A quarter of young men has self-harmed as a way of dealing with pressure and stress


Alarming numbers of 16–24-year-old men in the UK have revealed that they have intentionally hurt themselves (24%) or have considered it (22%), as a way of coping with a difficult situation or emotion, according to a YouGov survey commissioned by three leading youth charities.


Worryingly, the survey also disclosed that young men, when they feel under pressure or stress, would be likely to drink heavily (21%), punch walls (19%) and control their eating (16%) as ways to cope. Over-exercising (12%), pulling hair (11%) and taking illegal drugs (10%) have also been mentioned as ways of dealing with pressure or stress.


One young man, when asked to talk about the situation or emotion that first led to self-harm said: “I was overworking putting pressure on home and work life. Feeling overwhelmed with stress daily.”


The Mix, selfharmUK and YoungMinds have joined forces to shed light on specific self-harm behaviours that young men engage in and have found that these are not always commonly recognised as self-harm. As a result, there is a crisis happening now among young men who struggle to find positive ways to cope with overwhelming events and emotions.

Today marks the 5th annual Self Harm Awareness Day and The Mix, selfharmUK and YoungMinds are launching the ‘What Men Need’ campaign, to offer a solution to young men. They are calling for young men to tell them what they would need to be able to open up and talk about their feelings when everything isn’t ok, deal with their problems in a positive way and avoid the crisis. They are inviting everyone to share their thoughts and ideas via social media using #WhatMenNeed and #SHAD2017. This insight will help to ensure support and services are tailored to young men’s needs. The charities are also calling for funds to support the development of the solution.

Other key findings from the survey 

  • 59% of young men have over-exercised to the point of injury but continued exercising despite having hurt themselves. However only 23% considered over-exercising a form of self-harm.
  • Depression, anxiety and stress are mentioned as causes of self-harm in young men.
  • 36% of young men say they wouldn’t do anything in particular if they are feeling stressed or under pressure, which could to lead to a crisis situation.
  • To get support about self-harm either for themselves or a friend, young men would turn to their friends (48%), GP (43%) and to online support and advice services (41%), showing the importance of peer-to-peer support online and offline.

Speaking on behalf of the charities

Chris Martin, CEO at The Mix, said “What’s shocking about these results is the percentage of young men who are self-harming. Lately, we’ve seen a rise in young men accessing our mental health content, services and self-help tools. That’s why at The Mix we are dedicated to creating safe spaces for young people to support each other by expressing their problems without any judgement. The work that we are doing with selfharmUK and YoungMinds to understand the specific needs of young men, to be able to address their problems, is essential.”

Chris Curtis, CEO at Youthscape (selfharmUK is a Youthscape project), said “We urgently need to help teenage boys deal constructively with the pressures they face. They need a strong message that it’s ok to talk about what’s going on in your life, and a safe space to be heard. Otherwise the shocking numbers of young men self-harming will remain unchanged.”

Sarah Brennan, CEO at YoungMinds, said “People often assume that young men rarely suffer self-harm, but this survey shows that, sadly, this is a myth. Self-harm is often misunderstood, so we need to better understand young men’s distress and their responses, so that we can help. Our message to anyone who’s struggling to cope is to talk to someone you trust – whether that’s a friend, a family member, a counsellor or a confidential helpline. It isn’t a sign of weakness to look for help.”


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