Are self-harm and suicide the same thing? If someone is harming themselves, does this mean that they want to die? Although they seem very similar, there are some important differences between the two.

How suicide and self-harm are similar

  • If someone is thinking about self-harm or if they are self-harming, they are experiencing a lot of emotional distress.

  • Self-harm and suicide are both strategies used to cope with emotional distress.

  • One of the major risks of suicide is previous experience of self-harm. Even if there is no suicidal intent accompanying the deliberate self-harm, there is a risk of accidental death.

How suicide and self-harm are different:

  • Self-harm is a coping strategy – it is about releasing or coping with feelings and emotions.

  • Many people who self-harm have no intention of dying. Harming themselves is their way of coping with life.

For some self-harming behaviour may no longer be effective as a coping strategy therefore suicide may become a way of managing overwhelming emotion.

If you discover that someone close to you is self-harming you should take it seriously. It doesn’t mean they want to die. However, it probably does mean that they are having significant difficulties and need help, support and understanding from family, friends, and health professionals.                                                                                                             

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