Someone who self-harms may be convinced they should be able to cope with their distress on their own, or that their self-harm isn’t a big enough problem to justify talking about. Reasons they may be reluctant to talk about it could include:
- Not wanting to feel like a burden
- Not trusting people will keep things confidential
- Fearing they will be judged or dismissed as an attention-seeker
- Not believing others will understand what they’re doing, and why
- Worrying that others will react negatively, or overreact
Many people struggle to reach out for help and would prefer that others around them pro-actively offer to support them.
Whilst having a conversation about self-harm can be difficult, it could make a big difference to their lives. To encourage open communication and be best placed to help, you can support them by:
- Listening and responding in a non-judgemental way
- Remaining calm
- Acknowledging the intensity of their distress
- Focusing on the feelings and emotions behind their self-harm
- Checking how you can best help them, and offering to help find them support
- Openly offering your time and making sure they understand that you are there to help them
We have some suggestions on how to help someone open up about their feelings, including tips on how to become a better listener.
There is additional guidance for parents and carers here from Oxford University, plus links to additional sources of support for people who are self-harming here.
If you're worried about someone you know, you can call us on us on 116 123, and we can get in touch with them.
Remember, it’s also important to take care of your own wellbeing when you’re supporting someone else emotionally. You can call us about anything that’s troubling you, not matter how large or small the issue feels.