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Self-harm or self-injury is a form of hurting oneself to relieve emotional distress or pain. While self-harm may bring a momentary sense of calm and a release of tension, it's usually followed by guilt and shame and the return of painful emotions.

Although life-threatening injuries are usually not intended, with self-injury comes the possibility of more-serious and even fatal self-aggressive actions. While self-harm may not usually be a suicide attempt, it can increase the risk of suicide because of the emotional problems that trigger self-injury. This pattern of damaging the body in times of distress can make suicide more likely.

Signs and symptoms of self-harm may include:

  • Scars, often in patterns
  • Fresh cuts, scratches, bruises, bite marks or other wounds
  • Excessive rubbing of an area to create a burn
  • Keeping sharp objects on hand
  • Wearing long sleeves or long pants, even in hot weather
  • Frequent reports of accidental injury
  • Difficulties in interpersonal relationships
  • Behavioral and emotional instability, impulsivity and unpredictability
  • Statements of helplessness, hopelessness or worthlessness

If you're injuring yourself, even in a minor way, or if you have thoughts of harming yourself, reach out for help. Any form of self-injury is a sign of bigger issues that need to be addressed.

Talk to someone you trust — such as a friend, a trusted adult such as a loved one, doctor, spiritual leader, or a school counselor, nurse or teacher — who can help you take the first steps to get treatment. While you may feel ashamed and embarrassed about your behavior, you can find supportive, caring and non-judgmental help.

If you are the one that has severely injured yourself to the point that your injury may be life-threatening, or if you think you might attempt suicide, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.

Also consider these options if you're having suicidal thoughts:

  • For more information about services or if you or a loved one needs help, call the Mississippi Department Mental Health’s Helpline at: 1-877-210-8513 .
  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or use their webchat on
  • Call your mental health professional if you're seeing one.
  • Reach out to a close friend, loved one or trusted adult.
  • Seek help from your school nurse or counselor, teacher, doctor, or other health care provider.
  • Contact a pastor, spiritual leader or someone else in your faith community.

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