Helpful & Unhelpful Reactions

Posted on 23 September 2015

It’s hard to know how to react when someone tells you they’re self-harming. Here’s a few ways that you could respond, to help them:

  • “I want to help you”
  • “I believe your pain when you tell me; you don’t need to hurt yourself to show it”
  • “I understand that you want to hurt yourself, but why not try something else instead?”
  • Be nice, sympathetic, offer a hug (if acceptable!)
  • Help them to find support projects, phone numbers, if they give permission to do so
  • Make time to listen to them, let them know “you’re not wasting my time”
  • Ask how you can help – what THEY want you to do for them
  • Acknowledge that self-harm is serving a need for that person
  • Respect their choice to carry on harming, however hard that is. They can’t be made to stop, and it won’t happen until they’re ready.
  • Focus on the issues behind the harming, not the harming itself
  • Seek further help when necessary, but be honest about it – let them know what you’re doing
  • Have an overnight bag of stuff ready, in case they should ever end up in A&E

Here’s a few UNhelpful (though probably natural) responses to try and avoid:

  • Laughing at it, or calling it stupid
  • Shouting
  • “You’re wasting my time”
  • “Get over it”
  • Blaming yourself
  • “Don’t you know you’re hurting ME?”
  • Forcing someone to talk about it, or show it
  • “You don’t WANT to self-harm”
  • Removing all sharp/dangerous objects
  • “You’re ruining your body”
  • Forcing them to make promises
  • Giving up on them
  • “You’re not helping yourself”
  • “Smile”