Language Matters: Stop Calling People Self Harmers

Language matters when discussing topics related to mental health and self-harm. It is important
to use person-centred language that gives emphasis to the individual as a whole, rather than
reducing them to a single behaviour or label.

Using the term ‘self-harmer’ to describe an individual who engages in self harm can be
stigmatising and reinforcing of negative stereotypes. It can also promote a sense of shame and
self-blame in the individual, which could exacerbate their behaviours. It reduces their existence
into a single descriptor: an identity. Yet self harm is not an identity – it is a behaviour that can

Using the term ‘someone who self-harms’ acknowledges that the behaviour is just one aspect
of the individual’s life, and that they are more than the actions they take. This phrasing is more
respectful and compassionate; it also demonstrates that just as self harm can be present, it can
also change and this can help to reduce stigma and promote a more positive view of mental
health and self harm.

Therefore, it is important to be mindful of the language we use when discussing mental health
and self harm, as it can impact the way individuals perceive themselves and their experiences,
and ultimately affect their recovery journey.