If you’re supporting someone who self-harms it’s important that you take care of your own feelings and emotions. You’re not going to be able to help others if you’re not in a good place yourself.
It’s also important to be realistic. Understand that there are some things you will be able to help them with, and some things you’re not able to do anything about.
As tempting as it can be to want to fix all of their problems, sometimes they need to be able to help themselves. Draw up some clear boundaries, for both your sakes, about what you can and can’t do to help them. Remember: you should be helping them to transition from self-harm to self-care, not to be a full time solution to their problems. For example, maybe you set up times when they can call you up, and help them to find other helplines or places to talk to, outside of those hours.
You might feel guilty (especially if it’s your child!) but it’s important not to blame yourself. If they have specifically expressed that you’re a cause for their self-harming, then don’t dwell on it; focus on how you can move forward and change to make things easier for them.
Don’t try and guilt trip them, but sometimes people who self-harm don’t realise the impact that self-harming can have on others around them, so letting them know how it’s affecting you, in a sensitive way, is a chance to be sure everyone feels comfortable with how the recovery process goes.
And be honest with yourself about how you’re feeling! Supporting someone who self-harms can feel like quite a huge task, so don’t feel like you need to be 100% in control all the time.
It’s perfectly natural to feel overwhelmed, hurt, sad, guilty, frightened, unsure, or powerless.
If it gets a bit much for you, it’s ok for you to seek help for yourself as well. Just be sure to be sensitive to the other person’s privacy and wishes too (for example don’t go telling their friends about it unless they already know).
If you need to talk to someone confidentially about how you’re feeling, some suggestions for help-lines are:
0808 800 2222
0808 808 4994
Text 07725 909090
Parent helpline: 0808 802 5544
Infoline: 0300 123 3393
Or take a look at some other places who are There to Talk.
Don’t promise you’ll keep secrets. For example, if you’re genuinely concerned that they might be suicidal, then you’ll need to let someone else know, in order to keep them safe. Let the person you’re supporting know if you do contact an outside body like this.
You might benefit from trying out a creative coping technique to help you stay on top of how you’re feeling. Check out a few suggestions of Things to Try.