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Self-harm and suicidal thoughts

In everyday talk, it is called self-harm when an individual intentionally injures or harms themselves without intending to die. It is most common for people to cut or scratch their skin when they harm themselves, but various behaviour can be classified as self-harming. The causes of self-harm can be various and subjected to the individual. Not everyone who self-harms has thoughts of wanting to die. People often start to harm themselves to try to control difficult emotions or to relieve accumulated stress. Self-harm can thus provide temporary relief to begin with, but people will soon feel more distressed. Self-harm is also often accompanied by shame or guilt, which causes further distress. Increased distress increases the likelihood that people will harm themselves, thus sustaining a vicious circle of self-harm. Around 10% of young people worldwide have self-harmed at some point.

Self-harm with the intent to die is generally called a suicide attempt. The person causes themselves some kind of harm with the intention of trying to die. People who attempt suicide have often had thoughts of wanting to die before, but not all of them. There are two kinds of thoughts of wanting to die. On the one hand, death thoughts, which are thoughts of not wanting to exist any longer, but not direct thoughts of or the will to cause one's own death. Thoughts of suicide are thoughts of wanting to cause one's own death in some way. Both death and suicidal thoughts can be symptoms of depression, but not everyone who experiences such thoughts is depressed, and not everyone who is depressed will experience death or suicidal thoughts. Thoughts of death and suicide are more common than many people think, but about one-third of girls and one-quarter of boys in Iceland in 2016 have considered suicide at some point. It is important to know that it is possible to receive appropriate assistance when such thoughts arise.