I’m a member on a few discussion boards relating to depression and self harm and I feel as though there are SO many misunderstandings and people jumping to conclusions and labelling self harmers in terms they should not be referred to. I’m not referring to this forum so much because out of the posts I see in this forum, I have hardly ever seen anyone post any offensive posts or given any blatantly unhelpful advice (which I will refer to later in this post) other than the trolls that circulate every once in a while. Being a self harmer, I feel as I can relate to a self harmer and their feelings (to an extent, I’m not in their shoes so I won’t know entirely) so I thought I’d write a guide, personal experiences and also ways in which you can help and support those around you who self harm. I think I should point out that in this thread I guess I will mainly use cutting as the main example of self harm as that’s the method of self harm I normally use, but you can use this for any other type of self harm. What is self harm? Self harm/Self Injury (SH/SI) is when an individual causes harm or inflicts injuries to their body deliberately. The most common forms of self harm include cutting yourself, burning, or hitting yourself or other objects to cause pain to yourself, pulling out hair and overdosing on tablets. It’s a common misunderstanding that self harmers are suicidal and this is not always the case!! Self harm is not always related to suicidal feelings but there are some self harmers who self harm as a way to stop themselves killing themselves but there’s other self harmers who self harm to NOT kill themselves and are not related to killing themselves, infact, you’ll find a lot of self harmers use first aid on their injuries. Why do people self harm? There are many reasons why people self harm and not everyone do it for the same reason. I will outline the main reasons that I self harm but note that not everyone self harms for these reasons, some may have one, a few or maybe even totally different reasons. 1)Seeing the blood, feeling the pain makes me feel alive. 2)As a punishment, I feel a lot of self hatred towards myself, hate the person I am and I feel as though I need to punish this person. 3)Distraction. I find that when I am stressed, the urges to self harm are much higher than they would normally be and when I self harm, the focus of the attention is diverted, if only for a short period of time. 4)Control. Self harm gives a sense of control. Something you can control. It feels as if it is the only thing you can control. Everything is happening around you, in your mind that you can’t stop but by hurting yourself, you gain a sense control. Emotional pain is the control. Basically, the physical pain takes over the psychological pain. What are the signs of self harm? You’ll find that most self harmers try to cover up their scars and cuts/ burns etc... and don’t tell many (if any) people about it however there can be some signs your friend or relative is cutting but if your friend has any of these signs, it doesn’t automatically mean they are self harming. Wearing long sleeved tops, even in the hot weather. Refusal to go swimming or take part in any activity which would mean revealing parts of the body. Wearing sweatbands on their wrist(s) Always have excuses at hand for injuries (falling down stairs, slamming in door etc…) Notice razors, knifes or sharp objects going missing from your house, and also first aid equipment such as bandages being used up in a pretty fast amount of time. You find sharp objects in their belonging, such as in school bag. Signs of depression (crying, isolation, sleeping, maybe talking about suicide “would you miss me...” etc…) Okay so I think my friend/relative is self harming, what do I do? The last thing a self harmer wants is a lecture and saying that their behaviour is wrong, they are crazy, they need to stop and they need to stop NOW. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as that and a self harmer needs support, not criticism. Self harm is an addiction and those who self harm can find it extremely difficult to stop, especially if they have been self harming for a long period of time. Self harm turns into a control mechanism, if advanced; it’s something a self harmer turns to automatically. Speaking from my point of view, after cutting for such a long time, whenever I get mad, upset, frustrated, angry, anxious, worried.. the first thing that comes into my head is to harm myself and the urges to do so get so strong because you rely on it… you rely on cutting (or any other type of self harm) to make you feel better so it’s not a case of telling someone to give up, and they give up right away. It can take a self harmer a while to draw themselves out of it, and even if they do, the urges can still be there and relapses and slipping up are not uncommon and to top it all, a self harmer must want to stop. So what do you do if you think/know your friend/relative is self harming? Approach them about the issue, calmly and non-judgemental. Say to them that you have noticed they seem unhappy and you’re there whenever they want to talk and you could also suggest they seek professional help and there’s nothing wrong with getting outside help but due to the secrecy and sometimes shame the self harmer has, they may feel uncomfortable with the issue. You have to remember that you are not a professional, you are not a trained psychologist/therapist so the amount of help and support you can give is limited but the amount of support you CAN give them will probably be appreciated by your friend. Don’t feel as if you are the sole person responsible for stopping your friend/relative self harming because this is not healthy for either of you. Offer your friend your help and support and be there for when they want a chat, they may feel uncomfortable about the issue at first but if they feel they can trust you, they may talk and talking can really help a person and the saying “a problem shared is a problem halved” can come into play, to an extent. In my experience by talking, it helps a lot and I do recommend it. A self harmer normally feels low about themselves. They may feel self hatred, feel unloved, unwanted, uncared for and it’s times like this when a friendly word can help. Try telling them how much you care for them and finding out they self harm, you don’t feel negatively about them. You may find the issue difficult to approach and here are some questions you can ask your friend. How long have you been hurting yourself? How do you hurt yourself? Why do you hurt yourself? How often? How bad are your injuries? (Don’t push them to show you them) Do you want to stop self harming? How can I help? Please remember that some self harmers find it difficult to open up so if they don’t feel like talking don’t force them. The same goes for asking them to show you their injuries. As a self harmer myself I tend to clam up whenever anyone I speak to ask about self harm, it’s something I would rather keep to myself and not let anyone in real life know about. However, even though you may want to help your friend you have to look after yourself too. It’s not fair for you to go through this alone because your health is important as well. Take a break, or talk to people about how you are feeling because if you don’t know much about self harm (or even if you do), you may feel upset, shocked or maybe angry that someone you love and care for is hurting themselves. If you feel like it, you can post in this forum or feel free to PM me anytime. I’m a self harmer and would like to stop, but I can’t. Yes, you can! There’s living proof out there, and on this forum which PROVES it is possible to stop but by no means is it always easy. As mentioned already, self harming is difficult to stop and if you slip up, it is very easy to feel like giving up, you can’t stop self harming, it’s a waste of time. I’ve felt like that myself many a time but you can stop, it takes a lot of willpower. If you manage to go a few days, weeks, months without self harming then you slip up, it’s normal to feel like you’ve let yourself down but instead, use that time period as a goal and see if you can beat it. I also recommend you look in the following threads: Scar Reduction Techniques to avoid self harm in a crisis Complete First Aid Guide Be sure to keep yourself as safe as possible when you are hurting yourself. I know you may want to cut to see the blood but be sure to clean up as soon as you can so it doesn’t get infected. Anyway… I just typed all this out because I’m tired of seeing so many people jump to wrong conclusions about self harmers and not only that, I hope I’ve helped some people understand what self injury is about. If anyone wants to chat anytime about anything I’ve mentioned in this thread or if you want some more info then please feel free to PM me.