For some people self-harm can be a way of coping with problems.
They see it as a way of expressing feelings they can’t seem to put into words. It distracts the person from the source of their emotional pain, and gives a sense of relief. Afterwards, many people who self harm feel better—at least for a while. But then the painful feelings return, and the urge to hurt oneself creeps up again.
For those who have not found a positive way to cope with such feelings, self-harm can be a way of expressing and dealing with deep distress and emotional pain.
“As counterintuitive as it may sound to those on the outside, hurting yourself makes you feel better.” – Helpguide.org.
The problem is that the relief which comes from self-harming doesn’t last very long.
The initial sense of relief does not in itself solve the inherent cause for these negative feelings.
In fact self harm and cutting will only add to the emotional distress being felt in the long term.
People who self-harm tend to keep this act a secret from others and this in itself can lead to feelings of shame and guilt.
So when these feelings are added to the already underlying problem, the situation only becomes worse.
A deepening reluctance to talk to family and loved ones can develop and this is, once again, counter intuitive to how the situation needs to be addressed.
People who self-harm and try to keep it a secret from their friends and family often injure themselves in places that can be hidden easily by clothing.
Some signs that might indicate someone is self-harming If you suspect that a friend or relative is self-harming, look out for any of the following signs:
- Unexplained cuts, bruises or cigarette burns, usually on their wrists, arms, thighs and chest
- Keeping themselves fully covered at all times, even in hot weather
- Signs of depression such as low mood, tearfulness or a lack of motivation or interest in anything
- Changes in eating habits or being secretive about eating, and any unusual weight loss or weight gain
- Signs of low self-esteem, such as blaming themselves for any problems or thinking they are not good enough for something
- Frequent “accidents” – someone who self-harms may claim to be clumsy or have many mishaps, in order to explain away injuries.
- Signs they have been pulling out their hair
- Signs of alcohol or drug misuse
If you feel a loved one or friend is self-harming, remember that they might be feeling a deep sense of shame or guilt, or may feel confused and worried by their own behaviour. It’s important to approach them with care and understanding.
Tips for responding to self-harm
- Remember not to panic! Someone who self-harms might have been doing this for a long time even though you have not been aware of it
- Try to stay calm and respond with care and concern
- Listen to what the person is saying and be aware that they are in distress and need support
- If someone has ingested substances they need medical attention immediately and they might also need medical attention for other wounds or injuries
- If there is an immediate injury requiring medical attention it would be very helpful if you could accompany the person to A&E and offer them support while they are being treated.
It is important for everyone to remember that anyone seeking help is entitled to the same level of respect, sympathy and care regardless of how their injuries have been caused.
Are you a self-harmer and thinking of confiding in someone close?
If you have been self harming and feel now is the time to talk to someone about it, then it might help to consider some of the following points.
- Keep a focus on the feelings or situations that lead to you self-harming rather than the act itself. This can help the person you’re talking to, to under stand more clearly your thoughts and perspective. It also lets them know you’re ready to talk about this and would like their support.
- Communicate these feelings in the most comfortable way for you. Expressing these feelings might be difficult for you and make you nervous, so find a way of expressing them that works. This might be simply to write a letter or email, but it is important to follow this up and speak face to face with the person you have chosen.
- Understand that the person you speak to might need time to process everything you say to them. As hard as it is for you to open up and express everything that is happening for you, it may also be difficult to hear for the person you talk to—especially if it’s a family member or close friend.
- Remember, when you tell someone you have been hurting yourself, they may react initially with shock or fear or even anger, but all these reactions stem from a concern for you. So give the person time to respond positively and to support you.
Provided by “ISPCC” Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children www.ispcc.ie
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Here are some helpful support services and organisation’s available for people to contact in relation to self harm concerns. These include:
Pieta House Pieta house offers free, specialist therapeutic support for those who self-injure or who are at risk of suicide. Tel: 01 6010000 www.pieta.ie
Childline Childline is a free and confidential support for children and young people by telephone, text and online. Open 24 hours a day 365 days a year. Tel: 1800 666 666 Text “talk” to 50101 www.childline.ie
Samaritans Samaritans Ireland provides 24 hour emotional support to anyone struggling to cope. Tel: 1850 60 90 60
Grow A mental health organization which helps people who have or are suffering from mental health problems Tel:1890 474 474 www.grow.ie
Parentline A confidential helpline for parents open Monday – Thursday 10am to 9.30pm and Friday 10am to 4.30pm Tel: 1890 927 277 www.parentline.ie
Yourmentalhealth.ie Yourmentalhealth.ie aims to improve awareness and understanding of mental health and well-being in Ireland. www.yourmentalhealth.ie