iOS/Android: The urge to self-harm, the Calm Harm app tells us, is like a wave. It’s strongest at the beginning, but if you ride the wave, it will soon be over. Apps are no substitute for a good therapist, but people who struggle with these moments of crisis say the right app really helps.
What’s Up, Moods and Calm Harm.
Calm Harm is free on both iOS and Android. It was developed by stem4, a UK-based group that describes itself as a teenage mental health charity. More apps in the same vein are available for both platforms, each offering a slightly different approach to support. Calm Harm seems to be a favourite because it offers so many different options – you can tap buttons for comfort, distraction and more – and it keeps a log of when you felt the urge and what triggered it. When you want help, you tell the app whether you’d like to try five one-minute exercises or a single 15-minute session. Some typical prompts:
- “Think of a comforting place and in your mind run through all the comforting things you do when you are there.”
- “Stick some fake tattoos where you hurt yourself. Remind yourself to do one comforting thing every time you see them.”
- “Think of the lyrics of a song you know really well. Try reciting it from back to front.”
- “Ring someone you know who will be comforting and talk it out.”
Besides Calm Harm, check out:
My Shiny Thing (iOS): This app specialises in distraction. It asks how much you want to hurt yourself, and then shows you pages and pages of funny and cute YouTube videos.
Self-Heal (iOS and Android): The app gives you a randomly chosen activity to do, either now (“write words on yourself with a red marker”) or long term (“plan for the future: Holidays, weekends away, job or study plans”). There’s also a button that takes you to a library of motivational memes and cute pictures, and another for information on managing self-harm urges.
Moods (iOS): This one isn’t just for self-harm, and it doesn’t help you manage your moods. It just asks you what they are. Select whether you’re feeling “good”, “OK” or “bad”, and then you can tag your mood (“lethargic”, “furious”, “:(” and so on) and add a note if you like. The app compiles a report of the moods you feel most often, and it can remind you at a set time of day to log your moods. Android has plenty of mood apps as well, or try Daylio, which tracks moods and daily activities on both platforms.
What’s Up (iOS and Android): This is an app meant for all types of mental health crises. If you tap the “help right now” button, you can choose between a breathing exercise, a random “name five things” game (for example, name five things around you that are green), and a “catastrophe scale” where you can evaluate what’s bothering you on a range from “everything in life is perfect” to “everything has fallen apart and it feels like it’s all your fault”. There’s also a link to forums where you can talk to others.
If depression is affecting you or someone you know, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.