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Convince them otherwise

Question:

Self harm is such a scary thing and I want to be able to help people dealing with it out by talking to them and convincing them otherwise, but I don’t want to sound insensitive which would make them feel worse. I don’t ever want to end up in the situation where a close friend would come looking for help from me for this stuff and I would be their last “life line” when I don’t even know what to say. Of course I could try to refer them to you guys, but if I’m not able to do that, as of now I’d be screwed and my friend may or may not end up more depressed than where we started and I just think that this is something that should be taught to us instead of the Male Reproductive system or something as equally irrelevant in life as that is. This has been bothering me and I want to know what to do in case this situation ever comes up as I make my way through high school and college.

Letter submitted by:

Answer:

Dear Gwen,

First of all I want to thank you for your letter.  I think you are right to be concerned about issues like this as they do seem to happen more often nowadays.  I think it is great that you are being proactive in to learn how to help if the situation ever arises.

If you are faced with a situation where a friend or family member is self-harming or cutting there are a couple things you can do.  The first would be to suggest professional help like a private counselor, a psychiatrist, or a support group.  Let them know that you understand it can be difficult to stop cutting and a professional can help by providing them a safe environment in which they can share their feelings and talk about why they feel the need to cut.   If they don’t feel comfortable going to a professional you can try reminding them of the dangers of self-harming. It can lead to permanent scarring, infections and in some extreme cases it can lead to death, if a vein or artery is accidently cut.  Another thing you can try is to help them find alternative activities for their cutting.  You can suggest that whenever they feel the urge to cut, they do those alternative behaviors, such as hitting a pillow, taking a walk, go for a run, writing in a journal, etc.

If you would like to obtain more information on how to help those who are cutting, there are several places where you can find help and information or you can refer the person too.  1-800-DON’T-CUT is a hotline that will refer a therapist in your area.  www.safe-alternatives.com and www.helpguide.org/mental/self_injury.htm are websites where you can find more suggestions for alternative behaviors to cutting.  Also you can always refer the person to 1-866-4-U-TREVOR or Ask Trevor or Trevor `Chat as well.

Trevor Staff