How do I support someone who self-harms?

Supporting someone who self-harms can be challenging, but it’s important to approach the situation with compassion, non-judgment, and a willingness to listen. Here are some steps you can take to support someone who self-harms:

  1. Educate Yourself: Learn about self-harm, its causes, and its effects. Understand that self-harming behaviours are often coping mechanisms for dealing with emotional pain or distress. Educate yourself about available resources and treatment options, such as therapy, counselling, or support groups.
  2. Be Non-Judgmental: Avoid criticising or shaming the person for self-harming. Remember that self-harm is often a coping mechanism, and negative reactions may push the person further away from seeking help. Be empathetic and provide a safe, non-judgmental space for the person to express their feelings and experiences.
  3. Listen and Validate: Encourage open communication and actively listen to the person without interrupting or minimising their feelings. Validate their emotions and experiences, letting them know that their feelings are valid and that they are not alone. Avoid offering advice or solutions unless asked for.
  4. Offer Support: Be available to provide support, whether it’s emotional support, helping the person find professional help, or assisting with practical tasks. Let the person know that you are there for them and willing to support them in their journey towards recovery.
  5. Encourage Professional Help: Encourage the person to seek professional help, such as therapy or counselling. Offer to help them find a therapist or counsellor if needed, and reassure them that seeking help is not a sign of weakness but a courageous step towards healing.
  6. Respect Privacy and Boundaries: Respect the person’s privacy and boundaries. Avoid pressuring them to share more than they are comfortable with and do not share their personal information with others without their consent. Respect their choices and autonomy in their recovery process.
  7. Be Patient: Recovery from self-harm takes time and effort. Be patient with the person and avoid pushing them to stop self-harming or expecting instant results. Encourage progress, celebrate small victories, and offer continued support throughout their journey.
  8. Be Prepared for Crisis Situations: Self-harming behaviors can sometimes escalate to a crisis situation. Be prepared and know the appropriate steps to take in case of an emergency, such as contacting a mental health professional or crisis hotline, or seeking medical attention if the injuries are severe.
  9. Remember, supporting someone who self-harms can be emotionally taxing, so make sure to prioritise your own self-care as well. Encourage the person to seek professional help and avoid taking on the role of a therapist or counsellor yourself. It’s important to provide support while respecting the person’s autonomy and choices in their recovery process.

Published by Victoria Warwick-Jones

Mother, dog mother, beauty junkie, counsellor, aspiring gardener.

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