Difficult to talk about, discrimination, isolation, guilt and shame all words associated with self-harm. Self-harm is largely misunderstood and it can be difficult to have a conversation free of judgement. Yet if you are to change, how do you do that in such a difficult and daunting environment?

There are many reasons behind self-harm, and they come from very strong visceral feelings of fear, guilt, anger, Self harm guiltyshame, helplessness, self-hatred, unbearable feelings and the like. Yet self-harm often translates these as a method to release intense emotional pressure. The client has a sense of control when their life is out of control or in chaos. Often the pain offers feelings when all the client feels is complete numbness to what is or has happened to them.  These are extreme ways to deal with these feelings and if you recognise yourself you should consider if there are alternatives such as laid out below.

Asking for help can be a frightening prospect. Given the way that society views self-harm and the way that you view yourself it can seem like an impossible hill to climb. Yet by choosing someone you trust you can start to make a difference.  Choose a time that there are unlikely to be any interruptions and think beforehand what you want to say. Do you want to talk about what is making you feel like self-harming. Do you want to talk about your injuries? Do you want to talk about how self-harming makes you feel. Also what would you like to happen next?

Help is likely to concentrate on looking at the reasons behind your self-harm and with practical steps like distraction to help you avoid harming. Could you avoid self-harming by going for a walk or calling a friend, listening to music, doing a craft, doing exercise or so forth. The combination of talking support and action can help clients to transform their outlook and their lives.

The other half of the equation is if someone opens up to you about their self-harm. This can be difficult to hear and may be a shock to you. You may feel that you don’t know what to do. Yet there is no need for panic.

Supporting someone requires patience, understanding and compassion. Since they have chosen you they already feel very comfortable with you. Be patient, listen and don’t make demands or give ultimatums. If you have to tell someone else be honest. Ask them what they need and do your best to help them. You don’t need to understand their self-harm you just need to accept them as a person. You also need to take care of yourself so think if you need to talk to someone about what you have heard and about your feelings. Check how you are coping.

Talking therapies including counselling can make a big difference when it comes to self-harm. There are many specialist agencies and support groups that can help. Taking time to talk through what is happening really can make the difference in revealing what is behind that self-harm.