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    Thread: How to help a person who self-harms!

    1. #1
      Founding Member addy's Avatar
      Join Date
      Dec 2007
      Caldicot, Wales

      Thumbs up How to help a person who self-harms!

      Hurting yourself is NOT about attention!
      Hurting yourself is NOT about wanting to kill yourself!
      Hurting yourself is NOT about bloody EMO!!
      Hurting yourself is NOT about proving how cool you are!!
      Hurting yourself is NOT about having a weakness of personality!
      Hurting yourself is NOT about self-hate!!
      Hurting yourself IS a symptom of a larger problem!
      Hurting yourself IS a symptom of a larger problem which the person may not even be aware of!!
      Hurting yourself IS AN ADDICTION!!
      Pure and simple.

      Like any form of addiction - gambling, drugs, smoking, chocolate, porn - you simply have to do it again, only with every new time you do it, it has to be bigger in order for you to receive the same “hit”.

      This is where people who aren’t even suicidal are killing themselves by accident.

      I’m not saying that everyone who self harms isn’t suicidal, nor am I saying that anything which I have written above about what self harm is/is not is set in stone. People self-inflict for all sorts of reasons, but from my experiences not only with my own self harm but also talking with people, who do the same thing, they aren’t suicidal or weak (in fact, some of the people who self-inflict that I know personally are the strongest most beautiful souls I’ve ever met)

      I started self harming in 1993 whilst I was at school. I was able to get this under control by mid-1999 whilst working at the video shop. Throughout my time backpacking I was not having any urges to do so and thought I had it under control.

      I did relapse however during the last four months of 2000; whilst trying to cope with Rachel’s death, restarting college and after my first suicide attempt [remember that word for later; after.]

      From December 2000 to December 2006 I only self harmed on two occasions. It wasn’t until my breakdown in March 2007 that I relapsed and once more began doing so. I was able to get it under control again between May 2007 and July 2007, but suffered another major relapse, and have self-inflicted on/off since.

      The last time I self-inflicted was two days after my last suicide attempt, October 2007 [and note the use of the after again].

      My trick with self-harming was to attack parts of my body which I could cover by throwing on some form of clothing, beit a jumper on the middle of a summer’s day or a long sleeve T-shirt on a cooler one. Always with injuries which wouldn’t leave any long-long term scars.

      I would always use similar methods and every now and then, when the mood struck, would become creative and resort to more unusual methods.

      I was never doing it because of wanting to kill myself, or hating myself, or wanting to prove how tough and resilient I was. Nor was I doing it for attention - if attention was all I was after I would release a wombat into a crowded shopping precinct or streak Brunswick Street on a Sunday afternoon. It was always about this PAIN-PLEASURE balance I mentioned in an earlier post.

      (And no, I’m not referring to this pain-pleasure as in a sadomasochistic way - ‘cause if that was the case whenever I felt like self-inflicting I would just go visit a dominatrix and have some sexy woman whip me rather than doing it myself.)

      I’m referring to the coping mechanisms people have when their internal pain becomes too great.

      Remember I said earlier to note the use of the word after in relation to my suicide attempts. The reason I self-inflicted after those attempts was as a way to control the inner conflict, pain and turmoil my mind was going through as a result of them. It was a way to stop me from trying again! It wasn’t because I still wanted to die; it was because I wanted to live!

      The other times I self harmed was as a way to feel something. Life had become numb, frustrating, painful, empty and meaningless. The over-riding feeling of loneliness and emptiness is a powerful influence, because we live to feel, and if we are feeling nothing then what is the point of being alive? Again I wasn’t self-inflicting because I wanted to die, it was because I wanted to feel something: to feel like I was alive!

      Hence, why, before my third suicide attempt I did self harm - as a means to grab some physical feeling. something to convince myself not to go through with what my brain was telling me to do. However, on this instance, no matter what pain I caused myself, it didn’t work.

      Overcoming the urge to self-inflict has been one of the hardest things I have had to deal with through this tumultuous time suffering from depression.

      As I said above, IT IS AN ADDICTION. Pure and simple!

      And anyone who has tried giving up smoking or gambling or Lindt or badgers will know that overcoming addiction is fucking hard! Not only because of the pure level of addiction, but also because it means having to face up to whatever problem is feeding that addiction in the first place. Whatever buried pain is making us smoke, drink or gamble needs to be faced up to. In essence, we need to become whip-wielding dominatrixies in order to tame and eventually command our problems.

      To overcome self-harm, like with every form of mental illness, we need to start talking about it in order to understand it, in order to help people overcome and control their addiction.

      So how can you help? If you know someone who self-harms here are a few pointers:

      - Whatever they’re doing DON”T take it personally. It isn’t about YOU!
      - Be available and LISTEN to them if they need to talk.
      - ACKNOWLEDGE their pain, it won’t make it go away, but it will make it more bearable.
      - DON’T avoid the subject or pretend it’s not there.
      - ASK THEM “I know you hurt yourself and I would like to understand it a little more, could you maybe explain why you do it? I’d be grateful if you could.”
      - DON’T confiscate their “tools” (because I guarantee you this will lose their trust and they will just get more creative anyway)
      - BELIEVE in them and BE HOPEFUL
      - DON’T push them
      - TAKE the initiative and distract them; take them to the cinema, rent a DVD, bake some chocolate brownies, go to a trivia night, go for a walk, have a playful pillow or water pistol fight, hell, if they’re your bf or gf, do a seductive strip tease and get them thinking about that cute butt of yours.
      - DO spontaneous acts of kindness
      - Be available, and willing, to LISTEN if they need to talk.
      - EDUCATE yourself - slip on your Willow hat and hop on the net for some research.
      - SUPPORT them physically; call them up and tell them you’re worried about them and invite them over for a game of scrabble or a blueberry muffin.
      - SUPPORT them emotionally; go to the Doctor/Psychologist with them.
      And please, please…whatever you do…
      - DO NOT TRY TO MAKE/ORDER THEM TO STOP!!!!!!!!! If you make them feel guilty, or punish them in any way, this will just add fuel to their addiction.
      And please, please, please, please…whatever you do…remember to…
      - Take TIME OUT and recuperate, caring/loving someone who suffers from any form of mental illness is exhausting and you need to look after yourself.

      Although it’s confronting, brutal and painful to think that people you care about are inflicting this pain on themselves remember that to them it is merely an addiction. A symptom of a larger, possibly unknown illness or condition, and they just need some help and support in order to get them through it.

      As we’ve all experienced from time to time: the over-riding feeling of loneliness and emptiness is a powerful influence. It’s time to stop judging people who self harm, and start understanding what they are feeling; it’s the only way to understand their pain.
      "Promise me you'll always remember:
      you're braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think,"

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    2. #2
      Local Forum Moderator Fedup's Avatar
      Join Date
      Dec 2007


      Thanks for that , made an intresting read.

      To be honest i never understood self harm at all , until i became unwell and spoke to others. Some others i know do self harm with cutting etc , they say its a release.

      I just pick and rip my nails ...........

      I do agree with you about not removing the " tools " , the way i see it is if they wanna do it they will in some form or another.

      I had this conversation once with a SW ............. she said oh no remove all temptation ............. i replied so basically you'd have nothing around as most household items with a little effort maybe imagination will hurt in some way .
      Worry looks around, sorry looks back, Faith looks up.

    3. #3
      Founding Member dunglen's Avatar
      Join Date
      Jan 2008


      triggers and ways to release pressure vary from person to person.

      last year i got hooked on a drug and was shocked at the lengths i was prepared to go to to get the high from that drug. taking more, leaving extra time in between and other things were done in an attempt to get the same high as the first when it was injected into my arm by a doctor.

      i feel that i was lucky that i identified that my behaviour was wrong but i still crave the high i got.
      this is not the same as self harming i know but just thought i would share it

    4. #4
      Founding Member yakuza's Avatar
      Join Date
      Mar 2008

      Default Self-harm

      I asked my former girlfriend why she used to self-harm and her answer was that it was the only way she could turn the mental pain into physical pain.

      you won't realise the distance you've walked
      until you take a look around and realize how far you've been

    5. #5


      I took part in a study on self-harm a couple of years ago. I was taped and they use my interview when they teach med students. There seems to be as many reasons why people self-harm as people who self-harm. We can all say this is why I do it but we all do it to control something.

    6. #6

      Default Self Harm post

      Thanks for the courage to post this topic.

      I have met a number of people over the last eight years in and out side of 12 Step Communities ( AA being first 12 Step Group in the 1930s ) where self harm is discussed.

      A number of women I have met appear to have one underlying cause for this addictive behaviour. It seems that they were sexually abused as children or young girls by a family member.


      Men too can fall into this category of being sexual abuse victims.

      A theme that is discussed in 12 Step Communities is that an addict is powerless to stop by themselves. They need the help...provided they are ready to ask for help...of someone who has "walked in their shoes" and found a way to stop.

      Anyhow. Thanks again for your post.

      Take care. Be well.


    7. #7


      There isn't one single underlying cause for self-harm - it's not good to imply that as it could worry people far more than it could help them.

      Also the 12 step program doesn't necessarily help self-harm even if it does have addictive qualities or qualities where it makes it difficult to stop. I certainly wouldn't use the 12 step program as a solution to self-harm - and yes I do have personal (and wide) experience of the 12 step program.

    8. #8

      Default Self Harm and 12 Step Programs

      The Moderator's point is one that I too share.

      There can be many different causes. A friend of mine was a compulsive nail biter...biting his nails until they bled. He at the time was in his early 50s and could not stop.

      He said he wanted to. He just had no willingness to STOP when anxiety or fear emerged.

      Now this self harm was not as serious as cutting. But its another form of the same destructive patterns.

      Turning to the subject of whether 12 Step Programs would help....I have to say that the evidence I have seen suggests that only 40% of the people at most who go to these programs stop their compulsive behaviour and stay stopped.

      In fact 40% might be a high number.

      Those of us who show up at 12 Step Programs have deep other mental and emotional problems. Depression, Social Anorexia, Bi Polar, the list is endless.

      Anyhow, thanks for your post.

      Take care. Be well.

    9. #9
      Join Date
      Jul 2009


      I totally agree that a person who self harms isn't weak.
      You have to be very strong to endure the pain that it
      causes emotionally and physically.
      I self harm on my legs,no-one knows and thats how i
      like it. people have said in the past thats its about
      attention but it only draws attention if people notice.
      I once spoke to a girl who cut he private areas,how
      is she looking for attention.
      I think awareness is getting better,more people are
      talking about it
      I wish i was a glow worm,
      a glow worm is never glum.
      Cause how can you be glum,
      when the sun shines out your bum.

    10. #10
      Active Member FastLaneC3's Avatar
      Join Date
      Jun 2009
      ON, Canada


      Only a few people who are close to me know about my self-harm and they have told me that my actions are causing them stress and even "ruining their lives"...honestly, telling me that doesn't help the current situation...

      Anybody who calls someone who self-harms weak, is weak. IF you can't support that person and you call yourself a friend, that's pretty weak.

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