If Someone You Know is Self-Harming
So how do you spot someone you think may be self-harming? There are obvious warning signs but remember, self-harm can be secretive and hidden. Anyone with low self-esteem, emotional difficulties or family, work or school problems could be at risk, particularly young adults.
However, sometimes you can spot unexplained injuries including cuts and burns, or unusual behavior like wearing long pants and sleeves in warm weather.
If you talk to someone you suspect is self-harming, be considerate and caring. Never ask someone to stop. Imagine clinging to a rope – the only lifeline you have – then someone cuts you down. You are lost, you have nothing and your control has gone. The panic is stronger, more consuming and the person is at risk of doing something even more harmful.
Ask the person if they are ok. Stay calm, encourage them to get help, signpost them to helpful references (see recommendations below) and reassure them they will be ok. In more serious cases, emergency treatment may be necessary. Don’t panic or make them feel guilty as this will exacerbate any distress.
If You Self-Harm
If you self-harm you are not alone, and it will be ok. Talk to those you trust or health professionals. I told my psychiatrist and he taught me the safe self-harming technique of pulling an elastic band on my wrist. It hurt and blocked my pain but it didn’t cause injury.
It worked for me whilst I underwent therapy for my eating disorder and bipolar management and over time my self-harm was replaced with other things. I wrote diaries, poetry, started exercising but ultimately started to rebuild my self-esteem and manage my ‘new’ life. Over time I didn’t need to self-harm and I haven’t for years.
Let’s talk about self-harm to help ourselves and others but let us be mindful. This is a very complex and emotive topic.
For more information about self-harm or for help in a crisis situation, see:
- 1-800-334-HELP – 24-hour crisis hotline in the U.S.A
- 1-800-273-TALK – 24-hour crisis hotline in the U.S.A
- 01708 765200 - SupportLine in the U.K.
- 866 246 9224 - Self-harm hotline in Canada