How friends and family can help
Friends and family often provide the most valuable support. People who
self-harm often feel very isolated and despairing. Knowing that others are
there for them and care about them, despite what they are doing to themselves,
can make all the difference.
- Make time to listen and to try and understand. This is one
of the most important things anyone can do. There is no need to find
solutions. Simply accept the person as they are, even though you find the
- Try not to criticize the person, attempt to control their
behavior or show just how anxious you are, however hard this may seem.
They are unlikely to be able to stop self-harming just like that and your
actions may drive them to self-harm in secret.
- Do not show anger or disgust if they show you evidence of
their self-harm. Behave in a caring way as you would with anyone who is
ill or injured.
- Find out all you can about self-harm and about sources of
help so that you can offer suggestions if appropriate.
- Ask if there is anything you can do to help.
- Try to support the person while they find their own ways
of coping. Encourage any positive steps they take, even if they are
continuing to self-harm.
- Try to persuade the person to see their GP for help. If
they are unwilling to do so, or the GP is not particularly helpful, you
might suggest contacting one of the help lines listed at the end of this
feature or contacting one on their behalf.
- Try to be very patient. Self-harm may take months or even
years to overcome.
Of course, if the person has seriously harmed themselves or their life is in
danger you must get help as soon as possible, even if they have asked you to
respect their secrecy. If you accompany someone to a hospital accident and
emergency department, try to make sure that the professionals involved take the
incident seriously. Some follow-up care should always be offered. If not, you
should ask about it.