Self-harm and suicidal thoughts
Te haehae me te whakaaro whakamomori

If you are pushed to the edge, know there is always support available, you just need to ask.

If you are thinking about self-harm and suicide, seek professional support. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 111.

If you are worried about a mate ask them if they are ok, and support them to seek help. If they say they are ok but you are still worried, reach out for support: NZDF helpline 0800 NZDF4U (0800 693348, TXT 8881), Lifeline (0800 543 354), or Suicide Crisis Support helpline (0508 828 865). The chaplains, marae, or our social workers can also help. For more helpful tips and resources refer to Helping others.

About self-harm

Self-harm can be used to deal with painful feelings, as a way to punish ourselves or others, or even to ask for help. When we talk about self-harm, we’re usually referring to when someone deliberately hurts themselves without wanting to die. Sometimes it can take the form of very risky behaviour like driving recklessly or starting fights.

If you or a friend are self-harming, it’s important that you talk to someone about what you’re going through before consequences escalate. There are a number of services listed below available to help.

Thoughts about suicide 

If your life (or someone else’s life) is in immediate danger – call 111 or go to your nearest hospital emergency department.

Its not a rare occurrence for people to have thoughts of suicide or feel that sometimes life isn’t worth living. Most people don’t act on these thoughts and are able to get over feeling this way, sometimes with professional support.

If you or someone you know has felt like this at some point, remember:

  • Many people have felt the same way at some stage, that they can’t go on, but they’ve come through it and lived great lives. There is light at the end of the tunnel and there is hope for a better future.
  • Just because you’re having suicidal thoughts today doesn’t mean you have to act on them. Make a 'contract' with yourself (or even better, with someone else) to wait 24 hours, or a few days, or a week. You’ve already put those thoughts aside by reading this, so you can put it off a bit longer.
  • You don’t have to go through this alone. Talk to someone you trust-a friend, your GP, a counsellor or psychiatrist, a chaplain, a kaumatua/koro/kuia, a colleague, commander, or anyone you trust to help keep you safe. You can find a list of people to call when you need support at NZDF Mental health or call 0800 NZDF4U.

Things that might lead to thoughts of suicide 

There are many reasons why you or others might have thoughts of self-harm or suicide. Commonly they are relate to a desire to escape from distressing feelings, to cope with life stressors or to escape pain.

Sometimes, people who try to hurt themselves or take their own life have just lost someone or something they cared about. Maybe a close friend or loved one passed away, or a relationship or career has come to an end. If this sounds like you, finding out more about grief might help.

Experiencing depression or anxiety can be related to thoughts about self-harm. One of the reasons for this is that they can prevent people from seeing the positive things that are still in life, alongside any current negative experiences, and they can cloud our ability to see hope for the future too. That can make self-harm seem like a solution to a problem when the truth is there are way better solutions out there.

People are also much more likely to try to hurt or kill themselves when they’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

People who have been through frightening or traumatic events, such as childhood abuse to serious accidents or combat operations, may suffer from post traumatic stress which can also increase the risk of self-harm or suicide.

Sometimes it's the stresses and strains of life, like financial problems, physical pain, unemployment, or a relationship break up, that build up to the point where it seems life isn't worth living.

Remember that all of these problems can be solved, some not easily, and maybe not perfectly, but there are solutions and there are people who can help (like financial counsellors, job agencies and health professionals).

Things will get better.

Recognise the triggers 

  • What activities, times, places, people and thoughts make you want to hurt yourself? And when do you not feel like it?
  • Understanding more about the things that trigger thoughts of self-harm can help you deal with those situations, or avoid them altogether.
  • Postpone it.
  • When you feel the urge to hurt yourself, try to distract yourself for 15 minutes or so. The intense and immediate urge to self-harm passes may pass quickly. Postponing it through another activity may be all you need in the short term to get over thoughts of self-harm.
  • Focus on other things like going for a walk, ringing a friend, reading a book, or having something to eat or drink. Choose things that take your mind off negative thoughts and keep you busy in a positive way.

Take action

  • Distract yourself from thoughts of self-harm or suicide.
  • If you are thinking about harming yourself, get involved in a distracting activity and allow the urge to pass.
  • It’s best if you choose these tools when you are feeling relatively well and have them handy if you feel the urge to harm yourself.
  • You can also use the notes app on your phone to build a list of reminders of the things that make your life worth living.
  • Connect to your current surroundings and manage unpleasant feelings.
  • Feeling overwhelmed by strong emotions can put you at risk of harming yourself.
  • Resilience Coach app helps you centre yourself and ride the moment out when you're feeling overwhelmed. It also helps you identify your triggering thoughts, regain your composure, think about your situation and decide on a helpful course of action before you are feeling overwhelmed.
  • When you’re starting out, practice using the tool/s when you're feeling calm. Once you’ve learned the strategies you can use them whenever you feel yourself becoming upset or overwhelmed.

Manage your unpleasant feelings

  • When you feel the urge to hurt yourself, try using strategies like controlling your breathing, relaxation and helpful self-talk to manage the feelings that you are experiencing.
  • Even simple activities like controlled breathing can take your mind away from thoughts of self-harm and get you through the immediate crisis.

Build connections

  • Spending time with other people helps you feel better and reduces thoughts of harming yourself.
  • Identify the people in your life who can offer you support and the different kinds of support they can offer.
  • When you’re starting out, focus on strengthening relationships with people you trust most and can talk about personal things with. Over time, you can work on building a wider support network by reaching out to people that you don't see as often or have lost contact with.
  • You can also use the notes or contacts app on your phone to create a list of people to call when you need support. Add some key people to your favourites so you can find them easily when things are tough.
  • If you don’t have people you can talk to easily, writing your feelings down can help you understand your emotions and stop distressing thoughts from going around and around in your head. Getting those thoughts on paper can also help you to come up with more helpful thoughts that will get you moving again.

Guardian angel

How the power of compassion and listening has led Kevin Briggs to talk down over 200 people from taking their lives.

Getting help

If your life (or someone else’s life) is in immediate danger – call 111 or go to your nearest hospital emergency department.

If you are having thoughts of hurting yourself or suicide, get in touch with someone that can help, it could be a Medical officer, chaplain, psychologist, social worker or your GP. If you are feeling this way outside of working hours, you can call one of the numbers below;

  • 0800 NZDF4U - Your NZDF support available 24/7.
  • Lifeline NZ - 0800 543 354 or text 'Help' to 4357.
  • Text 1737 - When someone texts or calls 1737 a trained counsellor will work with the person to develop a care plan. This takes on average between 10 - 20 minutes and could include referral to another service, additional counselling or providing information and support.
  • Youthline - Call 0800 376 633 or text 234, webchat also available.

Additional Resources