, and they are not alone. Encourage them to seek help immediately from a knowledgeable professional. Don't leave them alone. 


Five tips for what you can do if you're concerned about a friend or loved one:

  • Ask someone you are worried about if they're thinking about suicide. (While people may be hesitant to ask, research shows this is helpful.)
  • Keep them safe. Reduce access to lethal means for those at risk.
  • Be there with them. Listen to what they need.
  • Help them connect with ongoing support such as a friend, family member, or Doctor.
  • Stay connected. Follow up to see how they’re doing after the crisis has passed.


How Can I Prevent Suicide?

If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:

  • Ask the direct question: “Are you considering suicide?”
  • Listen to the person without judgment.
  • Call the local emergency number or Suicide help hotline.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
  • Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.

Can Suicidal Thoughts Stop? 

Suicide ideation is a symptom of an underlying problem. Medications and talking therapies can help. Anyone who is experiencing mental health problems should try to seek treatment as soon as possible.

Once treatment starts, it is important to follow the treatment plan, attend follow-up appointments, and take any medications as a healthcare professional directs.