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Council Services:

Self Harm

Finding that a person you care for is harming themselves can bring about a large range of thoughts and feelings:

  • Fear
  • Distress
  • Confusion
  • Worry
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Self blame

Your first reactions may be to remove the things that they may be using to harm themselves, be forceful in seeking help (i.e. urgently seeing a GP),apply pressure on them to talk, or be confrontational.

Self harm is primarily a coping strategy. Until the reasons behind the self harm have been explored taking away their ability to cope can be very detrimental.

A common fear is that a loved one is feeling suicidal. Whilst some individuals that self harm may have suicidal feelings, these are likely to originate from the issues behind the self harm rather than the self harm itself. Self harm, as a coping mechanism, is very often a way of avoiding suicide by releasing thoughts, feelings and emotions.

The reasons behind self harm will need to be addressed when the individual is ready and with the right care and support. Appropriate professional help may be needed. Whilst these reasons are being worked through the greatest support you can offer is a listening ear.

Distractions can be a powerful way of diverting feelings of self harm or finding other ways to express thoughts and feelings such as poetry, art, sport etc. Alternatives to self harm such as ice cubes on the skin, flicking elastic bands or drawing on the skin with red pens can also help.

For more information on Self Harm and distractions please go to National Self Harm Network

Getting help

Though self-harm is rarely a failed suicide attempt, it is a sign that the person doing it is coping with very difficult feelings, and probably needs some help. Self-injury can also lead to infection, permanent damage and even accidental death. It is therefore important to seek professional advice if your child is self-harming.

Start by going to see your GP. You can see the GP yourself if your child does not want to go. You should also ask your GP what to do if your child’s cuts get infected. Your GP may refer you and your child to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

You can also look for counselling for your child. You do not need to see the GP first for manyyouth counselling services.

If you are worried your child is putting their life at risk by self-harming, call 999 or take them to A&E if possible.

NHS advice on what to do in an emergency

Phone YoungMinds Parents’ Helpline for more information about how to help your child and see further info for organisations who can help support you and your child.

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Last updated: 8 August 2017

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