Most of us know that self-harm is a condition when people deliberately hurt their bodies, often in secret.

Not everyone understand why someone would self-harm. But often people it is the way of coping with strong emotional pain. It is a way to find relief from intense and distressing feelings, to stop difficult memories, to supress guilt, shame, loneliness. And while they get some control of their emotions, it is only short term, so they self-harm again.

This creates a cycle that is difficult to break.

I am sometimes asked if it is possible to help a self-harming friend. Here are some tips to help you, if you find yourself in a situation when you need to support someone else who self-harms.

1. Listen

When we really listen, we gain a deep understanding of what is really happening to the speaker and why they feel the way they do. Don’t judge. Let them know you are there for them.

2. Don’t pressure them into sharing what is going on.

If they are not ready to tell you, pressurising them will only distance them from you.

3. Help them to make a safety plan.

Ask them questions:

- What are the thoughts that trigger you?

- What makes it worth living?

- What can you do for yourself? This may involve doing something they enjoy (gardening, walking etc)

- Help them to make a list of people they can talk when they are triggered.

- Make a list of services that can help (Samaritans, Shout) and give it to them

- Help them to make their own safety box. These usually include meaningful items. In addition, adding a puzzle, reminder of a playlist that helps, computer games that can distract will be helpful. Generally, items should be soothing senses (Photos, books, music, favourite snack, perfume, massage oil, makeup etc

4. Take care of yourself

Learning that someone you care about is self-harming can be very difficult, overwhelming and distressing. To be able to take care of them, you need to look after yourself. Your self-care becomes very important. You cannot pour our of empty cup. Make sure you refill it with soothing, calming and nourishing activities to be in a state to help others. If it is too overwhelming, find support by contacting your friends, family or even a professional
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