Info > First Aid & Harm Reduction
Risks of self-injury can include infection, shock, severe blood loss, dehydration, anaemia, permanent damage to your muscle tissue and in extreme cases, even death.
If you're going to use self-harm as a coping mechanism, it's vital that you take good care of your injuries, including seeking medical help where necessary. It's a very good idea to learn about first aid techniques and ways you can minimise the risks as much as possible.
Ideally, this should be done through a discussion with your GP or another health professional, who can give you appropriate advice. However, if that is not an option for you, the websites below provide some information on first aid and harm reduction.
I am not a medical professional. Please do not substitute anything on this page for seeking appropriate medical treatment. If you have any concerns about treating your injuries, see a doctor, nurse or go to your nearest A&E / ER or equivalent.
Aid for Self-Injury (Secret Shame)
Comprehensive first aid information, including how to know when you need medical help and when cuts need stitches. Written from a US perspective.
Aid for Self-Injury and Self-Harm (FirstSigns)
Another page with first aid information, from a UK perspective.
Accidents and First Aid
Official, reliable advice from the NHS (not written specifically for people who self-injure).
If you have any concerns about your injuries, or if
you have overdosed, go straight to A&E, the ER or
equivalent. Ring for an ambulance if necessary! If you're in the UK, you can find your nearest A&E here:
Accident and Emergency departments
What happens at A&E?
What to expect in the UK if you have self-harmed.
What to expect in the emergency department
US-based information, again for people who have self-harmed, which also includes a lot of helpful advice whatever country you're in.
NICE guidelines for self-harm
UK guidelines on how self-inflicted injuries should be treated.
* Always take good care of your injuries, seeking medical help when necessary.
* Avoid drugs and alcohol, as these can make you do more damage than you intended.
* Keep your tetanus vaccination up to date.
* Make yourself aware of the symptoms of shock and call for an ambulance if this happens.
* If you have overdosed, put yourself into the recovery position and always seek immediate medical help, even if you feel well. Fatal organ failure may not happen immediately.
If you cut yourself...
* Always use a clean implement
* Don't share cutting implements with others - you could be at risk of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and other diseases.
* Try to avoid areas of the body where there are large veins or arteries.
* To reduce the risks of anaemia and dehydration, stop the bleeding on your cuts as soon as possible. Drink plenty of water and consider taking a multivitamin with iron.
More comprehensive information is available in this book, sold by the UK charity Mind:
Cutting the Risk
How do I make sure I don't cut an artery? Talk about my scars? Not harm so badly? This book offers frank answers to questions like these.