Support for a self-harmer
A friend of mine has started self-harming but won't talk to anyone about it. All our friends know and want to help but he just won't open up. I'm worried he could commit suicide. Please help me.
Self-harm is often a way for people to cope with and get through difficult emotions or situations and it can be a means of communicating what they cannot put into words or even into thoughts. It may also be a way of releasing painful emotions such as rage, sadness, emptiness, guilt or fear. Since it's generally a private coping mechanism rather than attention seeking, some people feel ashamed and unable to admit to anyone what they are doing. It is important to remember, people who self-harm are not usually trying to commit suicide but it's understandable you feel concerned about this.
It sounds like you care deeply for your friend and are trying to be as supportive as you can. It must be upsetting for you, knowing he is harming himself and fearing he could commit suicide. It can be hard to know what to do in this sort of situation, especially because talking to someone out of concern for their mental health can seem really difficult. It might help you to prepare by finding out more about how to support someone who's self-harming.
In addition there are organisations which specialise in confidential support in this area. You might like to consider encouraging your friend to visit the National Self-Harm Network (NSHN) website. NSHN provide support to people who self-harm and their website features a range of helpful resources and includes a message board. Alternatively, CALM provide help and support specifically for young men who are experiencing emotional distress, including issues of self-harm. Their helpline number is 0800 58 58 58. Both of these organisations provide support to friends and family of people who are self harming, so you might find them helpful too.
Although your friend may not feel comfortable doing this, it might also be worth encouraging him to make an appointment to see his doctor (GP). There may be certain underlying issues surrounding your friend's behaviour, such as anxiety or depression. Maybe you could offer to go with him as a means of support.
It might be worth explaining to your friend he may benefit from a talking therapy, such as counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to help him identify what might be contributing to his self-harming behaviour and to look at ways of working on how he feels. His GP should be able to refer him onto an appropriate counselling service or he could try contacting Youth Access on if he wished to seek this form of support independently.
It might also be worth encouraging him to share his feelings with other people too. Perhaps he has other friends or a close family member he feels he could trust. But it could be that he is not ready to really open up about his feelings. By being his friend and giving him your time and attention, you are letting him know that you are there for him.
But it's also worth considering the impact this situation is having on you. You or your friend may like to keep in mind the option of talking in confidence and without judgement to a volunteer at SANELINE on 0845 767 8000. The helpline is available to anyone experiencing or concerned about a mental health issue so you would both be able to talk through the feelings and worries you have.
Question answered by SANE