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Before You Self-Harm - take 5 mins to BREATHE

Hello! My name is Dr Helen Care and I am a Clinical Psychologist for young people.

If you are thinking about hurting yourself. Before you do anything, please just give me 5 minutes. You have a choice and I want to make sure you are making the right choice for you.

This is a self-help guide of 7 steps to preventing self-harm. These 7 steps are called BREATHE.

Click here for the animation on You Tube

or scroll down for the explanation.

Cartoon whale blowing out water
Take A Deep Breath

  1. B is for breath.

Take a deep breath, give yourself a moment. Take a nice, slow, deep breath in through your nose, and gently out through your mouth.

Picture of bin with scrunched up rubbish beside it
You may be feeling rubbish.

2. R is for rubbish.

Right now you may be feeling rubbish. Maybe you aren’t sure what you feel and you just want to feel something. It is absolutely OK to feel like this. But it isn’t OK to hurt yourself and you can learn some other ways of coping with these feelings.

Happy Emoji listening to music, eating chocolate and taking cold shower
Safe ways to get an endorphin kick

3. E is for endorphins.

Endorphins are chemicals that are produced in your brain whenever you are hurt or injured. They take the edge off pain and they can give you a bit of a rush, a kick. That’s why hurting yourself might make you feel better for a few seconds, but that kick you get fades very quickly, and then you are left with the same rubbish feeling, or worse. There are safe ways to get an endorphin kick if you need one. Try one of these:

  • Chocolate – it releases endorphins.

  • Music – put on your favourite tune and sing, dance round your bedroom, or just tap your finger in time to the beat.

  • Take a Cold Shower – may sound silly, but your body responds to cold water by producing endorphins.Taking a cold shower can give you a bit of a rush!

Elastic band and happy emojis bouncing on it
Elastic bands create endorphins too

If that Rubbish feeling is making you feel like you have to hurt yourself try something that will cause pain but not permanent damage. Put an elastic band around your wrist and twang it. It will hurt, it might leave a bruise, but it won’t scar and it won’t do any long term harm. I’m not saying it’s great, but if you are feeling desperate, then this is a safer way to do it.

Happy emoji swimming on top of blue liquid labelled adrenaline.
Get moving - to keep the adrenaline under control

4. A is for Adrenaline

This is another chemical in your body that we produce when stressed. It can be really useful to motivate us to get up and go. Athletes need adrenalin, and if you are going to sit an exam, you better have a bit of adrenalin to help you focus. But too much can make you ansty. The best way to regulate adrenalin is to do some exercise. So, get up and move about. Go for a run, do 10 star jumps on the spot, take the dog for a walk. Get moving and give your body a natural way to cope with stress.

Happy emojis with speech bubbles spelling the word TALK
Talking shows that rubbish feeling that you aren't alone

5. T is for talk

The rubbish feeling may be telling you there is no-one to talk to, or that you won’t know what to say, but talking is the best way of showing that rubbish feeling you aren’t on your own. Find someone, anyone you trust, to talk to. Mum/dad/ friend/teacher/youth worker/ your friend’s mum who is always good at listening…. Whoever it is, talk to them. You don’t have to tell them everything, but let them know that Rubbish feeling is around and let them help. There are numbers at the end of this video for people you can get in contact with if you need someone else to talk to.

Happy emojis taking a dog for a walk.
Think about what is healthy for you.

6. H is for healthy.

We hear a lot about being healthy and this is a reminder to think about what is healthy for your body. That rubbish feeling might be telling you right now that your body doesn’t matter, or even, that it deserves to be hurt. But your body wants to be healthy just like everyone else’s body does. We need to look after our bodies and our health. This is about being as healthy as you can be right now, but also in the future. Look after yourself now - your future self will thank you.

Drawing of happy emoji throwing fish to a dolphin in the water
Be kind to yourself

7. E is for empathy.

Empathy means thinking about how people might feel. That rubbish feeling might have you thinking you don’t care about yourself right now, but we are going to be kind to ourselves. Imagine this was happening to your friend. What would you want to say to them? So empathy is about being your own best friend and being kind to yourself.

So, that’s it, that’s Breathe – take a deep Breath, it’s ok to feel Rubbish, let’s get an Endorphin kick going and manage the Adrenalin, TALK, be as Healthy as you can be and have some Empathy. Be kind to yourself and be your own best friend right now.

Hand drawn poster of word BREATHE and text You've Got This

You can learn to overcome that rubbish feeling and not let it win. Here are some places to go for more help and more support. Don’t let that rubbish feeling make you believe you have to face this alone.

That’s five minutes to breathe. YOU GOT THIS. Well done.

Best wishes,


Dr Helen Care

Sources of Help

Childline 0800 1111

PAPYRUS (Young suicide prevention society).

HOPElineUK 0800 068 4141

(Mon to Fri,10am to 5pm & 7 to 10pm. Weekends 2 to 5pm)

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