PHA encourages help-seeking on Self-Harm Awareness Day

PHA encourages help-seeking on Self-Harm Awareness Day

The Public Health Agency (PHA) is using Self-Harm Awareness Day (1 March) as an opportunity to encourage those who are affected by self-harm to seek help.

Self-harm occurs when a person harms themselves while in a state of severe emotional distress. It can take many different forms.

Dr Denise O’Hagan, Public Health Consultant with the PHA, said: “Self-Harm Awareness Day is an opportunity to encourage people who self-harm and those close to them to seek help, and also to let people know that help is available.

“There are many reasons why people self-harm and each person’s reasons are unique. Many people who self-harm do not wish to end their lives. For some people, self-harm is a way of communicating how distressed they are feeling, but for others it is carried out in private. It can sometimes be associated with a wish to end their lives. It is therefore important that people who self-harm are assessed by a health professional so that they can get the right type of support depending on their needs. Self-harm should always be taken seriously.”

If you need help to prevent or reduce self-harming behaviour, speak to your GP who will assess your needs and make a referral to the most appropriate service for you.

“Sometimes, but certainly not always, self-harm can be associated with a mental illness, and your GP can help you to get the support and treatment you need,” said Dr O’Hagan.   

Sometimes self-harm can be associated with issues such as use of alcohol or drugs and a GP can refer you to services to help with these issues if appropriate.

Self-harm can occur for many other reasons such as problems at home, work or school, and you may benefit from ‘talking therapies’ to help you cope with the issues which are causing distress. Your GP will help identify what type of support is best for you.

Dr O’Hagan said: “If family or friends become aware that someone is harming themselves or at risk of self-harm, they should encourage the person to seek help. They should also be aware that they themselves may also need some support to help them cope with this issue.”

One service that can offer support to families and carers is the Self-Harm Intervention Programme (SHIP). SHIP can help families and carers better understand and cope with this issue and ensure they know how to obtain help in a crisis situation. Families and carers can attend the service even if the person who self-harms does not agree to seek help. Families or carers can contact the SHIP service directly on the numbers below.

SHIP Family/ Carer Support Service

Please note these phone numbers are for use by families/ carers seeking an appointment for support. People who self-harm cannot refer themselves to the SHIP service but can contact their GP or Lifeline or the emergency services as outlined below.


Telephone Number

Lines open 9am - 4pm (excluding weekends and public holidays)


(028) 9020 0396


Armagh/ Dungannon/ Craigavon/ Banbridge/ Newry/ Mourne

 Lisburn/ Down/ Ards/ Downpatrick


(028) 8772 3321


Derry/Londonderry/ Strabane/ Omagh/ Enniskillen

 Mid Ulster/ Antrim/ Causeway/ Ballymoney/ Moyle


(028) 7126 6999


If you are having thoughts of self-harm or suicide, you should contact a GP urgently or call the confidential Lifeline helpline on 0808 808 8000. If you are at immediate risk of serious self-harm or suicide or have done something to yourself that may cause you harm, you should attend an Emergency Department or call 999.

The PHA has also developed some booklets for people who self-harm and their families – ‘Improving the lives of people who self-harm’ is available at  and ‘Caring for someone who has self-harmed or had suicidal thoughts’ at