• Share. Be Supported. Recover.

    We are a friendly, safe community supporting each other's mental health. We are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

How to help a person who self-harms!



Well-known member
Mar 26, 2016
North Carolina
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.
This helped me. I thought maybe self-hatred was the usual culprit, but it was only a guess. I want to be helpful to thos who struggle with this.
American Boy

American Boy

Mar 30, 2016
London UK
I used to have disturbing thoughts of self harm and still do from time to time and it can be really hard not to go through with it at times. I don't even understand why, or why I'd lose control over myself, it be the spare of the moment kinda thing and also very scary because I have no control like something dark is within me making me self harm and then I'd get psychotic thoughts that if I did something to myself then everything would be ok but I break away from it in the darkest moments of my self harm thoughts and what helps me is that I take the time to think about what could be causing this and I search deep inside myself on why, and even tho some times I don't know why but I try to make sense of it but I get there to avoid hurting myself, until the next time.
Last edited:

Georgia May

Self harm for me is an urge like an itch that has to be scratched. I don't, however, feel the urge in public, so there must be an element of subconscious control. If I'm in public I tend to just want to cry, and mostly I can stifle tears or turn away, so no one can see, but I also self harm out of boredom when I'm alone. So it's not just about emotional pain, although it helps that because I've noticed in stressful or painful moments when I can't cry I can get a headache and going away and self harming releases the tension and the headache. It's not dangerous self harming I engage in, but all the same it's obviously self harm. It's not attention seeking, only my ex and my parents know I do it, and even then my parents have only seen one element of it. Whether it's about self hatred I don't know. I don't care enough about what it might be doing to my body so possibly, but I do think it's more about stress or pain release. It feels good and apart from leaving unsightly marks I don't find anything wrong with it because it's not dangerous. It's not usually that painful either.

I think it's natural to react negatively to a person self harming. When you hear what people do to themselves and it's quite clearly dangerous I find that disturbing myself. But then I only really considered what I was doing self harming a couple of years ago and I've been doing it since I was about 11. It is habitual but it's also great for making myself feel better even though I am also ashamed of it.

Looking at the timing though for starting I can see that it might be related to psychological and verbal bullying I was experiencing at school so the chances are if someone is doing it there are external problems in their life that they need a coping mechanism for. And I suppose that's still a large part of its function for me but it's also boredom. If I'm on my own I don't really try to stop it, but external incentives have helped in the past. Mainly the prospect of someone seeing my body that I don't want to disgust. I need to find other incentives now since that scenario isn't likely now, which is a problem for me. But in general I do work better with incentives, I don't know about other people. The incentive has to come from within the person though, personally I hide it from anyone who could judge and some of it is covered up by clothes anyway. Telling a person to stop won't help and punishing them is counterproductive as it can be a form of self punishment itself and it just adds to stress.

I think the best cure for it is unconditional love which animals can provide, but if boredom is a factor I expect that wouldn't eradicate it, also self compassion which can be much harder to achieve. If I had succeeded in finding a way to do that I would share it, although I have had other suggestions from people on the forum. But also dealing with external triggers would help. Sometimes cutting out the harmful roots of the problem from your life is possible and obviously that will help. That isn't always the case though. Finding healthy coping mechanisms is the answer in that case. I think other people have made suggestions above as to what to do instead and they seem quite helpful. But if the person is like me and enjoys it replacing it might be more difficult and some of it is habitual so it's not that easy to do.
Last edited:
American Boy

American Boy

Mar 30, 2016
London UK
I've felt like self harming which is mainly stress relief for me but then there are those dark times where I feel like self mutilation and that shit is serious I've experienced it but luckily I've never harmed myself like that although I get attempts to and its scary but I'll fight it and remain strong.
Last edited by a moderator:


Well-known member
Forum Volunteer
Mar 9, 2012
Tigger and Willow's house UK
Sometimes I self harm due to self hatred, other times it's to take the emotional pain I'm feeling and turn it into physical pain.

I'm not advising others to do that, just saying that's why I self harm.


Apr 23, 2019
Help him emotionally say that he is not only you are with me. I think this is the best way to treat the person. Try never to leave them.
American Boy

American Boy

Mar 30, 2016
London UK
It all depends on the kinda self harm and triggers etc etc, from my experience is best not to be left alone and night times are the worst and distractions are always good along with positive thinking. In many cases a person going through self harm or urges to self harm can only help themselfs in the long run but during those times its important that they have somebody around them.


Well-known member
Jul 7, 2019
I SH when I lose controle and when im feeling alone. Like nobody caress...not proud of it
Similar threads
Thread starter Title Forum Replies Date
Racer i need some help ! Self Harm Forum 32
Dingo16 Help, I don't have a support system but I need support. Self Harm Forum 6
Racer really need help Self Harm Forum 33
K Please help me! Self Harm Forum 7
K Is there any help out there .... Self Harm Forum 19
R PLEASE HELP :( Self Harm Forum 2
D Need help Self Harm Forum 1
S Should I again offer my friend help to look for online therapy? Self Harm Forum 4
R Does life actually get better? What does it take to get actual help? Self Harm Forum 12
D Help: i talk to my self too much defending my abusers Self Harm Forum 3
F I don’t know how to ask for help Self Harm Forum 4
Takingmybrain Itl get me help Self Harm Forum 5
M Help please Self Harm Forum 36
L Help, I don’t understand Self Harm Forum 5
D Please get help for self harming as soon as you can. My story Self Harm Forum 3
Optrex Help/advice with urges Self Harm Forum 2
vanish How do I help my wife? Self Harm Forum 15
Amber1964 Please help me Self Harm Forum 3
K please help me what’s going on Self Harm Forum 2
S Help advice needed Self Harm Forum 2
J Help with toxic friendship Self Harm Forum 1
L Need help with my SH urges Self Harm Forum 8
Amber1964 I'm desperately need help Self Harm Forum 11
K Please help Self Harm Forum 8
M Help please. Self Harm Forum 7
Astral Charmer Not even sure how to ask for help. Self Harm Forum 1
A I need Help Self Harm Forum 3
M 11 yr old daughter self harming please help Self Harm Forum 3
M help Self Harm Forum 1
A In need of some friendly help Self Harm Forum 2
Zoelikesjam Im broken please help me. Self Harm Forum 3
M please please help Self Harm Forum 20
M First post....asking for help Self Harm Forum 1
H Help, what can I do to stop these self harm urges when I’m on my own? Self Harm Forum 2
I Help for a loved one who self harms Self Harm Forum 13
P Relapsed and need help Self Harm Forum 3
A Please help me Self Harm Forum 40
M Do I need help? Self Harm Forum 1
A Parenting a teen help advice Self Harm Forum 3
J HELP Self Harm Forum 1
B I need help resisting the urge to self harm Self Harm Forum 12
J Struggling, new to this, need help Self Harm Forum 1
Y I need help! I need someone. Self Harm Forum 9
A Cant Help It. Self Harm Forum 3
D Help Self Harm Forum 5
W Should I phone the crisis team? HELP Self Harm Forum 15
W help me help my daughter please Self Harm Forum 9
W my friends think self harm is stupid, help? Self Harm Forum 21
K Sorry if I am doing this wrong, just looking for help. Self Harm Forum 6
R help! Could do with a quick chat Self Harm Forum 3

Similar threads