Scoping review: Alternatives to self-harm recommended on mental health self-help websites

Clare Fenton, Ellen Kingsley

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Less than half of all young people with mental health difficulties will seek professional treatment. Due to the private nature of self-harm it is estimated that only 1:28 young males and 1:18 young females who self-harm ever present to hospital. Self-help supports improved coping strategies and life changes without reliance on a clinical intervention which could be used to reduce self-harming behaviours. The study objective is to review self-help alternatives to self-harm on mental health websites that can be accessed by young people. Google, Bing, and Yahoo search engines were used to search for appropriate websites. Eighty-two unique websites on mental health were identified, of which 55 met the inclusion criteria. A total of 1177 self-help suggestions were found for those struggling with self-harm urges. The average number of suggestions per site was 42 (Range 3-252). The main techniques suggested were: seeking social contact/help, physical activity, displacement/mimicking techniques, relaxing/comforting techniques, sensory techniques, fun/diverting techniques, aggressive techniques, creative/reflective techniques. This review found not all strategies were suitable for young people and that the large number of possible strategies could be challenging for a young person to navigate. However, mental health self-help websites were generally of high quality and gave a range of potentially helpful strategies. The categories created from this review could be used as a guide to consider with the young person when making an individualized self-help plan to manage self-harm urges. Further research is required to assess if and how these techniques could be used individually or in combination to reduce self-harm.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)76-94
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Mental Health Nursing
Issue number1
Early online date14 Sept 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Sept 2022

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© 2022 John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd.

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