Disclaimer: This resource provides information, not advice. Please read the full disclaimer at the end of this resource.
COVID-19 is having a huge impact on the way most of us live our lives. Staying at home, not being able to go out and see friends or family, and not being able to do the things we usually do, can affect us in different ways. We might feel concerned or upset by the news, or by things we hear or read about COVID-19. It might make us feel isolated, lonely, angry, or depressed about the future.
Some of us might have thoughts of hurting ourselves, as a way of controlling our emotions, or wanting a release from how we feel. When we start to feel really low or alone, we might even have thoughts of wanting to end our life.
If you are thinking about hurting yourself or ending your life, it is important to know that you are not alone. You can still get the right support and help you need during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Self-harm is when you hurt or harm yourself on purpose, usually when you have feelings that are distressing and unbearable. Some people do it to control their emotions or to feel relief from uncomfortable feelings.
The impact of COVID-19 may have affected how you are coping with your feelings. It might trigger distressing feelings that you may have experienced in the past or that you might be experiencing for the first time.
You can find more information on self-harm on our website.
Suicidal thoughts are thoughts a person has about wanting to end their life to be free from unbearable emotional or physical pain. These might be general thoughts about not wanting to be alive, or specific thoughts about how to end one’s life.
- Call the Samaritans on 116 123 (freephone), email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Samaritans website
- Call NHS 111 (freephone)
- Contact your GP for an emergency appointment (which might be done over the phone or by video)
- Contact your local mental health crisis team (if you don’t know who they are, NHS 111 can help you)
- Get help online through Mind's I Need Urgent Help web page or the 4MentalHealth website (from anywhere in the UK)
- Visit the Welsh government mental health advice line, ‘C.A.L.L’ (Wales),
Or call them directly on 0800 132 737 (freephone),
- Visit Breathing Space (Scotland)
Or call on 0800 83 85 87 (freephone)
- Visit Lifeline
Or call 0808 808 8000 (freephone)
If you don’t feel like you can keep yourself safe right now, and other support isn’t enough to help you, then call 999 or go to your nearest hospital A&E department (sometimes known as the emergency department). Or, you can ask someone else to call 999 for you or to take you to A&E.
If you find yourself experiencing distressing feelings more and more during the COVID-19 pandemic, then it is a good idea to talk to a mental health professional. They can help you manage your distress and also work with you to find ways to stay well. Your GP can help you find a service close to you, or you can search for one on the NHS website.
It is important to remember that the thoughts of hurting yourself will pass. There are things you can do right now to help you cope with the distress you might be feeling. It can help to come up with a list or a plan that you can follow whenever you feel like hurting yourself. These things all work differently for different people, so find the one that works best for you:
- Get through the next 5 minutes. Focus on what you can see, hear, smell, touch or taste.
- Talk to someone you trust. If that person doesn’t live with you, you can call them by phone or video call
- Talk to someone on a helpline for people who are struggling with their mental health. (See the ‘What resources are there out there?’ section below for useful helpline suggestions, as well as other helpful resources.)
- Remove anything sharp or dangerous you might use to hurt yourself, or ask someone else to do this for you
- Distract yourself. Listen to music, watch a video, have a hot shower or find something else to do in the house that can help take your mind off how you feel.
- Go outside for one form of exercise each day. Go for a walk, run or cycle, while following the government’s advice on social distancing, to make sure you get some fresh air.
- Try to find something relaxing to do. Focus your mind through meditation, yoga, muscle relaxation or mindfulness activities can help reduce some of the physical tension you might be feeling.
- Find another way to express your feelings when you have the urge to harm yourself, such as painting, drawing, screaming into a pillow or drawing red lines on your skin,
- Give yourself 'harmless pain'. For example, eat a hot chilli, squeeze ice cubes or have a cold shower.
- Write a diary or a letter to express your feelings. No one else ever needs to see it.
It is very upsetting to hear that someone close to you wants to hurt themself, has been hurting themself or has been thinking about ending their life. Start a conversation with them and listen to them without judging them. Don’t give them advice if they haven’t asked for it, and try to put yourself in their shoes. Don’t be critical and try not to respond in a way that shows you are very anxious or upset.
It can be hard to hide how you are feeling if you are upset or even angry. It can be even more difficult if the person you are worried about lives in a different location and you are unable to visit them during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Some things you can do are:
- check in with them regularly – make it part of your regular routine to message them, call them, or video chat with them
- talk to them about how they feel – listen to them, be non-judgemental and honest, and focus on what’s going on with them rather than making it about you
- offer to help them find support and help.
If you are concerned about someone’s safety, call NHS 111 for advice. If you are concerned that the person might be in immediate danger or in need of an emergency response, contact the emergency services by dialling 999.
It is important to look after your own mental health and wellbeing while supporting someone else. You can find information and advice for friends and family about self-harm on these websites:
- Samaritans: call 116 123 (free)(Welsh Language line: call 0808 164 0123)
- Mind: I Need Urgent Help
- 4MentalHealth website
- PAPYRUS HOPELine UK: A professionally staffed helpline providing support, practical advice and information to young people worried about themselves, and to anyone concerned that a young person may harm themselves. Call 0800 068 41 41.
- Self Injury Support: Support for women and girls in the form of text, email, webchat and self-help. They have UK-wide listings for self-harm support and self-help tools, and help, support, training and resources. Email: email@example.com.
- Rethink: Support and information about self-harm, including for friends, carers and families
- NHS: Where to get urgent help for mental health