Do you know someone who hurts themselves? Are you at a loss as to how to try and do the right thing by them. Is it ok to talk about it, or should you stay quiet? Is it ok to ask to see cuts, burns or scars? How you react to someone's self injury (SI) is important, and how they react to your concern may well distress you, but each individual deals with their self harm in their own way. When you first find out that a loved one self injures you may well feel overwhelmed with conflicting emotions. Perhaps you are shocked that your loved one resorts to self harm, perhaps you are confused as to what it all means. You may experience guilt and anger, frustration and sadness. Depending on how you discovered your loved one relies on self harm as a coping mechanism, you may have little time to adapt to the news. Self injury is a very personal act, and there are many methods by which a person hurts themselves. It can be best to ignore the method of self harm to begin with, and focus on the emotional experience that you're loved one is going through. Self injury is a word which covers a lot of behaviours, all of which share one key element that being they are done with the conscious intention of harming ones self, but not as a way to commit suicide, rather, as a way to cope and survive. It can be frustrating supporting a loved one through self injury as they may not feel comfortable to talk about what drives them to harm themselves, yet they may also feel very lonely and isolated, feeling trapped in their emotions. It's important to look after your own emotional well being if you are supporting someone who uses self injury. Ultimatums and No-Harm Contracts It can be tempting to issue a demand or ultimatum, saying that they must stop hurting themselves this instance. It's tempting to believe that everything will be alright now that you know, and now that you're helping. Such ultimatums can only serve to drive your loved one further away from you, as you demonstrate that you don't understand and that you're not listening. A person who self injures may well feel isolated and alone; ultimatums only increase the feelings of isolation. At times, even professional caregivers such as Counsellors will insist that a person agrees to a 'No-Harm Contract'. This can only be counter-productive. As self injury is a coping mechanism it is not reasonable to take it away before providing a suitable replacement mechanism, or strategy for coping. If You're a Friend If you’re a friend of someone who is under 18 and self-injures, encourage them to speak to an adult about it. If you are at school there might be a nurse or counsellor, or a trusted teacher who you they could talk to. Or you might offer to be with them if they feel able to talk to their parents or another relative. Your friend might tell you that you must not tell anyone. However, if you’re concerned that they are in danger or might be suicidal, then you have to tell someone. Remind your friend that while telling people isn’t easy, in the long-run it will enable them to get the help they need in order to start feeling better. As a friend of someone who self-injures (of any age) be there to listen to them. Try to remain calm and patient even if you can’t understand why they would want to hurt themselves. Let your friend know that they are not alone, and encourage them to join the suicide forum or some place for finding support Above all, although you care about your friend you must remember to take care of yourself first. Unless you do this you will not be a help to anyone!