Let’s talk about self-harm

Self-harm is a major cause of concern yet it’s rarely spoken about. Head Above The Waves wants to bring a change, by starting a conversation.


It’s something you don’t talk about, something you don’t discuss in public. That’s the reason self-harm has negative connotation attached to it. It is seen as depressed people cutting themselves or taking drugs. A wrong assumption, a bad stereotype.

“It is more than people cutting themselves.  There are different behaviors that are harmful. That could be, physical, emotional, eating disorders, substance abuse and many more,” says Hannah Morgan, co-founder of Head Above The Waves..”

She adds, “I feel self-harm is something that affects everyone. Whether you are doing it yourself or you know someone who is doing it or if you don’t realize that what you are doing is harmful to yourself.” 

Heads Above The Waves(HATW) is a not-for-profit organisation founded by Hannah Morgan and Si Martin three years ago. Through HATW, they aim to make it easier for people  to talk about self-harm.

“We set up the organisation three years ago. It was born from personal experiences. Si and I have experienced self-harm behaviours while growing up. Now, we provide youngsters with the support that we didn’t get. We wanted to form an organization that can speak to young people on their level, “says Hannah.

Everybody has bad days and it helps if you talk to someone about it, she adds. “People start harming themselves for different reasons. A way to control your emotions or to feel something if you are feeling emotionally numb or taking out your aggression.”


Though they started in a small way, they have come a long way in reaching out to people.  “It started with Si (Martin) wanting to make t-shirts with cool designs that would start conversations. But we also wanted to start a website to share stories about how they had overcome self-harm issues and young people could see the different ways people had coped with it.”

Based in Cardiff, they conduct workshops with secondary schools around Cardiff. They make the students understand creative coping techniques as an alternative to self-harm. Through discussions and self-assessment, they encourage the students to talk about negative emotions and learn how to deal with it.

“We do activities in the schools that has worked for people and we have discussions. It’s a mixture of everything. It has been very effective. People ask us to do more workshops,” says Hannah.

Art on display in the pop-up shop
Art on display in the pop-up shop

For Hannah, the relation with self-harm goes long back. Bullied as a child, forced to quit school because of it, she went through a phase of severe depression in the past.

“I had a hard time growing up. I have gone through a phase of depression. In a space of two to three years, I dealt with several family members and friends passing away due to accidental death, illness and suicide. I had a lot of anxiety issues. After my brother died in an accident, I started using alcohol and drugs to cope with my issues and that became my self-harm.”

But, she fought the waves and came out of it stronger. “Overcoming those issues made me want to share my experience and help people who are dealing with the same thing.”

Hannah cannot emphasize enough on the importance of understanding self-harm. “Self-harm is a major issue today. We need to talk about it. When we set up the organisation we were surprised by how many people, my friends and strangers in the street would come up and say that they are going through self-harm and they need help.”

There is no one way of dealing with self-harm says Hannah.  “We focus on how we can support people not to do it and find out what works for them. Whether it’s counselling, or talking to a doctor or getting support from family or involving yourself in activities. The important thing is to find out what works for you.”

The healing process begins with a conversation.

Merchandise on sale in the pop-up shop.
Merchandise on sale in the pop-up shop.

You can find the Head Above The Waves pop-up shop in the corner of the High Arcade Street in Cardiff City Centre until April.

Check out the video to know more about self harm: