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Point Of Change Counselling

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Supporting Self-Harmers

Self Harm

The world seems to be moving at an escalating pace. We are all trying to do more with less time. And somewhere along the way we have lost touch with quietness and self-reflection and space to simply breathe. Part of the price we pay is losing our resilience – that ability to get back on our feet when life has knocked us down (again). And this loss is translating into various misguided attempts to calm our inner selves. One of these tactics is self-harm.

When in emotional distress which they feel unable to resolve, more and more people are attempting to bring their psychological pain to a level which they can address – the physical. They try to replace their inner pain with an external pain which they feel more able to control. This may take the form of cutting, scratching, burning or pulling out hair.

Despite attempts to cover their injuries, such as by wearing concealing clothing, eventually somebody will notice. If you happen to be that person, it can be scary. You might be tempted to panic, but here are a few pointers to help you to help them, until they are ready, willing and able to seek professional support.

  • The best thing you can do is to listen.
  • Check in with how they’re feeling – don’t make assumptions (such as they are wanting to take their own lives) and don’t try to tell them they shouldn’t be feeling that way.
  • No matter what they share, don’t judge and don’t make them feel guilty about how their behaviour may be affecting you or others.
  • Enquire as to what might need (resources etc) to help them choose something other than self-harming, but respect that only they can know when they are ready to stop.
  • Keeping trust is vital. Don’t tell others about what is happening. If people ask, just tell them they should ask the person themselves.
  • Encourage them to seek professional resources.
  • Recognise the limits of what you can offer and don’t push past your comfort zone.
  • Encourage the person to pursue relaxing activities.
  • Don’t confuse self-harm with a desire to die. It is most often a way of making inner pain which feels overwhelming into a physical pain which the person feels they can manage.
  • Let them know you are willing to be there for them when they choose, but don’t push it.

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The information on this website is intended for general information only. For help, diagnosis, or treatment of specific issues, please see a mental health professional.