Self-harm involves an action where an individual hurts themselves in response to a physically, emotionally, or mentally overwhelming situation/experience or as a way of dealing with intense emotions or feelings.
Approximately 1 in 10 people will self-harm in their lifetime, with only around 50% of people seeking help from friends and family. At Harmless, we believe it is important to educate ourselves to know what self-harm is and how to react in a situation where someone is reaching out to you.
A simple way to understand an act of self-harm is through the analogy of a stubbed toe. Imagine you are having a terrible day, whether this may be at work or relating to relationships and these struggles are constantly on your mind. It is all you can think about. Then, you stub your toe. Resulting in, all your focus suddenly turns to the pain you are feeling, and you forget about the things on your mind for a small period. It is a release of those thoughts. This is very similar to acts of self-harm and it is the easiest way to explain the process.
At a time when someone may disclose to you they are self-harming; honest and open communication is key. This individual is not looking for you to be the next encyclopaedia or clinical psychologist. They want someone to provide a safe space for them to talk or just be. Additionally, this person needs to be validated for their feelings and know that you believe these experiences and emotions are real and true. It’s important to still see them as a whole person and not just a “self-harmer”; enforcing labels onto someone can have a huge negative impact.
If you are struggling with what to say – empathy is key. Show them you are acknowledging their feelings. As well as this, tell them how brave they are for speaking out and sharing this with you. It could make a world of difference.
At Harmless we are here for those struggling with self-harming. Let us help you, you are not alone.