Opening up to someone about self-harm is a brave choice. It’s easy to feel alone or like no one else can understand what you’re dealing with. It can be scary to admit something that you may have kept secret for a while. Starting the conversation can be hard, but many people feel more supported after talking to someone about what they’re going through.
Find someone you can trust.
The person you choose to tell about self-harm plays an important role in your experience. Think about your reason for telling someone. If you are hoping to feel less alone, you may want to tell a close friend or peer. If you’re looking for help, a family member or other trusted adult (like a coach, teacher, or school guidance counselor) can help you figure out where to start. You can also confide in your doctor, therapist, or another healthcare professional.
Decide on the right time and place.
It’s also important to have this conversation in a safe space. Talking about self-harm is likely to bring up a lot of emotions, for both you and the other person. Find a private location—it may help to be somewhere that is comfortable and familiar to you. Timing matters, too. You should both be in a calm mood. You can also set a time in advance by letting them know you’d like to talk about something serious soon and asking when a good time would be.
That said, there will never be a “perfect” time or place. Don’t put off having this conversation forever simply out of fear of ruining a moment.
Do I have to do it in person?
No! This is your journey. You get to decide when and how you tell others. Many people feel more comfortable writing it down. You could write a letter or do it over text. If you’re okay with speaking but think looking at someone will be too difficult, give them a call.
Keep in mind that they may have a more concerned reaction if they can’t physically see you—their imagination may run wild about whether you are about to harm yourself in the moment. It may help to let them know upfront that you are safe (as long as that is true).
If you send a written message, waiting for their response can be nerve-wracking. Remember that there are lots of reasons someone might take a while to reply—it doesn’t mean they don’t care! It may help to first confirm that they have time to respond quickly. Instead of sending a long string of texts without a heads up, start by sending something like: “Hey, are you free for a bit? I want to talk to you about something important.”
What do I say?
The first sentence of a serious conversation is usually the toughest to get out. Even if you are going to talk in person, writing your thoughts down first can help you figure out what you want to say. You can tell them as much or as little as you want. Be honest about how you’re feeling and how they can support you.
People often want to problem-solve, so don’t be surprised if they try to jump into action quickly. For a lot of people, self-harm can be really scary. Their first reaction may be to tell you that you need to stop right away. They may assume that because you are harming yourself, you must also be suicidal. Let them know whether you are ready for their help or if you just need someone to listen for now. They may have questions—remember, what you share is up to you. They are likely asking to better understand, but you don’t have to answer anything that you aren’t comfortable with.
Asking for help can be scary, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It shows your strength and commitment to feeling better, even though it may feel impossible right now. Things can get better—and letting someone know what you are going through is often the first step in getting there.
If you’re a parent of a teenage girl, the idea of your daughter intentionally hurting herself is difficult. But it’s important for parents to know about this sign of psychological distress. The practice is on the rise among adolescent girls.
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Why do people self-harm?
There are many reasons why someone may self-harm, but, in short, it’s an unhealthy way of coping with intense emotions.
Those who self-harm often experience it as a form of emotional release or a distraction from emotional pain. Or some may feel emotionally numb and view self-harm as the only way they can feel anything.
Others may view self-harm as a form of communication — a cry for help. This is why it’s important for parents to know what to look for; your daughter may be trying to tell you she is in pain.
Why is self-harm on the rise?
“Self-injury and suicide rates have been increasing among adolescents since 2009,” says psychologist Kristen Eastman, PsyD. Nobody knows for sure why this is, but there are likely a number of contributing factors.
Some possible explanations include increased economic pressure on families, more stress on teenage girls, problematic cell phone use that contributes to depressed mood, and cyberbullying. It’s also possible that teenagers are simply reporting self-harm more often than they used to.
7 signs to watch for
Dr. Eastman suggests watching out for the following behaviors and signs:
- Injuries from cutting or scratching (with a razor, paperclip or anything else that can break the skin), burns, skin picking, or hitting/punching one’s self.
- Multiple similar marks on your teen’s skin in close proximity, or any wound or injury for which your teen doesn’t have a clear explanation.
- A fascination with self-harm (a sudden interest in peers who are engaging in this behavior; watching videos about self-harm online; a sudden interest in reading, learning or talking about self-harm).
- A desire to hide the skin. Not wanting to expose certain body parts, covering up in ways that seem suspicious (wearing a long-sleeved shirt on hot days, multiple Band-Aids or other wraps over the skin in an attempt to conceal injuries).
- Increasing anxiety, stress, and/or symptoms of depression with your teen appearing (or reporting) to feel out of control or at a loss for how to cope with these emotions.
- A trigger event, often a rejection (from a boyfriend or friend, or fallout with a peer group that produces significant distress).
- Isolation, including shutting off from family and/or friends, spending more time alone than was typical for your teen before.
What to do if you suspect self-harm
Show compassion. If you suspect that your teen is self-harming, or if she tells you she is, it’s important not to panic.
What your teen needs now is compassion — and help. Validate her emotions. Let her know you understand that she’s feeling overwhelmed. But make it clear that there are better ways to deal with it and you’ll help her figure those out.
Get help. The next step is to get your teen some professional help. Look for a mental health professional who has experience treating adolescents who self-harm. If you’re not sure where to start, talk to your pediatrician first.
It’s distressing to learn that your child has been self-harming. But, with your support and a professional’s help, your teen can learn healthier ways of coping with tough emotions.
If the person you’re in a relationship with tells you that they’ve been self-harming, this can be incredibly tough – it’s important to stay calm, and not blame yourself so that you’re able to help them in the best way possible. The Mix looks at what steps to take when your boyfriend or girlfriend self-harms.
How will I know if my boyfriend or girlfriend self-harms?
If something about your partner’s behaviour feels off and you suspect that they might be self-harming, then don’t be afraid to bring it up and ask them. Gently ask them how they are feeling about life and themselves, and bring up what you’ve noticed, sensitively. Self-harm is a very private issue, so talk to them first about it before telling anyone else.
It’s important that you listen to what they say without judgement, and that you don’t try to push them to talk to you about it if they really don’t want to. They’ll open up in their own time, and just knowing that you’re willing to talk to them about it might help them take the first step.
Talking to a partner about their self-harm
You may feel angry, upset and confused, but remember that your partner is in a difficult situation too. It may be the first time they’ve been asked about it so take a breath, step back emotionally, talk to them gently, and be as objective and non-judgemental as you can.
“Sometimes gentle questioning can be appropriate, but bear in mind that self-harm may be a way of managing intense pain,” says Psychiatrist Louise Theodosiou. “A partner would need to make sure that the questions were asked somewhere private and that they had time to support their partner with any answers they may provide.”
It’s important that you listen to what they say without being combative, and that you don’t try to push them to talk to you about it if they really don’t want to. They’ll open up in their own time, and just knowing that you’re willing to talk to them about it might help them take the first step.
Understanding why a partner self-harms
“It’s important to remember that people self-harm for different reasons. It could be a long-term coping strategy, or an intense reaction to distress or depression,” says Louise.
If your partner tells you that they’re self-harming, it’s best not to push them for details that they might not be comfortable sharing – they might not even fully understand why they do it or how serious it is if you’re the first person they’ve spoken to about it. If you can, try to:
- Find out what makes them want to hurt themselves
- Help them work out what they could do instead as a distraction or an alternative
“My girlfriend knows I self-harmed, but we don’t talk about it – she has a more serious history of it than I do,” says Leanne, 19. “I don’t feel we share a romanticised bond of two tortured souls against the world. As she reminds me, I will never know where she’s coming from because I don’t have a guidebook on human emotion. I feel close to her because I love her. And that has nothing to do with the scars on her body.”
Does it mean my partner is depressed if they self-harm?
Just because a person self-harms, it doesn’t always mean that they’re depressed – although they could be. Self-harm is more likely to be a way of managing painful feelings and is not necessarily a sign of severe depression, threat of suicide or mental illness. It can even be a way to physically release inner tension. However, sometimes it can mean more.
“Many people use self-harming as a coping mechanism, which actually serves the purpose of keeping themselves safe,” says psychiatric social worker Karen Wright.
If you’re worried your boyfriend or girlfriend self-harms and seems very depressed, then you can speak to your doctor or ring a helpline (such as The Mix) for advice.
How can I help someone who self-harms?
It’s natural that if someone you care about tells you that they self-harm, then you’ll want to do everything you can to help them stop. The most important thing to remember is that you can’t make them stop if they’re not ready. But there are some things you can do to help them get help.
Don’t make them promise not to do it again
You might be tempted to ask them not to do it again – most of the time, this won’t work, as self-harm is a habit. Placing emotional demands on them like this can make them feel worse, as they might feel that they’re letting you down if they do do it again. Try to remember that this is about them, not you and your relationship.
If your boyfriend/girlfriend self-harms, they need to understand why they are doing it and find their own ways of replacing self-harm. Try not to focus on the self-harm but about what’s going on behind it instead. If you get them to make a promise they can’t keep it may end up causing feelings of shame and, as a result, more secrets.
Encouraging someone who self-harms to get help
It’s a positive step if they’ve managed to open up to you, but talking to a trained counsellor or health professional would be even better. You should:
- Encourage them to seek specialist help and offer to go with them if they’re worried about doing it alone.
- Don’t push or threaten your partner with ending the relationship if they say no to further help – try and go at their pace.
- Offer to tell someone for them or to find out more information – the only real way to recovery is for them to recognise there are other ways to deal with how they feel inside.
- Don’t ignore what they’ve told you. It might be uncomfortable for you to deal with, but it’s a guarantee that it’s even harder for them. You have to acknowledge the conversation rather than pretend it never happened.
- Be there emotionally for them as much as you can, but remember you have to be there for yourself too. It’s okay to need time to get your head around it.
It can be hard to know what to say when someone you care for is hurting themselves.
The most important thing is to be there for someone, and to listen. Don’t be scared to make mistakes; the thing people normally need the most is emotional connection.
You may have spotted someone’s self-harm rather than them telling you about it. The person you’re talking to could be feeling really vulnerable, with feelings of guilt, shame and isolation.
Here are some tips for having that first conversation
- Stay calm. You might feel angry that someone you care about is hurting their own body, but reacting with anger can shut the conversation down. That person you care about needs your kindness right now.
- Acknowledge their emotions. Self-harm is a sign of serious emotional distress. You can ask open questions about their feelings. These can be as simple as ‘How are you feeling?’ or ‘What are you feeling?’. Remember, this is about them expressing their emotions. You might feel you need to urgently understand why they are doing it, but it’s usually best to give them time and space to talk in their own words.
- Show care and concern. Focusing on people’s emotional distress can help people feel cared for and heard. We know that caring relationships are key to helping people who self-harm.
- Be non-judgmental. There is a lot of stigma around self-harm. People can feel really apologetic and embarrassed, which can add to their distress and make them less likely to speak about it. Let the person in your life know they don’t need to be apologetic or say sorry to you. You are there to listen and support them to find a way through.
If you are unsure on how to start the conversation, we have some suggestions on how to help someone open up about their feelings, including tips on how to become a better listener.
Supporting someone in the longer term
Here are some tips on how you can give ongoing support to someone in your life who is self-harming.
- You don’t need to have all the answers. People often don’t want you to solve their problems when they open up. They want someone who can be understanding and won’t be judgemental. You might not feel like you’re doing enough by just listening, but it’s the most important thing you can do.
- Remind people of coping strategies. In times of heightened emotional distress, people can get caught up in the present. It can help to gently remind someone what’s worked in the past and how it might help now.
- Have patience. People who have self-harmed have told us that it helps when supporters don’t expect them to stop self-harm immediately and permanently. Recognise it could take some time for them to feel better.
- Help them access further support. It can be really hard to reach out to support from a GP (usually the first port of call for getting help from the NHS with mental health), or other local sources of support. You can give them a helping hand, for example by offering to be there with them when they make a phone call, or to go along to their appointment with them. Of course, if you’re supporting a child as a parent or a teacher then your role in ensuring they get the support they need from their GP and/or school is particularly important and this process will be more hands-on.
Accessing support for people who self-harm
Find out what support’s available
My advice to anyone who is self-harming, speak to someone, whatever the problem is it can really help.
Sian Bradley is a freelance journalist and works with The Mix to support young people with their mental health. Sian talks about her experience of self-harm and how she copes with it in order to break the stigma and grow understanding and awareness about the issue.
Trigger warning: This content is about self-harm, which may be a sensitive issue for some readers.
Talking about self-harm
We know that the cycle of lockdowns have been tough on our mental health, and more young people are self harming. If, like me, the extended isolation has triggered a relapse, it can feel disheartening. But please be kind to yourself. You are not a failure or a bad person. You haven’t ‘ruined everything’ by harming again – you are just a human in a lot of emotional pain.
I have been self-harming, on and off, for about eight years. When I first began hurting myself, I didn’t tell anybody. How could I? I felt like a freak, ashamed and alone in my behaviour. I was terrified of how people would react if they found out. It wasn’t uncommon for people at high school to joke about self-harm, so I kept quiet to avoid being labelled as another ‘attention-seeking emo.’
I couldn’t keep it from everyone. I had a long-term boyfriend and at 16 we were sexually active, so it was inevitable that he noticed. I couldn’t brush off his worries as I did with everyone else. Admitting to someone I loved that I hurt myself was hard. Despite the discomfort, I am so grateful I had someone to talk to about it.
My boyfriend began checking in on me. Looking back, his insistence that I stop, his searching for new harm, was damaging. But knowing somebody was looking out for me helped me reconsider whether I deserved to be hurting myself so much. I was lucky I was never hospitalised for my self-harm, and I managed to get it under control largely on my own. But the years of silence and denial stunted my recovery. I know it’s scary to admit this to someone, but you only have to take it one step at a time.
The first step
Before you talk to anybody, try to ensure you’re ready to share. Doubts are normal, and it’s OK to give yourself time if you aren’t ready. Here are some ways you can prepare:
- Acknowledge that you need help. You are worthy of support and don’t deserve punishment.
- Write down your thoughts, after an episode, or when you have urges. Just get some words out on paper; they don’t need to be Shakespeare.
- Research self-harm so you have a better understanding of why people do it, and how not all self-harm looks like self-harm.
- Think about who you might talk to, whether that’s a friend, parent or teacher.
Taking the plunge
- It’s important to create a space where they are expecting to have a fairly serious conversation with you. You can simply say “I need to share something with you when you’re ready.”
- Pick a time where you’re both in a calm, stable mood. This is hard to control but when you’re sober, well-rested and in a safe environment is enough.
- Make a list of words and phrases that help organise your thoughts. Keep the list handy.
- Be clear about what you want from them. You don’t have to tell them how you do it. It’s natural for people to want you to stop. If you want help with this, tell them. If you don’t, you can explain that pressure to stop can actually deepen and continue the cycle of overwhelming emotions – self-harm – temporary relief – shame/guilt – harm.
What comes next?
So you’ve made that brave move and opened up for the first time, what now?
- Maintain boundaries with the person you confided in. Be honest if you don’t want them to tell anyone else.
- Work on ways you can safeguard yourself with their help. You can use code words or text messages if that makes it easier to talk about relapse, ask them to keep your self-harm tools safe, help you with appointments… or simply be there to listen without judgement.
- If the conversation doesn’t go well, don’t let this stop you from reaching out again. It can be upsetting to hear that someone you love self-harms, so people may respond with anger – but you don’t deserve to be scolded. Remember why you want to talk to someone about this and keep that in mind when things get tricky.
Alternative routes to support
If you don’t have anybody in your life you feel comfortable talking to, consider reaching out to a charity, therapist or mental health professionals. You are not alone.
Don’t be afraid to tap into alternative support networks; social media is filled with friendly mental health communities. Keep creating, writing and finding ways to process your emotions.
Now, take a deep breath. You can do this. Remember you have nothing to be ashamed of. Self-harm is a coping mechanism in response to intense emotional distress.
It’s OK if you aren’t yet ready to talk. Give yourself a goal. Use apps such as Calm Harm, text The Mix and contact the NHS if you have seriously injured yourself.
If you are isolated with people you aren’t close to during Coronavirus isolation, The Mix has a message, phone and online helpline, and discussion boards dedicated to self-harm. You can anonymously ask for help, support or just for someone to listen.
Learn to identify clues that someone may be self-harming.
Posted June 13, 2014
When a close friend comes to you with a problem, you can only hope you are able to support them and help. Unfortunately, lack of knowledge, lack of resources, or even one’s own personal discomforts do not always make this possible.
I am all too aware of this. An uncomfortable memory from my adolescence stems from a time a friend of mine had the courage to confide in me about a serious problem, but I was unable to do anything because of my own discomfort and ignorance.
For a time, my friend had been engaging in cutting her wrists, a behavior referred to as deliberate self-harm. Cutting is the most common manifestation of this problem, however it can appear also as burning, pulling hair out, and other forms of self-inflicted injury. I didn’t know what to do because I never understood why she was doing it, or what form of help she needed.
Did she even want help? I didn‘t know then, and I still regret not trying harder to understand.
What bothered me most was hearing others say that my friend was a “cutter” because she wanted attention. They trivialized her serious problem. The thought of dragging a razor across my skin made my stomach churn and it seemed rather preposterous to believe she would do this just to get attention. Yet, there was nothing I could say. And what did I know about the issue? Nothing. Sadly, this is exactly why so many are unable to help loved ones dealing with self harm.
The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) describes self-harm as a response to a diverse range of personal problems. An individual might self harm because they feel unbearable tension, depression, loneliness, or rage. They may be experiencing an entire lack of feeling, a complete numbness.
People who self-harm say the behavior does relieve them of psychological pain, but only briefly. They describe the behavior as making them feel pain on the outside rather than on the inside. Deliberate self-harm does not necessarily indicate suicidal intent. Rather, it is often a way of regulating emotions that the person can no longer deal with internally.
Self-harm is rarely a problem that occurs in isolation. It is an outward manifestation of internal distress, a tool that the person has learned to manage otherwise unmanageable emotions. Psychiatrist Armando R. Favazza at the University Missouri Medical Center believes this explains why 40 percent of those who self-harm also have an eating disorder, or why half report a history of childhood sexual abuse.
Those who self-harm say that growing up they were discouraged from expressing their feelings, especially anger or sadness. Psychologist David Klonsky, a professor at the University of British Columbia in Canada, views trapped emotions as paving the way for self-harming behaviors — behaviors that are paradoxically used to manage internal feelings of pain.
Self-injurious behavior is hard to detect because it is done secretly and on body parts that are relatively easy to hide. Researchers at Cornell University’s program on self-injurious behavior suggest several signs that may indicate self-injurious behavior: One is unexplained burns or clusters of scars or cuts. Common areas are the wrists, fists, and forearms but virtually any area of the body is possible. Those carrying out this behavior may dress inappropriately for the season, such as wearing long sleeves when the weather is very hot. Also, heavy use of wrist-bands, coverings, or bandages is another sign. Finally, heightened signs of depression or anxiety are often indicators of other possible problems such as self-harm.
If you believe that someone you love is deliberately self-harming, the first thing that you can do is talk to them about it. It is important to remember to be non-judgmental and refrain from acting as though their behavior is impossible to understand.
Take a look at the picture “Battles won and lost” on the Trauma and Mental Health Report’s Arts and Culture Images page to read the story of a girl who once self-harmed. Share a time when you wish you had spoken up or a moment where you decided to help someone suffering from psychological pain.
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What is self-harm?
Self-harm, or self-injury, is when a person hurts his or her own body on purpose. The injuries may be minor, but sometimes they can be severe. They may leave permanent scars or cause serious health problems. Some examples are:
- Cutting yourself (such as using a razor blade, knife, or other sharp object to cut your skin)
- Punching yourself or punching things (like a wall)
- Burning yourself with cigarettes, matches, or candles
- Pulling out your hair
- Poking objects through body openings
- Breaking your bones or bruising yourself
Self-harm is not a mental disorder. It is a behavior – an unhealthy way to cope with strong feelings. However, some of the people who harm themselves do have a mental disorder.
People who harm themselves are usually not trying to kill themselves. But they are at higher risk of attempting suicide if they do not get help.
Why do people harm themselves?
There are different reasons why people harm themselves. Often, they have trouble coping and dealing with their feelings. They harm themselves to try to:
- Make themselves feel something, when they feel empty or numb inside
- Block upsetting memories
- Show that they need help
- Release strong feelings that overwhelm them, such as anger, loneliness, or hopelessness
- Punish themselves
- Feel a sense of control
Who is at risk for self-harm?
There are people of all ages who harm themselves, but it usually starts in the teen or early adult years. Self-harm is more common in people who:
- Were abused or went through a trauma as children
- Have mental disorders, such as
- Eating disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Certain personality disorders
- Misuse drugs or alcohol
- Have friends who self-harm
- Have low self-esteem
What are the signs of self-harm?
Signs that someone may be hurting themselves include:
- Having frequent cuts, bruises, or scars
- Wearing long sleeves or pants even in hot weather
- Making excuses about injuries
- Having sharp objects around for no clear reason
How can I help someone who self-harms?
If someone you know is self-harming, it is important not to be judgmental. Let that person know that you want to help. If the person is a child or teenager, ask him or her to talk to a trusted adult. If he or she won’t do that, talk to a trusted adult yourself. If the person who is self-harming is an adult, suggest mental health counseling.
What the treatments are for self-harm?
There are no medicines to treat self-harming behaviors. But there are medicines to treat any mental disorders that the person may have, such as anxiety and depression. Treating the mental disorder may weaken the urge to self-harm.
Mental health counseling or therapy can also help by teaching the person:
- Problem-solving skills
- New ways to cope with strong emotions
- Better relationship skills
- Ways to strengthen self-esteem
If the problem is severe, the person may need more intensive treatment in a psychiatric hospital or a mental health day program.
How to Help Someone with Self-Harm Issues
The idea of purposely harming yourself without the intention of suicide can be hard to understand. We will go over some things you can do to help a friend or family member who is self-harming.
If you know someone who is engaging in self-harming behaviors but you are not sure if they are attempting to commit suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at any time of day or night at 1-800-273-8255. You don’t have to figure this out on your own. Reach out for assistance.
What Is Self-Harm?
Self-harm is a blanket term for any self-injurious behavior that someone engages in as a coping mechanism in order to relieve emotional or psychological stress.The damage can be visible and external, or it could be internal, such as ingesting chemicals or medications that are harmful.
Some examples of self-harming behaviors are:
- Cutting, scratching, or picking at the skin
- Burning oneself with items or cigarettes
- Head banging or punching things
- Picking at wounds so they don’t heal
- Drinking harmful chemicals
- Pulling out hair on the head or body
- Overdosing on medications
- Not taking medications to treat existing conditions
It’s challenging to understand, but a person who is self-harming is intentionally causing damage to themselves in order to relieve suffering.
Reasons for Self-Harming
Rates of self-harm (also called non-suicidal self-injurious behavior) are highest among teens and college-age young adults. Most commonly reported reasons for engaging in self-harming behaviors are:
- Feeling “empty” inside
- Coping with being over- or under-stimulated
- Feeling unable to express emotions
- Feeling alone or lonely
- Feeling misunderstood or neglected
- Feeling afraid of adult responsibilities
- Attempting to relieve painful emotions and memories¹
Because of certain connections in the brain, the act of creating physical pain can relieve mental anguish.² The relief created by self-harm is very temporary but, because of even momentary relief, a cycle of repeated self harm easily develops in the absence of proper care for the condition. Self-harming also creates a sense of control and can even make a person feel more grounded when they are overwhelmed.¹
Signs That Someone May Be Self-Harming
If you suspect that someone you care about is intentionally injuring themselves, there are some things that you can look for. Most people who self-injure will try to cover up any signs. You may have noticed that they may wear long sleeves or pants in hot weather or refuse to ever uncover their heads.
If your loved one has frequent unexplained injuries or sickness, as well as low self-esteem, and has trouble handling their feelings, they may be self-harming. People who self-harm may also have vague or hard to believe reasons for their injuries such as “I fell down” or “I’m not sure how that happened.”¹
How to Talk About It and Offer Support
The most important thing to remember is, as a friend or family member, you can help by just being calm, present, and open to listening. Remember this person is suffering already, and they are likely feeling some guilt and shame about self-harming as well. They will likely have mixed emotions, but being seen and acknowledged by you will go a long way.³
Some things to keep in mind when talking to someone who is self-harming are:
- It’s most important to just acknowledge their feelings. You don’t need to solve the problems or make the feelings go away. Statements such as “I can see why you would feel that way” or “That must be really hard” can go a long way toward helping someone feel heard.
- Be careful not to be judgmental. For someone who has never self-harmed, it can be super hard to understand what’s going on. Try to avoid saying things like “Can’t you see it’s just making things worse?” or “I thought you were smarter than this.”
- Express that you are concerned because you care. Acknowledging this person’s emotional distress and showing that you’d like to help can go a very long way. Just knowing they have you on their side really helps.
- Know that it’s a process of healing. Self-harming is not something that is going to get better overnight. Chances are this person tried to stop but was unable to for a lot of reasons. Express that you will be there for them throughout the process.
- Ask them if they would consider counseling. Self-harming behaviors are the result of complicated feelings and thoughts and respond well to the help of a mental health professional who can help them develop healthy coping strategies.
Have a list of resources handy and suggest that the person look them over. If it seems appropriate, you could offer to sit by them while they make the calls. Helping someone with self-harm issues is a delicate process that may challenge your ability to stay present in the face of painful emotions. Get help for yourself as well if needed.
Balance Treatment Center Can Help
Here at Balance Treatment Center , we believe that our clients are far more than just their diagnosis and their behaviors. If you or someone you love is struggling with self-harm, we offer a variety of programs and support to help reduce the obstacles in the way of healthy coping and growth. Call us toll-free at (855) 414-8100 to find out how we can help or visit us online .
How to tell someone you self-harm
First of all, if you’re not sure who you want to tell, make sure you tell someone who won’t freak out too much. It’s often good to ask them their opinion on the matter of self-harm before you tell them. For example, if they say something like “people who do that are so stupid”, don’t tell them. If this person is someone you feel needs to know, however, you can tell them regardless, but be aware that they may react negatively.
Once you’re certain they’ll respond in a calm matter, tell them. If it’s a friend, you can do this casually, even over Facebook, or you can do it in a serious manner and sit them down. (If it’s someone closer than a friend, however, you should probably tell them in person). You could even write them a letter. Whatever you do, make sure you address the following:
- How you’ve been feeling
- How you’ve been coping with it (this is where you would mention the self-harm)
- How you plan to recover (this will calm them down and reassure them that you’re getting better)
- What you want them to do to support you (this is VERY important, as many people don’t know what to do)
Then answer any questions they may have, as long as you’re comfortable answering them. If you’re not, then just say that you don’t want to talk about it at this time.
If you have trouble knowing what to say, it may help to write it out beforehand. Writing everything out gives you a chance to organize your thoughts and make sure that you manage to say everything that you want to.
Send your question through the askbox below, or see if your question is answered on one of the pages in our directory.
I am under 18 and live with my dad and stepmom. I’ve been cutting for almost a year from depression and anxiety and basically not feeling like I want to be here. I HATE the idea of seeing a therapist and “talking about my feelings,” but apparently the school counselor told my dad I needed to see someone outside the school for help. The school counselor doesn’t know about the cutting, but I’ve talked to him a bit because apparently I have “anger issues.”
Find a Therapist
So now my dad and stepmother are looking up therapists for me to go see. I really don’t want to talk to anyone about my “issues,” but it’s getting hard to cover the marks on my arms and legs and I don’t know how to stop cutting. And also I know they’re just going to keep me in therapy longer if I refuse to talk. But I REALLY don’t want my parents to know about me cutting myself or the suicidal thoughts I sometimes have. Can I get through counseling without my parents finding out about it? How much is the counselor going to tell my parents about what I say in therapy? —Under Rage
Dear Under Rage,
These are good questions to ask any therapist you see. Find out from them what their policies are regarding confidentiality with people in therapy under 18. Much of what they say will depend on legal and ethical guidelines based on where they live and what kind of license they have. When I work with people under the age of 18, I discuss in great detail with both the young person and the parents what those guidelines are. That allows everyone to have the same understanding and expectation about how the process works. It also allows the young person to decide how much to share with me and to be aware of what my responsibilities to report are.
Most professionals are obligated to report when a person in therapy, regardless of age, is in imminent danger. That danger could be significant risk of suicide or conditions of abuse/neglect. Thoughts of suicide alone, however, do not necessarily trigger a mandated report—it depends on the circumstances. There are many people who have such thoughts but no intention or plan on following through. What is essential, however, is that anyone who is struggling with thoughts of suicide finds sources of support with whom they can talk. A trusted therapist is a great option. There are also national hotlines where you can reach out for support 24/7.
I hear the frustration in your message about all that the adults in your world “apparently” believe to be true for you. Instead, look at what YOU can get out of this experience. You can have a voice and share your truth with someone.
I’ve worked with a number of people who also HATED the idea of talking about their feelings. Usually that stems from a place of fearing they would be judged, a massive discomfort with feeling vulnerable and exposed, and a reluctance to trust someone they don’t know well. All of those feelings are natural. I can share with you that all of those people, in their own time, came to trust me and the process. When you find a therapist you can work with, who allows you to share at your own pace, who offers you a safe place to speak your truth without fear of being judged, counseling can be an amazing experience.
If I can offer you a suggestion, don’t reject therapy completely because it feels like something being “done” to you. I hear the frustration in your message about all that the adults in your world “apparently” believe to be true for you. Instead, look at what YOU can get out of this experience. You can have a voice and share your truth with someone. You can get support for the anger, anxiety, and depression you say you’ve been feeling for a year now. You can have support in finding alternative strategies beyond cutting to cope with the intensity of the feelings you have. You can be seen. You can be heard.
Nobody can make you share what you aren’t willing to share. You are right, though, that refusing to talk or engage will likely limit your choices and your control over your situation. So, how can you engage in ways that work for you? Ask your potential therapist the tough questions about confidentiality and how they manage those issues. Find out if your parents are willing to let you take part in the process of choosing a therapist. Many professionals have directory profiles and websites that can tell you a bit about what they might be like to work with. I’ve had people meet me first before deciding to work with me. Many therapists are very willing to meet to assess fit, as we know a good fit leads to more positive outcomes. You might just find someone you can open up to who can offer relief from what you’ve been feeling.
There are many different types of self-harm and they’re not always easy to notice. Many people who self-harm, whether children or adults, do so in secret and try to keep the areas they have cut, burned or injured hidden from their parents and friends.
Self-harm signs to look out for
So, how can you tell if someone you care about might be self-harming? Here are six signs of self-harm to look out for:
- Unexplained cuts, bruises or burns, often on their wrists, arms, thighs and chest
- Wearing long sleeves, and trousers or tights, even in hot weather
- Refusing to get changed in front of other people, for example for PE or in changing rooms
- Signs they have been pulling their hair out
- Changes in eating habits – over-eating or under-eating
- Exercising excessively
Dr Hayley van Zwanenberg, Medical Director and Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at Priory Hospital Woodbourne, Birmingham, explains what steps to consider if you discover a child is self-harming:
“Many young people self-harm, and many other people find this behaviour incredibly hard to comprehend or know what to do to help. However, research shows that the way the person is responded to the first time they tell someone they are self-harming, will affect their future likelihood of asking for help. If the situation is calmly managed, this helps the young person to feel safe and begin to think that they may be safe enough to change.
Young people need to feel listened to and understood, rather than criticised for how they are feeling. The comments below in red can be very invalidating for a young person, whilst those in blue can be very supportive.
- You are the only one who feels that way
- I can understand why you would feel like that
- It can’t be that bad
- That’s a lot to deal with
- There is no reason to get upset
- That must really hurt
To help keep a young person who is self-harming safe at home I would recommend you:
1. Have a look around your home and remove everyday items such as razor blades, pencil sharpeners and scissors that do not need to be left lying around and could be used for self-harm
2. Ensure any medications which are not required are disposed of and any remaining medications are in a locked cabinet
3. Talk to the young person about how you can help if they are having self-harm thoughts. Consider if there is a signal that they may be willing to give you before self-harm happens such as squeezing your hand or asking to do a specific form of distraction with you, or giving you a red card. Young people sometimes find this easier than vocalising how they are feeling. Ask them how they would want you to react if they give you this signal, it may be taking the dog for a walk with them following that signal is enough for them to feel soothed and prevent self-harm
4. Try to think if there are any patterns to when the young person self-harms; if there are particular triggers or early warning signs of distress. If there are, consider how these could be safely managed
5. Help the young person think of, and practise, healthy coping strategies that they can then use when there are early signs they are becoming distressed. Emotions do not last forever. If you can buy some time with healthy coping strategies, the young person may have achieved a sufficient change in their emotional mind state to prevent self-harm. Suggested healthy coping strategies include:
- Listening to loud music
- Writing a poem
- Expressing your feelings through your art – then change it – make it less threatening
- Counting down in 7s from a very high number
- Concentrating on saying the alphabet backward
- Stroking your pet
- Biting on a lemon or a chilli
- Holding ice tightly in your hand until it melts
- Watching a film – a funny one or a scary one – to change your emotions
- Going for a walk with a relative/friend or pet
- Talking to someone who makes you laugh
6. If you have serious concerns and you do not feel that these measures are helping keep the young person safe, or leading to improvements, contact your GP or find out more information about self-harm treatment. In an emergency, use your local accident and emergency service.
Self-harming is often seen to be attention-seeking or manipulative behaviour because it’s not understood. People self-harm it because they are trying to demonstrate that they are struggling with issues and they cannot verbalise or express these in a more appropriate way. If they feel supported, understood and can be helped to learn healthy ways to cope with these issues they have a good chance of gradually ceasing the unhealthy methods previously used to get by.”
For details of how Priory can provide you with assistance regarding young people’s mental health and wellbeing, please call 0800 840 3219 or click here to submit an enquiry form. For professionals looking to make a referral, please click here
By Ditch the Label
You’ve had a bad day and are feeling overwhelmed with emotion. You’re feeling low, afraid and like nobody understands you. You feel like you’re up against the world and need some sort of release. We understand how it feels to be in the situation you’re in right now, because many of us have been there too.
Self-harm is often used as a way of dealing with things when they become too overwhelming. It may seem like a good idea at the time, but self-harm can be incredibly dangerous and can have unintended consequences on your health and appearance and occasionally, leading to death. Trust us when we say this: it isn’t fun trying to hide the scars, the cuts or the bruises.
We understand that right now, it feels as though there’s no light at the end of your tunnel, but we promise that there is and things won’t always be like this. The below alternatives to dangerous acts of self-harm should be used as a short-term measure. It is important that you talk to somebody about how you are feeling and get the help you deserve.
You can speak to somebody right now on the Ditch the Label Community and get anonymous help and advice or you could speak to a trusted adult offline.
15 Safer Alternatives to Self-Harm
You are responsible for your own health and it is important that your actions do not cause distress, harm or damage to other people or things. We accept no liability for unfavorable outcomes as a result of this advice. If in doubt, we advise you speak to your GP or a trusted adult.
Our experts have put together a list of 15 safer ways to self-harm, many of which are proven to give the same release and effect as other means, but with much less risk.
1.) Snap a rubber band against your wrist
2.) Slap a hard surface – such as a wall or tabletop
3.) Find somewhere isolated and scream as loudly as you possibly can (alternatively do it into a cushion)
4.) Use a red marker pen to draw or write words on the place where you want to cut
5.) Squeeze ice in your hands really hard
6.) Squeeze the ‘pores’ in the skin of an orange / satsuma / clementine (take care to avoid getting juice in your eyes)
7.) Punch a cushion or punching bag – consider learning martial arts
8.) Find an old magazine or newspaper and tear it up
9.) Write down exactly how you are feeling in a diary – or if you’d prefer to, just scribble everything out
10.) Take part in high-intensity exercise; like circuit training, boxing, running or swimming
11.) Flatten aluminum cans for recycling – see how fast you can do it
12.) Take a cold bath
13.) Play music really loudly
14.) Try squeezing a stress ball
15.) Find a lake or ocean and throw stones into the water as hard and as far as you can
16.) Look after and be kind to yourself; it doesn’t have to be something active. You could try meditation, aromatherapy oil…
Ultimately, self-harm is not the answer to your problems, but doing the above things as a short-term measure could be safer ways of releasing emotion. It is important that you speak with somebody who is able to help you. Never feel like you have to go through this alone, because we are with you and are able to help. Click here to speak with somebody. If you are feeling suicidal in the UK – call The Samaritans on 116 123, they are there 24 hours a day, every day. In the USA – call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Join the internet’s safe space
We all need healthy ways to cope with the hard stuff. We’re here to help you find a healthy alternative to self-harm.
What is Self-Harm?
For some people, when depression and anxiety lead to a tornado of emotions, they turn to self-harm looking for a release. Self-harm and self-injury are any forms of hurting oneself on purpose. Usually, when people self-harm, they do not do so as a suicide attempt. Rather, they self-harm as a way to release painful emotions.
Types of Self-Harm
Self-harm can manifest differently for everyone. And, the ways people may self-harm extend far beyond the usual references to cutting in media. Simply, self-harm is anything and everything someone can do to purposely hurt their body.
Here are some of the most common types of self-injury:
- Carving words or symbols into the skin
- Hitting or punching oneself (including banging one’s head or other body parts against another surface)
- Piercing the skin with sharp objects such as hairpins
- Pulling out hair
- Picking at existing wounds
Symptoms of Self-Harm
Stigma creates shame and embarrassment, making it hard for people who self-harm to get help. So, look out for yourself and for your pals. If you suspect that someone in your life is self-harming, here are some warning signs to keep top of mind:
- Fresh cuts, burns, scratches, or bruises
- Rubbing an area excessively to create a burn
- Having sharp objects on hand
- Wearing long sleeves or long pants, even in hot weather
- Difficulties with interpersonal relationships
- Persistent questions about personal identity
- Behavioral and emotional instability, impulsiveness, or unpredictability
- Saying that they feel helpless, hopeless, or worthless
Crisis Text Line can help you deal with self-harm. Text a Crisis Counselor at 741741, or use the mobile text button below.
How to Deal With Self-Harm
Emotions can be really painful sometimes. It’s totally normal to need ways to cope with and process the hard things in your life. If you are using self-harm to manage your emotions, we’re here for you. And, we want to help keep you safe.
Here are some ways to push through, process, and cope with your emotions.
- Text to cool down. If you’re dealing with painful emotions, we’re here to help. Shoot us a text to connect with a real human and strategize healthy coping mechanisms to manage your emotions. Text HOME to 741741 to connect with a real human.
- Get creative. Studies show that diving into making art can help people process emotions. So, next time you’re feeling like self-harming, grab your sharpie and doodle your worries away. A bonus: you can totally suck at it and still reap the same rewards.
- Find your zen. Keeping yourself safe from self-harming is all about finding healthy alternatives to work through the hard stuff. Researchers found taking time to re-center through meditation to be a powerful way to find your cool and calm. Try using an app like Headspace to get on the meditation bandwagon.
- Talk to a pro. Self-harm is serious. And, while the intention behind self-harm usually is not death, it can still be dangerous—both physically and emotionally. Talking to someone who can help you find alternatives is incredibly important. Of course, you can start by texting us. Also, consider telling someone you know who can help you connect with a professional.
Why Do People Self-Harm?
Let’s start with this: everyone needs a way to cope with their emotions. People who self-harm have turned to hurting themselves as their coping mechanism to manage their emotions.
So, people might self-harm to:
- Process their negative feelings
- Distract themselves from their negative feelings
- Feel something physical, particularly if they are feeling numb
- Develop a sense of control over their lives
- Punish themselves for things they think they’ve done wrong
- Express emotions that they are otherwise embarrassed to show
Effects of Self-Harm
Self-harm can be seriously dangerous—physically, emotionally, socially, all of it.
Physical Effects of Self-Harm
- Permanent scars
- Uncontrolled bleeding
- Emotional Effects of Self-Harm
- Guilt or shame
- A diminished sense of self, including feeling helpless or worthless
- Addiction to the behavior
Social Effects of Self-Harm
- Avoiding friends and loved ones
- Becoming ostracized from loved ones who may not understand
- Interpersonal difficulty from lying to others about injuries
Recovering from Self-Harm
A lot of people who self-harm do so because they are dealing with painful emotions. If this applies to you, hi—we believe in you and recognize your pain. Because painful emotions are at the root of self-harm, quite often recovering from self-harm involves addressing emotions.
Breaking away from the cycle of self-harm can feel like a huge climb. It involves breaking a habit that has once brought comfort from pain. But, it is not impossible. Here are some steps to set you up for success:
- Name your reason for hurting yourself and your reason for quitting. Ask yourself: “What do I feel before, during, and after self-injury? Which of those emotions do I actively seek out, and which are harmful?”
- Identify other ways of achieving the same result. For example, if you self-harm for the physical sensation, seek other ways of releasing endorphins, like exercise. For real, try throwing a few punches at a kickboxing class or tapping it back in a spin class with the *perfect* playlist. If you self-harm to express your emotions, practice expressing them in words by writing them down. Grab a pen and your favorite notebook, or start typing away in your notes app.
- Tackle the underlying emotions. Explore the feelings that lead you to want to hurt yourself. If it’s guilt, where is that guilt coming from? Maybe try finding a therapist—there are pros trained specifically to help with this.
- Tell someone you trust. Let a friend, family member, or trusted adult know what you’re going through and that you need their support. Opening up to people can be easier said than done. Here’s a place to start: “I’m having a hard time processing some painful emotions and I could use your support right now.”
Getting healthy—both in your brain and in your body—takes hard work. You got this. And, we believe in you.
Text a Crisis Counselor at 741471 or use the mobile click to text button below. You’re not alone.
“Is it weird that I cut myself on purpose?”
A 14-year-old girl from a local middle school asked me this question at work last week. In my years as a Teen Xpress counselor, I have been asked about self-injurious behaviors many times. They ask:
“What is it about?”
“Isn’t it just a way to get attention?”
“Why would someone do that?”
“Are they trying to kill themselves?”
It’s not only teens that ask about self-injury. I’ve also been approached by parents, teachers, friends and co-workers. The very act of hurting oneself on purpose seems to hit people with a mix of bewilderment, disgust and fear all at once. It’s understandable. Purposely causing pain just does not make sense to most people. It is normal to feel confused about something like this.
How prevalent is self-injury?
What exactly does “self-injurious behaviors” mean?
Why does it happen?
These behaviors are often hidden- cuts and burns are often made on parts of the body that people don’t often see. Common unseen areas that are injured are thighs, chest or breasts, stomach, genitals, or even the bottoms of feet. Not everyone makes an effort to disguise it- hair pulling and plucking is often harder to hide. Some cutting, burning and picking is done on arms and legs, in plain view.
What do we do when someone we know is injuring themselves on purpose?
Most of the time, self injury is not a suicide attempt. If the injuries are serious, showing signs of infection, or appear to be life-threatening, seek medical care immediately. If the person injuring themselves tells you that the injuries are an attempt at suicide or that they are suicidal, seek help immediately. How do you know if the injury is a suicide attempt or not? You need to ask them.
Let that person know that you care about them and would like to help them. Ask them to talk to you about what is going on. Ask them if they are feeling like they want to kill themselves. Contrary to popular belief, asking someone if they are suicidal does not cause them to become suicidal if they weren’t already. If they answer yes, keep them with you, limit their access to objects that could be used to hurt themselves, and get help immediately. Contact 911 and let them know what is going on. Continue to support and be there for that person until help arrives.
If they tell you that they are not suicidal and you feel that you can believe them, continue to support them, but watch what you say. Typically, people do not like to be told what to do. Telling them they need to stop what they are doing is likely to frustrate them or cause them to lose interest in talking to you. You will quickly become “someone who just doesn’t understand.” However, showing care and compassion is helpful. Let them know that you love them or care about them. Share with them that this behavior can be very dangerous, even if they are not suicidal, because they could accidentally hurt themselves or expose themselves to infections, even blood-borne viruses, depending on what they are doing to hurt themselves. Encourage them to continue to talk with others about this and help them get help. If you are a teen or young person, and the person hurting themselves is also a teen or young person, make sure that you tell an adult that you trust- your parents, their parents, a teacher or a counselor.
Counseling or therapy is a treatment that has been shown to be effective in treating self-injurious behaviors. A counselor can work with that person on replacing their behaviors with healthier, safer alternatives, as well as giving that person a place to talk about their feelings. A visit or a few visits with a medical provider is a good idea. A counselor or a medical professional can diagnose and provide different treatments for clinical issues like depression and anxiety.
Could this all just be to get attention?
Caring means getting involved and asking the hard questions. It means finding people and professionals to reach out to and helping people get the help that they need.
It’s the right thing to do and the right way to do it.
Self-harm is difficult to talk about but it’s a common problem and you can beat it. Find out what self-harm means and what to do if you think you’re affected by it.
What is self-harm?
Self-harm is when you hurt yourself on purpose to relieve feelings of distress. People sometimes self-harm when life feels hard to cope with.
If you self-harm, you might be dealing with lots of intense thoughts and feelings and hurting yourself feels like the only way to let those feelings out.Or you might feel numb and want to hurt yourself so that you can feel something.
Self-harm is a way to show the feelings you have inside on the outside. It might cause you to experience:
- pain or discomfort
- temporary physical marks
- feelings of sickness or dizziness
- feelings of weakness, shame or disgust
- feeling scared, out of control or confused by why you are doing this
- feelings of isolation and loneliness
Self-harm is when you hurt yourself on purpose to relieve feelings of distress. People sometimes self-harm when life feels hard to cope with.
It is important to note that self-harm is not always obvious. You might find yourself doing things which are harmful, but not think of them as ‘self-harm’. This could include things like:
- using drugs or alcohol to cope with our problems
- not eating, over-eating, or forcing ourselves to throw up
- spending all our time on addictive behaviours like gaming, social media or gambling
- over-exercising and/or exercising when we are injured
- getting into fights
- getting into situations on purpose where we risk getting hurt, including
- risky sexual behaviour
Often self-harm only brings temporary relief. This means that later, when things start to build up again, we might feel like we have to harm again. It can be really hard to break out of this cycle. And it can be upsetting to think that this is our only way to cope. But there are things you can do to stop self-harming and get better.
Why do I self-harm?
There are many reasons why you might self-harm. It is usually a symptom that something stressful or upsetting is going on in your life that is difficult to deal with. This could be something like:
- suffering abuse
- experiencing a traumatic incident
- family problems like a divorce
- a sudden change in your life, like a death, divorce or moving school
- exam stress or extreme pressure or criticism from family, friends or teachers
- low self-esteem or issues with body image
- feelings of guilt, failure, or being unloved
Things can happen in life that can leave us feeling overwhelmed, angry and hurt. Instead of finding ways to express those feelings to the world, we start to take this pain and anger out on ourselves.
We might self-harm because we have learnt that in order to be accepted or loved we have to be ‘perfect’. When we don’t live up to this ‘perfect’ image we can feel like a ‘failure’. The constant guilt, or worry about disappointing people, can make us feel like we need to punish ourselves for not being ‘good enough’. With the right support, you can stop feeling this way, and learn to love yourself for who you are.
We might self-harm because we are angry and upset about being treated badly. If we are treated in a way that makes us feel invisible, unimportant or unloved, it can make us feel like there is something wrong with us. But the truth is, you matter. You are worthy of respect and love exactly the way you are, and you deserve help.
A psychiatrist in Gaithersburg, MD offers resources on identifying signs of self-harm and helping those who are struggling with it.
Self-Injury Awareness Day, which takes place every March 1, is coming up soon. This day leads into Self-Injury Awareness Month, which is held to raise awareness for those struggling with self-harm. People who struggle with depression and anxiety sometimes turn to self-harm to help release themselves from these negative feelings. Because of the stigma associated with self-harm, some people are hesitant to get help.В
If you or someone you know is struggling with self-harm, know that there is help out there. In our latest blog post, a psychiatrist in Gaithersburg, MD offers advice and resources for people affected by self-harm.В
Why Do People Self-Harm?
A psychiatrist in Gaithersburg, MD explains why some people self-harm.
People may start self-harming for a number of different reasons. Some people resort to self-harm to try to distract themselves from overwhelming emotions and thoughts. Others do it to release tension and experience temporary euphoria. People who self-harm may also have trouble with expressing their emotions. When words fail them, they turn to self-harm as a communication device.В
However, people who self-harm usually are not attempting to commit suicide. Instead, it is a method for coping with emotional pain. But while self-harm may sometimes bring temporary relief from the emotional pain, this relief is quickly followed by feelings of extreme guilt.В
Different Forms of Self-Injury
People typically self-injure in private. It is often done in a ritualistic manner. Someone might self-harm by cutting themselves with sharp objects, burning their skin, or banging their heads. Some people who self-injure employ multiple methods to harm themselves. The arms, legs, and front of the torso are the most common areas where people self-harm.В
Signs of Self-Harm
Because self-harm is often done in private and the evidence can easily be covered up by clothes or makeup, it can sometimes be difficult to stop. These symptoms may also vary depending on what techniques the person uses to hurt themself. But some common signs of self-harm include:
- Wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts even on hot days
- Blaming signs of injury on accidents or clumsiness
- Scars, bruises, fresh cuts, missing hair
- Having sharp objects on hand
Self-Harm Awareness Month
How different organizations are raising awareness in the U.S.
Self-Injury Awareness Day takes place on March 1st every year. This global event is held to remove the stigma surrounding self-harm and encourage people to learn the signs of self-harm.
Because it isnвЂ™t an official holiday, businesses and schools operate normally. But numerous schools and organizations will host conferences and workshops to help educate the general public on self-harm. People who used to self-harm may also open up about their experiences to help others struggling with the same issue.
Self-Injury Awareness Day is just the first day of Self-Injury Awareness Month. Throughout the month, people will continue to raise awareness for self-harm and offer support for those struggling with it.
Participating organizations include:
Showing Your Support for Self-Harm Awareness Month
Throughout the month of March, you might see people wearing orange ribbons. Others might have the word вЂњLOVEвЂќ written on their arms or the image of a butterfly on their wrist. These are all common ways that people show their support for this important month. By spreading awareness about self-injury, supporters hope to eliminate the stigma surrounding it so that people are no longer scared or afraid to reach out for help.В
Resources for People Affected by Self-Harm
Help is out there for people struggling with self-harm.
Are you or someone you know struggling with self-harm? There are numerous resources available to help you get through this difficult time in your life. Crisis hotlines and professional therapists are here to help. Reaching out to someone you trust can also help you start on a path toward recovery.
Help for People Who Self-Harm
If you are struggling with thoughts of self-harm, you can immediately text HOME to 741741 to speak to a real human and come up with healthy coping mechanisms for addressing the emotional pain you are suffering from. You may also want to research and find a psychiatrist to help deal with the difficult emotions you are currently experiencing. This psychiatrist may prescribe medication or recommend psychotherapy to help you recognize negative thought patterns and learn positive coping methods.В
Tips for Supporting Someone Who Struggles with Self-Harm
If you believe a friend or family member is self-harming, itвЂ™s important to check up on them and ask them how they are doing. Even if you donвЂ™t fully understand what is going on with them, you can still lend your support and even offer to help them find treatment.В
DonвЂ™t dismiss their emotions or try to force the person into quitting. Quitting can take a large amount of willpower that the person doesnвЂ™t yet have without extra support.В
ItвЂ™s important for family members, friends, teachers, and medical workers to recognize the signs of self-harm. Learning how to offer helpful and non-judgmental support will also be crucial to ensure patients get the assistance they need. If you or a loved one are looking to talk to someone about this issue, our team of psychiatrists in Gaithersburg, MD is equipped to help you. To learn more information about the Psych Associates of Maryland, contact us today.
Self-harm encompasses a wide range of things people deliberately do to themselves to cause physical pain or damage.
It is most common for people to cut the arms or the back of the legs. However it could involve burning, biting, hitting oneself, banging their head, pulling out their hair (trichotilliomania), inserting objects into the body or taking overdoses.
Reasons for self-harm
Sometimes there is no specific reason for someone to self-harm, it appears to generate a release from overwhelming negative or disturbing feelings. Sometimes they may self-harm to help cope with negative feelings and difficult experiences, to feel more in control, or to punish themselves.
When speaking with someone who is self-harming they may explain they do it to:
- reduce tension
- induce physical pain to distract from emotional pain
- help express emotions such as hurt, anger or frustration
- regain control over feelings or problems
- punish themselves or others
It may start due to anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, poor body image, gender identity, sexuality, abuse, school problems, bullying, social media pressure, family or friendship troubles and bereavement or a myriad of other issues.
Self-harming can become a habit that is hard to stop.
How to help if you suspect someone is self-harming:
Keep an eye open for the following signs:
- unexplained cuts, burns, bite-marks, bruises or bald patches
- they are fastidious about covering up; avoiding swimming, short sleeved tops of shorts or changing in the presence of others. (although this can be a normal part of growing up too)
- finding bloody tissues in waste bins
- becoming withdrawn or isolated from friends and family
- low mood, lack of interest in life, depression or outbursts of anger
- blaming themselves for problems or expressing feelings of failure, uselessness, hopelessness or worthlessness.
How to open the conversation:
If you are helping someone who is self-harming, the same CARES method will help.
Check for any immediate life-threatening injuries and if so, ask their permission to treat: e.g. Treat bleeding by applying firm pressure. Ensure you are safe and remove the danger that has caused their injuries.
Approach non-judgementally, allow them to talk and actively listen with compassion. Offer immediate support and encourage them to seek further help.
Remain calm, do not ignore their injuries, or overly focus on them. Speak to them as a whole person without focussing on their injuries or actions.
Ensure they know you care about them and are doing your best to help.
Listen to what they say and help them to be in control of their decisions.
Who should they speak to?
See if there is a close friend or family member that they are happy to talk to and help them contact them if they would like to.
Their GP should be the best professional person for them to see. They should then work with them to establish if there is an underlying reason for their self-harm.
It can be an incredibly difficult conversation for parents, teachers, friends, family and trusted adults to broach:
It is more important than ever not to appear judgemental.
- Avoid interrogating and asking lots of questions all at once.
- Keep an eye on them but avoid ‘policing’ them because this can increase their risk of self-harming. It is something they are likely to do in private.
- Remember the self-harm is a coping mechanism. It is a symptom of an underlying problem.
- Keep all lines of communication open, it may not be the right time or place. You might not be the right person for them so speak to. Tell them it is okay for them to speak to someone else and encourage them to get help. They may feel ashamed of their self-harm and find it very difficult to talk about.
- Try not to be angry or disappointed with what they are doing.
- Keep firm boundaries and a sense of normality, this will help the child feel secure and emotionally stable.
- If you feel confident, you can ask them whether removing whatever they are using to self-harm is likely to cause them to use something less sanitary to self-harm with, or whether it reduces temptation. This can be a difficult question to ask and if you are not confident to ask this seek professional advice.
- Seek professional help. They are likely to need a risk assessment from a qualified mental health professional. Their GP may be able to refer them to the local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).
- Discovering and responding to self-harm can be a traumatic experience for someone who cares about the child who is self-harming. Many people feel guilt, shame, anger, sadness, frustration and despair – but it’s not your fault.
Organisations that can help with Self-harm
- Mind – call 0300 123 3393 or text 86463 (9am to 6pm on weekdays) and a great resource website
- Harmless – email [email protected] harmless.org.uk Provides a range of services for people who self-harm along with support for their friends and families.
- Self-injury Support (for women and girls)
- CALM (for men)
- Young Minds Parents Helpline – call 0808 802 5544 (9.30am to 4pm on weekdays)
- National Self Harm Network forums nshn.co.uk Well monitored self-harm support forum
- If you struggle with suicidal thoughts or are supporting someone else, the Staying Safe website provides information on how to make a safety plan. It includes video tutorials and online templates to guide you through the process.
- You could also download the free distrACT app. This gives you easy, quick and discreet access to information and advice about self-harm and suicidal thoughts.
- Alumina – free online help for people self-harming
- https://www.selfharm.co.uk/ – free online self-harm support for 14-19s
- Lifesigns – Guidance and support network from people who understand
- Young Minds Parents helpline – Advice and support for anyone worried about someone under 25.
- NHS Choices – wealth of information on many topics
Written by Emma Hammett RGN – Founder and CEO of First Aid for Life.
First Aid for Life is the leading provider of first aid training for carers, families, older people, schools, parents, child carers and health workers. Our team are highly experienced medical, health and emergency services professionals. They will tailor the training to your needs.
It is strongly advised that you attend a First Aid course to understand what to do in a medical emergency. First Aid for Life run specific courses covering in detail how to help someone having an asthma attack.
Why people self-harm, and what you can do to help yourself or someone you care about.
This article was written in consultation with our community partner, Beyond Blue. Medibank and Beyond Blue are working together to empower all people in Australia to be better connected with knowledge, resources and support to improve their mental health and wellbeing. For further information from Beyond Blue on self-harm please click here. This article is of a general nature only. You should always seek medical advice if you are worried about someoneвЂ™s or your own self harm.
Self-harm is usually a way to deal with negative feelings or distress that can become a habit. But help and support are available.
What is self-harm?
Self-harm, or self-injury, is when someone purposefully injures or harms themselves, without intending to suicide.В They might cut, burn, scratch or harm themselves another way, and often theyвЂ™ll try to hide the signs. Usually, itвЂ™s a way to deal with negative feelings or distress. For some people, causing physical pain to themselves is a way to cope with emotional pain. The specific reasons differ from person to person, but they can include hoping for a sense of relief or control, or sometimes an outlet to express what theyвЂ™re going through. But ultimately, the distress or feelings are still there, so self-harm becomes a habit that keeps happening.
ItвЂ™s important that while most people are not intending to die, there is a chance that they may hurt themselves more than they intended, and this increases their risk of suicide. If you are worried about someone or are not sure if they intend to suicide, seek help immediately and call 000.В В
What can you do when you think you might harm yourself?
You can learn to cope with uncomfortable emotions and experiences. It can help to learn to spot the patterns when youвЂ™re more likely to harm yourself, as well as noticing what makes you feel better. Try to think of other ways you could respond to the things that trigger you, and what support from friends or family could help you. As you move forward you might have some setbacksвЂ”if that happens be gentle with yourself, it can take time to develop new ways to cope.
ItвЂ™s important to address the underlying issues that are leading to self-harm, but there are some strategies that might help in the short term.
In the moment you feel like you might be about to hurt yourself, there are some things you can try:
Find ways to feel more relaxed
Taking a few deep breaths or using other relaxation techniques can help you to calm down in the moment. Learning mindfulness techniques may also be helpfulвЂ”you could download an app such as Smiling Mind which has guided meditations.
Self harm is a common problem, most common in teens. Anyone of any age can self harm. If you have never self harmed please don’t take this Quiz, as there is no “you don’t self harm” result.
If you self harm it’s important to get help as there are many dangers including : Skin infection Blood infection Aids /hiv (if cutting tools are shared) So go ahead and take this quiz which I worked hard on all day.
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Quiz topic: What level of severity is my self harm?
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November 14th, 2017
Thanks so much for your question! We really appreciate you reaching out to us, it’s so important to ask for help when you’re not really sure what to do. It is so awesome to see people genuinely supporting their friends who are going through a rough time and need that extra care.
Self-harm is a subject that a lot of people tend to stay away from because it’s hard to talk about. There are different ways to self-harm. People use self-harm as a way of coping with their situation or their emotions, which is different from suicidal behavior as suicidal behavior results out of a desire to end one’s like rather than cope with difficult feelings. Self-harm as a coping method can become dangerous, as it has to possibility of leading to painful infections or life-threatening conditions. At Connecteen, we’d like to open up a safe space to talk about self-harming, as well as discuss alternative coping mechanisms: anything from taking a shower, grabbing a bite to eat, watching TV, to doing exercise, drawing, writing, or reading.
It’s so great to see how much you care for your friend’s well-being. Unfortunately in our day and age, there is lots of stigma around issues of self-harm, suicide, and mental health. Keep in mind that you are not in charge of saving your friend from their problems. As much as we’d like to fix all the issues in their lives, we are also imperfect human beings who can’t solve all of life’s problems. As a supportive friend, one thing that perhaps you can offer is a non-judgemental attitude. If you’re comfortable with the idea, you can even offer to listen to what your friend is going through. Oftentimes, simply listening to a friend’s problems and hearing what they have to say can make a huge difference, and it lets them know that they’re not alone.
Not wanting to break your friend’s trust is a normal feeling, and it proves how much you value their friendship. A big part of genuine friendship is truly wanting what’s best for the other person, and it seems like you see a need for extra help and support. Talking to your friend about whether or not they would be comfortable with talking to a trusted adult about what they’ve been going through could be a way to get extra help from someone more mature. If you’re interested in getting more information on how to support your friend, you could also dial 211 and explain what you’re looking for. They can help get you connected to some resources in that area.
Apart from caring about your friend’s well-being, make sure you’re taking care of yourself too. It can be overwhelming to deal with another person’s emotional issues. Remember that you’re not alone either, and that it’s good to reach out for help if you’re feeling frustrated, stressed, or if you don’t know what to do. Find your own coping mechanisms to de-stress and relax as well.
Each individual is different, and each scenario is different, so we would love for you to connect with us over our online chat to better support you. You can also text us at 587-333-2724, or call us at 403-264-TEEN (8336). We’d love to hear from you.
If you or someone you know is considering self-harm, there is help. You’re not alone. Below you can find information about how to get help.
A Conversation with BEAT on Eating Disorders
Things to bear in mind
Self-harm and self-injury are any forms of hurting oneself on purpose. Usually, when people self-harm, they are trying to release painful emotions.
Self-harm isn’t just cutting. It may include self-injury such as scratching, burning, hitting oneself, pulling out hair, etc. Self-harm is anything and everything someone can do to purposely hurt their body. If you are self-harming, please talk to someone and seek help.
Eating disorders are a common form of self-harm. They are serious but treatable mental and physical illnesses that can affect people of all genders, ages, races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, body shapes and weights. It is important to know that help and treatment for these problems is available and it’s important to seek help as soon as you can.
If you, or someone you know, is in crisis and need to talk, are looking for support or need information please use these free resources. They can help.
Find additional support materials through these resources
- Asking for help when you need it
- How to respond if someone tells you they’re thinking about suicide
- How to talk to someone who’s lost a loved one to suicide
- Learn the risk factors and warning signs of suicide
- What parents should know about teens and suicide
- After an attempt
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This website does not provide a complete list of organisations or resources who can offer help for these issues. It’s for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice or treatment. Netflix does not endorse any of the organisations or health professionals listed. If you have an immediate need [or are in a crisis situation], please call your local emergency number, crisis hotline or visit the nearest hospital A&E or medical centre.
Self harm is the act of intentionally injuring yourself in order to find relief from emotional or psychological distress. Self harm is a deliberate, controlled act and can take the form of cutting, burning, or preventing wounds from healing naturally. While self harm exists in the general population (1-4% of people engage in self harm), it is becoming increasingly common in adolescents. In recent years self harm has been addressed via social media. While some of this publicity has been to bring awareness to the behaviour in order to offer mental health support, there is also content available that glorifies self harm or even instructs adolescents on how to perform this behaviour. With incidence as high as 1 in 4 teens engaging in self harm, chances are that teens have a friend who engages in self harm, and they may be curious or feel pressure to experiment with this behaviour themselves. Today we’re sharing some information about self harm, exploring how art therapy can help, and offering ideas for how parents or friends can offer support to someone who is engaging in self harm.
Why do people self harm?
In 2009, 30 000 adolescents from six different countries were given a survey at school where they were asked about deliberate self harm. Those who engaged in self harm were asked to describe the reason for their most recent episode of self harm. Their responses were divided into two categories – a cry of pain (inward directed) or a cry for help (externally directed towards others). The most common reason given by both boys and girls was “I wanted to get relief from a terrible state of mind.” The researchers observed that “Although the study shows that there is also a cry for help, this type of motive seems to be less prominent than the cry of pain, which is inconsistent with the popular notion that adolescents’ deliberate self-harm is ‘only’ a cry for help.” (Scoliers et al., 2009, p.606). This research suggests that self harm is about coping with emotions as well as expressing a need for support.
Art therapist Diana Milia talks about self harm as “a self destructive act with positive intentions toward self-healing and symptom relief.” Self harm is not usually based on suicidal intent (people who self harm are not trying to die); instead it’s about non-verbally expressing and coping with strong emotions that feel overwhelming. The act of self harm is usually triggered by a thought or an overwhelming emotional state, and it does provide temporary relief from emotional distress. Self harm relieves tension, releases anger, helps individuals to regain a sense of control, relieves a state of feeling emotionally dead, brings calm feelings, and restores a sense of order. However, many people feel guilty or shameful after engaging in self harm, so this can become a negative cycle that reinforces the behaviour.
At Art as Therapy, we see connections between the process in art therapy and the act of self harm. The art making process allows clients to non-verbally express and cope with intense emotions that feel overwhelming. Through the therapeutic relationship and reflection on artwork, clients can learn how to talk about intense emotions and can build tools for more adaptive communication. Here are some ways in which the art therapy process can mirror the act of self harm:
- art is symbolic and there are preparations or rituals involved (similar to self-harm)
- the client maintains control when creating artwork and choosing what to say about it
- the client literally and purposefully “makes marks” during the art process
- art products are tangible proof that the client is real and was there (like scars)
- the experience of making art is physical and tactile, especially when using clay or paint
- in creation there is the inherent possibility of destruction (ripping, cutting, crushing, smashing art products)
Because of these similarities, art therapy can be a great fit for individuals who are engaging in self harm and would benefit from some emotional support. Art therapy may help clients to a) increase tolerance for emotional distress and to develop alternative coping strategies, and b) learn to appropriately identify, express, and talk about emotions. Through the art therapy process, clients may learn distraction, relaxation, and stress management techniques to use when feeling triggered or distressed.
Beyond receiving support from a mental health professional such as an art therapist, individuals who self harm need love and support from their friends and family. Discovering that your loved one is engaging in self harm can be an upsetting experience, and it can be challenging to know how to respond. When asked what helpful assistance they wished others would provide, individuals who engaged in self harm commented on the need to feel loved, validated and accepted. They wanted others to verbalize and demonstrate acceptance, and specified that they especially wanted this support from their parents.
Here are some ideas for how you can show support to someone who self harms:
- Try to stay calm. Do not instate negative consequences or give threats or ultimatums (do not take away cutting tools or check for new scars). Because self harm is a coping strategy, individuals need to learn new strategies before they can eliminate self harm.
- Acknowledge the severity of their distress. Validate their emotion, even if you disagree with their behaviour.
- Listen to them talk about feelings but withhold judgement. Here are some possible questions that you might ask, and helpful things to say:
- How do you feel before you self-injure?
- How do you feel after you self-injure?
- How does self-injury help you to feel better?
- What is it like for you to talk with me about hurting yourself?
- Is there anything that is really stressing you out right now that I can help you with?
- If you don’t wish to talk to me about this now, I understand. I just want you to know that I am here for you when you decide you are ready to talk.
- Let them know that you are available and able to help if needed (but make limits clear).
- Try suggesting some alternatives to self harm – (email us we can send you the document), it has lots of creative ideas for distraction techniques and alternative ways to cope with feelings.
- Verbalize and demonstrate love and acceptance.
If your new acquaintance does any of these things, you should probably stay away.
You know how damaging it can be to have a toxic person in your workplace, or in your life. Unfortunately, most of them don’t come with warning labels the way toxic chemicals do. Many of them seem very likable at first. After all, most toxic people are good manipulators, so getting you to like them is part of their toolkit.
Is there a way to tell early on–ideally the first time you meet–that someone will turn out to be a toxic person? While there’s no foolproof method to tell right away if a new friend or colleague will be a drag on your energy, mood, or productivity, there are some early warning signs many toxic people display. If you encounter any of these when meeting someone for the first time–and especially if you encounter several of them–proceed with caution:
1. They badmouth someone else.
I once went for an interview at a company where the CEO told me about the deficiencies he saw in his second-in-command. That seemed like a big red flag to me, and I was right–I tried working there on a part-time basis for a couple of months but quickly left when the CEO proved much too toxic to work with. If someone you meet criticizes or complains about a third party who isn’t present, that may be a sign that you’re dealing with a toxic person–and when you’re not around they’ll say bad stuff about you. (The exception is when the comment makes sense in context, for instance if someone criticizes the Democratic candidate when you’re at a Republican fundraiser.)
2. They complain.
Most toxic people are championship-level complainers. Listening to them gripe can be bad for your mood, your productivity, and maybe even your health. Plus, if you’re like many people, you’re in danger of getting sucked in, trying to fix whatever they’re unhappy about. That’s almost always a losing proposition. So if someone starts off your acquaintance with a lot of complaining, think hard about whether you want that person and their many dissatisfactions in your life.
3. They ask for special treatment.
You know who I mean. The person who expects you to accept their submission even though it’s a day or two past the deadline. The person who absolutely must get into your event for free even though everyone else is paying admission. If someone asks you for a special favor when you’ve only just met, just imagine what they’ll ask for once they get to know you better.
4. They boast.
If you’re meeting someone for a (formal or informal) job interview, it’s natural for them to talk about their accomplishments. In other situations, someone who bends your ear for five minutes about how successful their last project was or how high their revenue is trying too hard to influence your thinking. Be wary.
5. They put you on the defensive.
Sometimes this happens so subtly that you can’t even say for sure how it was done. But you suddenly feel the need to explain to this person you’ve barely met why you made the choices you did, or why your organization isn’t so bad after all. Someone who makes you feel like you have to constantly defend yourself, your company, or your beliefs is going to be exhausting to spend time with.
6. They make you work to please them.
This happens to me all the time, and I bet it happens to you, too. Someone tells you they just can’t find the app they need for what they want to do. Or they’ve put together a proposal, but it just isn’t quite right. Or all their hopes ride on their child getting into that one special school. Before you know it, you’re trying to write an app for them, or seeking out inside tips to improve their proposal, or calling all your friends to see if anyone you know happens to know someone on the admissions committee for the school they want.
Stop right there. Anyone who has you tying yourself in knots to help them when you’ve only just met will only manipulate you into greater and greater efforts as time goes on. And you already know they’re extremely difficult to please.
7. They don’t show interest in your concerns.
You’ve just had a 10-minute conversation with a new acquaintance and you already know where they grew up, that they got divorced six months ago, and that they just landed a promotion. Meantime, they don’t even know where you work or what you do for a living.
Someone who expects you to be interested in every aspect of their life but has zero curiosity about yours is highly likely to be a toxic person. Be on your guard.
8. They don’t make you feel good.
Do a gut check. How do you feel after talking with this person? How would you feel at the prospect of, say, spending an hour with them over lunch or coffee? If spending time with someone makes you tense or unhappy, there’s a decent chance that this is a toxic person. So if you feel negative, it’s worth trying to figure out why. Maybe this is someone from a different culture, or you feel intimidated by their intelligence or success, in which case you should probably try to overcome your resistance. But it could also be that this is a toxic person, and you should follow your instincts when they tell you to walk away.
“No one knows about me cutting. I’m so scared. I don’t want anyone to know because I know my mom will scream at me and yell at me and I don’t want to make her cry because then I get upset and I cut. I don’t cut too deep but I cut deep enough that there’s blood dripping down my legs.” –from Reddit’s self-harm online forum
This anonymous post from an online forum is disturbing, but it illustrates the intense feelings associated with non-suicidal self-injury. The behavior puts teens at risk for suicide and is being reported at an alarming rate, according to a recent study by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Self-injury, which includes cutting, punching, burning, and other practices intended to hurt oneself, is often used to regulate overwhelming emotions, experts say.
Up to 25 percent of U.S. teens have experimented with self-harm at least once—more than any other age group.
Between 2009 and 2015, emergency room reports of self-harm rose 18.8 percent among 10- to 14-year-old girls and 7.2 percent among girls 15 to 19, the CDC report found. (Boys’ rates of self-harm, which are lower, remained stable over the same period.)
The sharp increase in reported self-harm cases could be a measure of teens’ reactions to an increasingly stressful world, says Michael Hollander, Ph.D., the author of Helping Teens Who Cut and the director of training and consultation for 3East, a residential therapy program for adolescents and young adults at McLean Hospital in Massachusetts.
Self-injury feels like an effective coping mechanism for some people. However, the practice is a clear indicator, says Hollander, that “your teen isn’t managing something in their lives right now.”
While parents should be concerned about the spike in reported cases, it’s unclear whether the number of teens who self-injure is actually rising, or if the stigma surrounding the behavior has decreased and more teens and families are reporting to emergency rooms for help, says Janis Whitlock, director of the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery and the author of the forthcoming Healing Self-Injury: A Compassionate Guide for Parents and Other Loved Ones.
But since rates for suicide, anxiety, and depression are all on the rise among teens, “it’s not too much of a stretch to assume that the same is true with non-suicidal self-injury,” says Whitlock.
Most self-injury begins between the ages of 11 and 15 and continues intermittently for five years or so, according to Whitlock. Parents should be aware that media depictions and social media chatter about the behavior can’t cause teens to self-injure. But it can trigger or help spread the behavior among vulnerable teens, Whitlock says.
Teens who self-injure intend to physically hurt themselves, but typically are trying to relieve negative emotions rather than end their lives.
Self-harm, however, “increases the likelihood that you will be suicidal at some point in your lifetime,” Hollander says. “The theory is that you’re kind of behaviorally rehearsing harming yourself, so you’re approximating suicidal behavior.” The bottom line? Parents should take self-harm seriously and get help for their teen.
3 Tips to Help Parents Navigate Self-Injury:
1. Focus on health
Discuss healthy ways to handle strong emotions and use self-harm as one example of an unhealthy method. However, don’t focus on self-harm alone. “Once adults shine a spotlight on any particular thing, it becomes an object of curiosity. So we don’t really want to do that,” Whitlock advises.
2. Be alert to signs of self harm
Self-harm may be a sign of depression, anxiety, or other mental illness, but not every teen with mental illness will self-harm. If your teen frequently dresses in long sleeves during hot weather, avoids bathing suits, or wears multiple wrist bands, they may be trying to hide marks on their body, Whitlock says.
3. Stay calm
If you think your teen is self-injuring, take an approach that is balanced and non-judgmental but direct. Screaming: “This is crazy! What the hell’s the matter with you?” won’t get you very far, says Hollander.
Instead, Whitlock suggests using gentle, compassionate language. For example: “I love you. I’m here for you no matter what. I want to understand and am capable of understanding what’s happening. I’m not going to be grossed out, and I’m not going to judge you. And I’m not going to punish you. I’m concerned that this might be happening and here’s why.”
Mary Helen Berg is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in Newsweek, The Los Angeles Times, Scary Mommy, and many other publications.
⚠️ Content Warning: This video contains content related to Self Harm. Please take the appropriate steps to protect your mental health + expectations. In the US you can text the Crisis Text Line 24/7 at 741-741.
Do you want to talk to your parents about your self-harm but you just don’t know how?
Well, if you’re ready to make a change, this video post will help you.
If you prefer to watch the video, click this image here:
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It can be really scary to think about talking to your parents about your self-harm because you just don’t know how they could react.
Here are some ways that you can prepare for this conversation:
Get clear on what it is that you want to say
Check-in with yourself- are you in a good, healthy, emotional state to have the conversation? Are they?
You don’t wanna go into a conversation like this hot or scared
Be as calm as you reasonably can be. If you need to take some time and meditate or take some deep breaths or use any of your coping strategies, now is the time to do it before you talk to them.
Use the words “self-harm”. Don’t be afraid of using those words. When you are vague and unclear about what it is that you’re talking about, you actually leave it up to your parents’ imagination to assume and fill in the blanks. That can lead to actually worse scenarios.
Help guide them in the right direction of what’s actually happening for you. Don’t leave it to their imaginations. Remember: Your parents likely love and care about you a lot. They have probably already been considering the worst-case scenarios since the time you were born (or that you entered into their lives).
We tend to fear the unknown— so once it’s all out in the open, it makes it much easier to talk about with them as things progress.
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Life reporter at HuffPost UK
Warning: it can be upsetting and potentially triggering to read information about self-harm. If you feel vulnerable, you might not want to read the information below.
Self-harm might seem like an issue exclusively impacting younger people, but actually it affects people of all ages – whether they are sons, daughters, parents or even grandparents.
People who self-harm will hurt themselves as a way of dealing with difficult feelings, painful memories or overwhelming situations and experiences. In some cases, people might self-harm because they intend to die. According to the NHS, more than half of people who die by suicide have a history of self-harm.
But how can you tell if a loved one is harming themselves? Laura Peters, head of advice and information at Rethink Mental Illness, says there are a number of signs to look out for. Not just in terms of physical wounds but also behavioural changes.
“The clearest indication to look out for are the physical signs,” she explains.
“Self-harming is a physical act that leaves some form of wound on the person. Traditionally this can be a cut on the wrist, but there is no guarantee that this will be the manner by which they hurt themselves.”
She advises to look out for a series of physical injuries in a similar location on the body. “One scratch or bruise might not equate to self-harm, but consistent injuries in the same spots can be a warning sign,” she says.
It’s worth noting that if a person doesn’t want other people to know they are self-harming, it’s likely they’ll hurt themselves in a hard-to-see area.
“If there are no obvious signs but you’re still worried, there are a number of things that you can look out for,” Peters explains. “The most obvious is a change in behaviour that typically come with being ill.”
People With Self-Harm Scars On How Hot Weather Impacts Their Body Confidence
The Rise In Self-Harm Hospitalisations Should Be A Wake-Up Call For Us All
How To Help A Friend Who Is Self-Harming
For example, the person might become reserved or even evasive when you ask how they are. “This can be difficult to accept, as you might want to help them. It is vital that you remain patient, and make sure not to push them,” she urges.
If you suspect a loved one is self-harming, it’s also good to keep an eye on what they’re wearing. “Long sleeves, high collars and a reluctance to expose bare skin can all signify self-harm when considered alongside other clues,” Peters adds.
There aren’t any generational differences in the signs of self-harm, according to spokespeople from both Rethink Mental Illness and Mind. However it’s important to be aware that older people do self-harm.
“Cuts or bruises should not be discounted as someone just getting clumsy in their old age,” Peters says.
“When an older person self-harms, the risk of further self-harm and suicide is substantially greater than that of a younger person, so any hint of self-harming should be taken very seriously.”
Stephen Buckley, head of information for Mind, says people who are worried about a loved one should let them know you are there for them whenever they are ready to talk about how they feel – even if it’s just a text or an email.
He adds: “Listening to them non-judgementally will help them open up and will give you the opportunity to them to seek support from their local GP or support groups.”
Useful websites and helplines:
If you are worried about self-harm or someone else’s intent to harm others, please decide whether the situation needs immediate attention or if there is time to discuss your concern with others. In either situation, please do not keep it to yourself.
Get Immediate Assistance
Always seek professional emergency assistance if a person’s life seems in immediate danger. If someone is acting violently, call 911 now and give the operator as much information as you are able. Your friend’s life and possibly others’ will depend on it.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides immediate assistance to both those in danger of hurting themselves and concerned others. (800) 273-8255 (TALK).
If you are not trained in risk assessment—and most of us are not—do not take on an unstable or volatile situation on your own.
If there is time to learn the basics of how to spot signs of self-injury or the intent to self-harm, there are excellent resources available.
Help someone else from the National Suicide Prevention Hotline tells you what you need to know.
Mental health first aid: What you learn lays out guidelines that seem practical and sound. We cannot directly endorse the course, however, simply because we have not observed it.
Know the warning signs from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has helpful information and many classes and support groups available.
Tips to help a friend who may be self-injuring from the Jed Foundation, this self-harm fact sheet from NAMI, and self-injury/cutting from the Mayo Clinic are all good sources to learn about the signs, possible causes, and treatment for self-harming behaviors.