Telling Someone That You Self-Harm

Posted on 31 August 2015

When you’re ready to talk, it can be far more helpful than hurting yourself, not to mention a huge relief to get it off your chest. But starting that first conversation can be pretty daunting. Here’s some tips on confiding in someone.

There’s no set way to do this

Self-harm is such a personal thing, and everyone’s different, so there are no hard and fast ways to actually start talking about what you’re going through. But in general, try to think of what outcome you want from this conversation. If you’ve got an idea of why you’re self-harming, then you can identify what you and the other person can do about it. If you’re not sure why, then just figuring out the cause could be the outcome.

Prepare yourself

It might help to try practising what you’re going to say in front of a mirror – don’t worry about how it looks! Or write everything down before hand, so you’ve got a clear idea of what you want to say.

Decide who you want to talk to

Find someone who you trust, and who makes you feel accepted and supported. Maybe a friend, a teacher, or a relative. You might find that someone outside of your situation is easier to talk to. If it’s someone ‘professional’ like a school nurse/counsellor etc, they may have policies they have to follow – double check what they’ll do with the information you share.

“Could I grab you for a minute? I just want to have a chat.”

“Is it cool if we have a talk, somewhere private?”

“What’s the rule about information I tell you?”

Let them know why you’re telling them

Do you want them to help you? Do you just need to get it off your chest? Also let them know why you told them over anyone else.

“I need to talk to you about something I’m struggling with, because I want/need your help.”

“I just need to tell you something. You don’t have to do anything, I’d just appreciate it if you listen.”

“I want to tell you, because I don’t want to keep any secrets from you.”

“I know I can trust you, so I want to talk with you about what I’m going through”

Be prepared for their reaction

They may not know how best to react, but their reaction will be based on them caring about you, and wanting to help – even if it’s shock, anger or fear. Give them time to let it sink in, if they need it. Try not to rush through your story, and if they ask questions, answer them honestly, but you don’t have to answer unless you want to. Think ahead about what questions they might have, and prepare some answers to them.

“I know this is probably pretty hard to hear”

“It’s not your fault. This is just something that I’m struggling with”

Concentrate on your feelings more than the self-harm

Rather than going into detail about what you do, try to talk about the feelings and situations that have led you to it. This can help them to understand where you’re coming from a bit better, so both of you can figure out what to do next.

“This is just a reaction to something else”

“It’s how I’ve been coping with…”

“I’m really having a hard time right now. I’m struggling with…”

Do it in a way you feel comfortable

If you’re not ready to talk out loud just yet, try writing it down in an email or a letter. Don’t feel pressured into showing any injuries, or talking about anything you don’t want to. Make sure you’re in a place where you both feel comfortable and able to talk freely.

“I don’t want to talk about that right now”

“Can we talk about something else please?”

“I don’t want to show you, I just want you to understand”

Deal with your feelings afterwards

Telling someone for the first time can be a big deal, so make sure you find a way to express your feelings on how it went. If it went well, then let yourself feel good! Reward yourself. If it didn’t go as well as you’d hoped, then don’t be disheartened. They might just need some time. You might just need some time. You don’t need to blame yourself for someone else’s reaction. It may even mean you need to find someone else to talk to, and that’s ok. Don’t let a bad experience of talking to one person put you off getting the help you deserve.