Self Harm


What is Self Harm?

Self harm is when someone injures themselves on purpose.  There are many different ways in which people may injure themselves and examples include:

  • Self wounding e.g. cutting, burning, pinching, pulling hair, head banging, punching walls, punching self etc
  • Self poisoning
  • Eating disorders
  • Abusing drugs and alcohol
  • Attempted suicide and suicide

A person will harm himself or herself to manage or control negative feelings and will therefore often do so during times of anger, distress, fear, worry, depression or low self-esteem. Self-harming is therefore a method of coping with difficult emotions.  Self-harm can also be used as a form of self-punishment for something someone has done.  People of all ages and social, cultural and ethnic backgrounds self harm. 

Self harm in Asian Women and Girls
Asian women between the ages of 15-35 are two to three times more vulnerable to suicide and self-harm than their non-Asian counterparts. Self-harm is often a result of struggling with emotional problems and feeling there is no one to turn to with whom problems can be shared because:

  • There is expectation from community, family and friends to suffer in silence despite the enormity of problems.   
  • To speak out against abuse and suffering and to report to the police is viewed as bringing shame on to the family
  • Women are often blamed for any problems within the family regardless of who is culpable.
  • Gossip that may result if help is sought from the GP particularly if the GP or staff at the surgery are from the same community.
  • Language barriers preventing access to services
  • Social isolation
  • Lack of culturally sensitive services especially counselling services

Examples of problems that cause Asian women and girls to self harm include: bullying at school; racism / discrimination; sexual abuse (including child sexual abuse and marital rape); forced marriage; inequality / oppression in the family; domestic violence; emotional abuse; lack of financial control; migration and loss of culture and family; problems with in-laws; marital problems, children (including pressure to have sons); health; perception of bringing shame and dishonour to the family, polygyny, religious pressures, being carers for family members, and cultural pressures.


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