Help someone who self-harms...
If you have discovered a friend or loved is self-harming, do not panic. We are here to assist you. Remember to be kind, compassionate and patient.
Address any immediate medical concerns straight away by contacting the emergency services on 999. Below is a comprehensive guide on everything you need to know about helping someone through this tough time.
What is self harm ?
Self-harm is when someone inflicts physical harm on themselves, often without anyone else
Self-harm is a behaviour that is often the expression of the person’s emotional distress.
Some examples are cutting, burning, biting or hitting, pulling out hair or scratching and picking at sores on skin. Self-harm also includes forms of behaviour with some level of suicide intent such as overdoses.
Self-harm is not necessarily a suicide attempt and engaging in
self-harm may not mean that someone wants to die.
Most commonly, self-harm is a way of coping with difficult or
However, people who self-harm are statistically at a greater risk of going on to take their own lives. If the emotional problems associated with self-harm escalate, and are not dealt with, the behaviour is likely to continue and become increasingly concerning.
If you learn that a young person is self-harming: — Don't panic.
Talk about the self-harm; pretending it doesn't exist will not make it go away and not talking about it often reinforces the shame and secrecy associated with it
If they don't want to talk straight away, let them know you are there to talk whenever they want
Let them know how you feel; many young people who self-harm have trouble expressing their thoughts and feelings, so don't withhold yours. See the person, not the injuries; self-harm is a symptom of deeper underlying issues.
Encourage them to cry - crying is a healthy and normal way to express sadness or frustration.
Suggest that your loved one use a distraction technique when they get the urge to self-harm. This involves distracting themselves until they feel the urge has passed.
Distraction can involve:
Talking therapy can be an essential part of overcoming it.
Talk to your loved one about what kind of support they might consider. This can help to get them to attend appointments. Parents may be asked to take part in the therapy process.
It's also important to be realistic. Don't expect the behaviour to stop immediately. It may take a long time to replace the self-harm with a healthier coping strategy. Talking with you may be the first step.
Things that are unhelpful
Telling someone not to self-harm is both ineffective and condescending.
Most people who self-harm would stop if they could. Remember, it can be a coping mechanism they use to stay alive.
Understanding why people self-harm:
Everyone is different, but some common reasons why people may self-harm are to:
Self-harm is linked to anxiety and depression. These mental health conditions can affect people of any age.
Express difficult or hidden feelings:
It's not uncommon to feel numb or empty as a result of overwhelming feelings. Self-harm may provide a temporary sense of feeling again or a way to express negative emotions. It can turn invisible thoughts or feelings into something visible.
People may also be trying to:
Types of self-harm
There are many different ways people can intentionally harm themselves, such as:
It's often up to close family and friends to notice when somebody is self-harming. They should approach the subject with care and understanding.
It can also include behaviours that have some level of suicide intent, such as overdoses.
Signs of self-harm:
If you think a friend or relative is self-harming, look out for signs, including:
Help us to help them – contact Talk To Tom on (0818) 303061 or launch a Whats App chat now here.
Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE.
Registered Charity: 20101183 © Talk To Tom 2017