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14th Sept: How to support friends who self harm. Watch

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    How to support friends who self harm.

    On The Surgery this week, Gemma and Dr Radha talk about harmful behaviours and how to help people who self harm or put themselves in danger.

    What are the myths about self harming? How do you talk to someone about it? Where can you go for help?

    Join Gemma and Dr Radha on Wednesday 14th September at 9pm and share your feelings on what not to say to people who self harm, in the forum below.

    Please note: You can post on this forum anonymously.
    • #1

    How do you deal with the constant feeling like you should be self-harming?

    As someone who suffers a lot with mental health problems, I feel like I'm almost being pressured into self harm by doctors/support personal who seem shocked that someone so low isn't self harming. It feels like self harm and depression are synonymous, and it's expected to want to self harm as a coping mechanism.
    • #2

    As someone who self-harmed as a teenager, by cutting, I was often met with the attitude and response that I was attention-seeking. I believed this, and felt guilty about my behaviour.

    I see now that actually, I self harmed as an outlet for anger, especially anger towards myself. I was hit a lot as a child and I fought a lot with my sibling, so I think it was natural that the outlet I found for this anger was a violent one.

    I also did it as a cry for help. I was attention seeking, because I wanted someone to realise that I was suffering, and I wasn't mature enough to express these feelings in any other way. Neither are many teenagers.

    Self harming and cutting is sometimes glamorised amongst teenagers, and I don't think they can be blamed for absorbing this and then using self harm as a way of seeking (legitimate, much needed) attention.

    Basically, if a friend is self-harming, try not to be frustrated with them. Try not to accuse them of attention seeking or treat their behaviour with suspicion. If they are attention seeking, ask yourself why. Offer emotional support and ask if they want to talk about how they are feeling. Try to help them work out alternative outlets for their feelings.

    I'm 24 now and I haven't self-harmed since I was about 16. I have slightly visible scars which I am embarrassed about and I still worry that people may notice them and profile me, as an attention seeker, 'emo', etc, despite me not being like that at all.
    • #3

    Common myths are that people who do are doing it because they are attention seeking and that they want to kill themselves. This isn't always necessarily true and more than often it is the people that you least expect that have been doing it and hiding it for so long. This also makes it harder to tell people as more often than not people will assume things without asking and there are also stereotypes of people who self harm, which again makes it harder to ask for help.
    In terms of getting help the best thing to do is tell someone you can really trust such as family or go an see a councillor or GP and keep asking for help and talking about it the longer you leave it the worse it gets. From my own personal experience I would suggest taking someone you trust with you if you are going to a GP as I went by myself and felt very scared and judged also appointments can be short so you might not get to say everything you need to.

    Some of the worst things to say to people who self harm are that they're being overdramatic or that they are doing it for attention, this will probably make them hide away more. Saying nothing and not asking how they are is often just as bad as it can make them feel like no one cares enough and that they are forgotten but at the same time don't force them to tell you everything at first just offer enough support until they are ready to do so.

    All forms of self harm are serious and anyone doing it should be able to get help without feeling judged.

    Not all people do it for attention. I only found out about my friend self-harming after her parents found out and she was referred to a psychiatrist. She'd self harm on her upper arms and legs, places that wouldn't be seen day-to-day. So my advice would not be to put all the focus on the self harm. Don't make a big issue of it. The issue is what's causing them to hurt themselves. Focus your attention on that and how it can possibly be helped, and you'll do a lot more good than if you just said how they have plenty of friends, why do they feel like they don't have enough attention, etc.

    I started self harming when I was about 13 and nobody really found out about it when I was around 16. My friends didn't really say much about it apart from one, who was an ex self harmer who knew what I was going through and she was really supportive for it. When my parents found out about it they called me attention seeking and manipulative. Their way wasn't helpful at all and my depression got worse as well as the self harming. I remember I saw an interview from Princess Diana when she spoke about her self harming and she said something like, "You have so much pain inside you that you try and hurt yourself on the outside because you want help, but it's the wrong help you're asking for. And everyone ends up calling it attention seeking or crying wolf." which I think sums up the mentality of most self harmers out there.

    Even though I don't really do it anymore (when I get triggered I crunch ice cubes and it distracts me), I defo agree with the above poster who says that self harm is glamourised so much nowadays and there are all sorts of insensitive jokes on it even though it's one of those topics which is just too serious to joke about. It's not something that's taught too much in schools even though it should be considering the mental health among British young people is actually worse than it's made out to be.

    I remember when a girl in my old school came out as a self harmer, my school kind of just shunned her. When she was in lessons, some teachers would make snide remarks and take objects like scissors away, she was constantly bullied by other people in our year and it just got so bad to the point that she ended up leaving school and failing her GCSEs because her self esteem hit rock bottom.

    If schools maybe taught it more and made kids aware from a younger age (since I didn't learn about it in lessons until I was in Year 11), then maybe some self harmers wouldn't be called attention seekers and be more willing to open up.
    • #4

    Hi i'm someone who self harms a lot and although i have the courage to tell people that i have depression i never tell people about my self harm. It is because of this idea that it is something that someone does to gain attention. what they dont understand is that it allows someone like me to release pain ( emotional pain) in a physical way. Yes it is not ideal. But for someone who has depression they feel as if they have no control over their lives until they pick up the razor and use it to self harm.

    at the moment i'm seeing a psychologist but i always avoid the topic. One way i found helped to deal with self harm is talking to my close friends when everything gets a bit too much. Luckily i have really good friends who understand why i self harm. If you feel as if you could not approach your friend about it you should tell your teacher. this is what i did before i told my friend. My teacher had kept it confidential as i was over the age of 16 and he told me he would only need to tell a teacher if i had attempted or was having suicidal thoughts. That was the case for me when i was contemplating death and i had told him because i thought it was getting out of control. but even if that does happen the teachers will not tell anyone else especially your parents without your consent. Also if you are under 18 you can be admitted to CAHMS which is the children mental health service. You should go to the GP and tell them about the self harm. dont worry they will NEVER ask to see your scars.

    Another myth about self harm is that you are trying to kill yourself. generally people who self harm they do not intend to kill themselves but rather self inflict pain.
    • #5

    surprised we are allowed to discuss this tbh but whatevs
    can i just say that a misconception is that only like those troubled 'emo' types do it and when they do it is for attention.
    well i cant talk for the whole world but im not exactly who u would suspect to do that tbh although tbf to myself i havent acc slashed myself for a while mainly bc the guilt after bc of all these misconceptions etc and the whole attention seeking thing outweighs any relief derived from it.
    if it was for attention why would i hide it inrl and write this on anon lol like the other posters in this thread.
    it isnt for attention it is bc when everything feels so **** and u need a release or ur so pent up u just want to punch urself into oblivion so u do it alone in ur room generally in the middle of the night lol.
    another thing is this is probably controversial lol but why try to force people to stop, if that is their only release and they arent in danger of killing themselves why try to take that away.
    idk tbh, trying to find better ways in my own time but sometimes meh idk

    that is all lol and this probably breaks like 1000 rules on TSR lol
    • #5

    oh and another thing.
    Self harm itself isnt the issue it is what is causing the issue that needs to be addressed.
    better coping ways can be thought about afterwards

    So as a young person who has self harmed, it is not easy. you have the stereotypical oh attention seeker, oh crazy/looney, oh daddy problems.

    but i dont see myself in those stereotypical problem, when you have soo much happening in the head alone and you have no ears to hear or shoulder to cry on. And there you are in your heal all alone and all you want to do is to direct the pain elsewhere and actually feel something.

    for me I've felt pain that has made me numb and i just wanted to feel something and what better way than to self inflict.

    how about not being able to express your true self the one that nobody sees because there is no one to see you
    or how about the fact that no one seemed to recognize the serious problems i was facing apart from the self harming. no one saw and no one knew and i was too far gone to stand up and speak out. but for me i found a support group and i have come a long way

    so what i think friends should do is if not understand at first, try and listen because that's what some of us need at times.

    so label us, it only hurts us further

    don't force us to stop, we'll only hide behind your back and continue

    if you know you cant help us, you want dont break our confidence and tell someone without at least trying. (that is if things get too serious) that will comepletely shut us down

    (Original post by BBC Radio 1)
    How to support friends who self harm.

    On The Surgery this week, Gemma and Dr Radha talk about harmful behaviours and how to help people who self harm or put themselves in danger.

    What are the myths about self harming? How do you talk to someone about it? Where can you go for help?

    Join Gemma and Dr Radha on Wednesday 14th September at 9pm and share your feelings on what not to say to people who self harm, in the forum below.

    Please note: You can post on this forum anonymously.
    Myths about self harming:

    - People only do it to seek attention
    This is 100% untrue. I agree that to an extent, self-harm has been glamourised. I've seen posts of people romanticising their scars and trying to display it as beautiful. However, I would not agree that all self-harmers are attention seeking. I wonder how many people don't even know their friend or family member self harms because of how well they hide it. How is this seeking attention? I struggled with this myself a few years back, and hid it for almost two years before my parents found out, as well as one friend who I hadn't realised also self-harmed at the time. Most people hide the fact that they've hurt themselves because they are ashamed (although they shouldn't be!), people rarely actively hurt themselves to get 'attention'. If anything people fear attention.

    - People who self-harm are 'emo' or 'listen to rock music'
    Seems like a silly one but this really is a big myth. If you ask people, mainly teenagers, they'll tell you people who self-harm are usually what they call 'emo'. They are a type of group who listen to rock or heavy metal, and are called emo short for emotional. The stereotypes are that an 'emo' will always wear black, love metal music, and hate life/are depressed. So people associate self-harm with this 'group' of people. It's not true once again. Anybody can feel emotional pain inside and inflict pain to give them relief. It happens to mothers, fathers, models, actresses... even children.

    - People who self-harm are suicidal/trying to kill themselves
    I see a lot of unsuspecting parents or friends who, when they find out their friend or family member has purposely hurt themselves, they jump to the conclusion that they were trying to kill themself or are actively suicidal. Sometimes, due to having depression or other mental illness- this might be the case. But usually, it is the opposite. They want to match how they feel inside by causing pain on the outside- it's about trying to stay alive not trying to die. People often don't get the help they need because their friends or family believe they were trying to do more than just hurt themselves, but it's rarely the case.

    - You can't get addicted to self harm, it's easy to break the habit
    Again untrue. It might seem completely absurd to somebody who has never done it. And it is, really- pain hurts right? Why the hell would we want to actually cause ourselves pain?! Well, every self harmer has their reasons for starting, but it certainly can become addictive, even habitual. You might be disgusted with yourself for starting but find you cannot stop. Your mind is taken off whatever is going through your head- you focus on that instead. The feeling is addictive. There's actual science behind it too. Pain releases endorphins, which means, sometimes, when your cause yourself pain, there is a slight raise in these endorphins, which can give you a slight 'high', (Of course, it's unhealthy, and exercise is the best way to boost your endorphins without causing yourself permanent damage!) But yeah, if you'd have told me 4 or 5 years ago that pain could be addictive, i'd say you were crazy! Until it happened to me.

    - If you don't wound yourself a lot, it's not that bad
    Self harm can come in many ways. One myth is that self harm is cutting. It can actually be done a number of ways- some people burn themselves, some pull out their hair, some people might even bash their heads off things- self harm is causing yourself pain on purpose. It's different for everyone. Then there is the myth that the deeper or the more painful the wound- the worse it is. Self- harm should be taken seriously no matter how it 'looks'. If somebody tells you they hurt themselves, even if it's what you consider 'minimal', you should always take it seriously because their is an emotional problem- a reason why they do it that needs to be addressed.

    What not to say to someone who is self harming
    "Stop attention seeking"
    "It's not THAT bad"
    "People are worse off than you, don't be so selfish!"
    "Why did you try to kill yourself?"
    "That's disgusting"
    "Why are you so emo"
    "Are you trying to get sympathy?"
    "I don't really care"

    What to say to somebody who is self harming
    "Maybe you should speak to somebody, would you like me to come with you?"
    "You're not alone, I'm proud of you for telling me"
    "If you need to talk about it, I'm here for you"
    "I won't ask you to stop, but think about it. Talk to me next time"

    How you can talk to someone about it
    The first thing you need to do is acknowledge it's unhealthy, and that you need to get help. It's so hard to talk about self-harm because it's almost impossible to bring it up. My friend only found out by accident, and then told me about her struggle with the same issue. So, maybe I didn't specifically tell somebody, but she did. How did she tell somebody? She told me she noticed something and that it was okay, that she was dealing with the same issue. We spoke online, where it wasn't awkward for our first conversation. If you have a trusted friend, that's where you can start. Online if it's easier. Some people aren't close to their parents, which is okay- a GP will listen, they'll have heard it many times. They may refer you to a counselor where you can get to the bottom of your pain- both emotional and then physical. And then work on it.
    • #6

    I did cut, for a few months when things were really bad. I was pretty suicidal at that point, and I felt like it was better for me to do that and take out my frustrations in a way that would keep me here, alive, while also giving me some sort of outlet. I was told a lot of the really bad things that were happening at that point in time were all my fault, or I was partly to blame, and the people around me made sure I knew this. So in a sense I was using it as a method to punish myself. I was too scared to tell anyone close to me, and I couldn't go to a professional, so to this day no one knows. I've been almost a year clean, would be a year and a half if it wasn't for another rough bump in my life, but the scars are still there. They've faded quite a bit though.

    IMO, the helplines are useless. I've tried all sorts of online help, online counselling, online forums, because I couldn't go in person or else people will find out. It was the same every single time, "how does that make you feel?" and "it sounds like you're having a tough time at the moment" and before you know it your allocated time slot is up and you're told to come back next time if you still feel upset. I actually spoke to many and did many little 'sessions' before I even started self harming, but it obviously didn't help.

    I couldn't go to anyone at school, because I knew it would somehow get to my parents as I was in 6th form and teachers have a duty of care. What I recommend is going to the doctor's and talking to them. I almost went quite a few times but I always chickened out. I wish I went. They could even help with the actual issue at hand and since it's confidential there isn't that risk of your parents finding out. Make a list of things you want to say, practise saying them and then when you walk in it should roll off your tongue, and you'll have the notes to give in case the words won't come out.

    In the end what helped me stop is the calming down of the bad situation in my life, and watching people's YouTube videos on it. So where possible do try to eliminate the stress and situations in your life that are contributing to your self harm, I just spent all day every day on the internet trying to somehow escape into the screen until it all was over, and try to find out about other people's experiences with self harm so that you feel more encouraged to seek help and feel less alone.
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