Knowing someone who self harms

It can be very upsetting to be close to someone who self harms – but there are things you can do. The most important thing is to listen to them without judging them or being critical. This can be very hard if you are upset yourself, and perhaps angry – about what they are doing. Try to concentrate on them rather than your own feelings – although this can be hard.

Do:

  • Talk to them when they feel like self-harming. Try to understand their feelings, and then move the conversation onto other things.
  • Take some of the mystery out of self-harm by helping them find out about self-harm perhaps by showing them this website, or by using the internet or the local library.
  • Find out about getting help – maybe go with them to see someone, such as their GP.
  • Help them to think about their self-harm not as a shameful secret, but as a problem to be sorted out.

Don’t:

  • Try to be their therapist – therapy is complicated and you have enough to deal with as their friend, partner or relative.
  • Expect them to stop overnight – it’s difficult and takes time and effort.
  • React strongly, with anger, hurt, or upset – this is likely to make them feel worse. Talk honestly about the effect it has on you, but do this calmly and in a way that shows how much you care for them.
  • Struggle with them when they are about to self-harm – it’s better to walk away and to suggest they come and talk about it rather than do it.
  • Make them promise not to do it again.
  • Say that you won’t see them unless they stop self-harming.
  • Feel responsible for their self-harm or become the person who is supposed to stop them. You must get on with your own life as well. Make sure you talk to someone close to you, so you get some support.