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How can I help my best friend who self harms?

28 Answers
Last Updated: 06/04/2018 at 10:22pm
1 Tip to Feel Better
United States
Moderated by

Jennifer Fritz, LMSW, PhD

Clinical Social Work/Therapist

Day to day life can be stressful and overwhelming and my strength is assisting my clients in a supportive, empowering and practical manner.

Top Rated Answers
April 12th, 2015 5:05pm
First, ask them what they need. Then try as bets as you can to do what they ask for. Sometimes what they need is for you to just be their friend and not get on their case about the self harm. Sometimes they'll ask you to just talk to them so they can resist the urge. Whatever they ask for, even if it's to ignore the scars and not ask about them, do what they ask for. You are their friend, not their therapist. Be just that.
April 7th, 2015 3:21pm
Put yourself in your best friend's shoes. What would you want them to do to help you if you were the one self harming? Be careful not to judge them. They are STILL your best friend - they are still that same person - whether they harm themselves or not. It can be scary to find out that your friend self harms, and it is natural for us to pull away from them because we do not know how to deal with it. This is a time where your best friend needs you more than ever. The worst thing you can do is to abandon them during this time. The best thing you can do is to continue treating them like they are your best friend. Still go out to the movies, have nights in together, talk on the phone. They are probably appreciating these things more than ever right now. Sit down and tell them how their self harm is affecting you, how worried you are about them and how much you care. Let them know that they are not alone.
June 23rd, 2015 5:53am
Show them that it affects you and that self-harm is not the answer. The most important thing you can do is be there for them. Ask them what's causing them to do this. Be engaged and work it out together. And when he/she doesn't self-harm rewards yourselves with ice cream or go see a movie. Move past the pain, don't let it control you.
July 29th, 2015 12:57am
You can help your friend by being there for them and letting them know that you care about them. The worst thing for a self harmer to be is alone, so give them all the support you can, because they need you
July 28th, 2015 3:51pm
Self harming doesn't just go away. The best thing to do would be supportive. Instead of focusing on stopping the self harming, focus on the cause thereof. If something can be done about the cause then help your friend with the situation. If not, help by being an outlet for your friend. Some people self harm as an outlet. To somehow get negative feelings out of their system. If you can be there for the person to vent to it could reduce the impulse to self harm. If they can get rid of negative emotions by talking to you about their frustrations, shouting, complaining or busting out even, it will help them feel better. Note that you would have to initiate the conversation as someone who selfharms would be likely to avoid taking about the things that bother them because they turn it in on themselves. Be sure to not mention self harming either as that might be a trigger.
June 17th, 2015 5:26pm
*using pronoun "her" for simpleness* Try to remember that you can be there for her as a friend and listen and support her, but you can't be more than that. It would be really helpful of you to read up on self-harm and educate yourself so as to better understand what she going through. You can help her find help and resources such as websites etc. and you can help her talk to other people about it.
August 10th, 2015 3:19pm
First show him that you care and understand him . And then show him some alternatives . Self-harming is a way to express your feelings . But it is a wrong and addictive way . There are other ways to express yourself , like art . Painting, singing ,,etc. he could olso try Hitting a punching bag , Going for a vigorous walk or run Do something relaxing, such as taking a hot bath , If he feels numb Use a red pen to mark where you usually hurt himself Rub ice on his skin where you usually hurt himself Submerge his face, arm, or leg in a bucket of ice water Put elastic bands on wrists, arms, or legs and flick them Writing negative emotions on a piece of paper and ripping it up .... there are a lot of alternatives :) Have a great day and i hope that i helped
September 1st, 2015 7:26pm
People generally self-harm because they feel that it gives them control over their emotions. They typically won't stop until they have an alternative solution. The best thing you can do to help them, is listen. And to not give advise. To help them find an alternative, but not tell them what to do.
September 8th, 2015 2:58am
I always tell people that self harm may seem like the only answer to your questions, but really it is just one of the many different answers. Most of the time self harm comes from wanting to avoid feelings about a particular subject. It also is a cry for help. Self-harm comes in many different forms but all of them can be channeled into more positive coping strategies.
May 28th, 2018 11:37am
In this case, I'd say I was that best friend. The first thing to do is understand self-harm. It can be addicting, biologically, because if done regularly, it releases endorphins into your body, and since self-harm is what causes it, your brain craves it. Some people do so sporadically. Whichever the case, recovery is possible. First talk to your friend about how they're feeling and why. Make them feel comfortable so they can talk about their issues. Show that you care for them and want them to get better. Show them that there are other ways to cope, and that they can call/text you the next time they're feeling down. Another step you could take is also referring them to the 7Cups Self-Harm self-help guide. It'll help them figure out which steps they want to take, and how. Listeners are available 24/7 and would be able to help anytime. The group discussions would let them share their stories too, so they feel less lonely. Assure them regularly that you're there for them, that recovery is possible, and that relapses can often be a part of recovery, but it doesn't mean they're the end of it.
April 12th, 2015 9:00pm
Try not to pressure them out of self harm as this can have a negative effect. Instead, offer your support and understanding and show them that you care. If they go an amount of time without self harming be proud and supportive but do not act disappointed if they slip up again. Negative emotions are more likely to have a negative effect on the situation.
June 6th, 2016 11:31pm
There are many ways you can care for and support those you love who are dealing with self-harm. Being there for them is the first and most important thing you, as the friend, can do for another!
July 12th, 2016 6:43pm
always be by her side. listen to all her problems. send her some inspirational quotes. you should also help her be strong enough to stop harming herself. help her find a new hobby or anything that keeps her mind off self harm.
July 18th, 2016 9:53am
Talk to her but please be very sensitive about the topic. Ask her why she does it or what's going on in her head. She probably has some triggers that makes her feel like doing it, ask if she has any. Normally anyone who hurts themselves hate talking about it so don't be too pushy because that may set her off. Be gentle and loving. There are A LOT of alternatives to self harm, so maybe looks those up to help your friend. I hope it works out.
October 3rd, 2016 2:26am
You can suporrt him by caring about him and getting professional help for him. He'll probably try to push you away and be alone, but you have to realise that's just part of the mindset a self harming person tends to have, so you have to let him know you are there for him, without being to suffocating either.
March 14th, 2017 8:55am
If your best friend is in an early stage of self harm, it would be best to try to stop them. Self harm can lead to many psychological disorders, which then makes their health even more precarious. Start by observing their behavior. Is there a set time they self harm? How much do they do it? How often? Then make sure that you are always there whenever they need a shoulder to cry on, or a best friend to talk to. A heart to heart conversation when they feel comfortable is the second step to support. Then try to offer ways to distract them such as personal hobbies or group activities. After that, everything is up to you to continue supporting them and hopefully, they'll find a way to stop self harm. I hope that helped! :)
May 15th, 2017 11:33am
Don't tell them to just "stop" as that never works. Ask her what she needs, maybe she just wants someone there for her and in that case, just stick with her through her tough times (-: It will be annoying and aggravating but I promise, it will mean so much to her, if you were there
August 15th, 2017 3:27pm
The best way you can help your friend is by supporting her. Just be there for her and treat her normally but let her know you are there if she wants to talk or to go somewhere to take her mind off things. Supporting a friend who self-harms can be difficult sometimes but remember it is not your fault and make sure you get some support yourself if you're finding things hard!
May 22nd, 2018 12:37pm
(TW self harm for the whole answer) Hey, I know this can be a very difficult situation. I understand it’s sometimes hard to figure out what to do, especially when your friend has personal issues that are new to you at first. The fact that you’re willing to help is wonderful, and I‘m sure you’re gonna learn how to, soon. Here are some tips i learned from personal experience: The most important thing to do is don’t judge them, and show that to them. Don’t ask them about their scars, unless they indicate they want to talk to you about it. Don’t mention when you see signs of recent self harm, unless you guys specifically established that you can talk about it. People who self harm usually deal with a lot of guilt and shame enforced by society and their mental illness. They might feel embarrassed when they understand that you noticed, and worry that you judge them or think less of them when they relapsed - even if you don’t think so at all! It’s important to make your acceptance clear through your actions and to understand that not every fear and doubt is rational. Show them that you care. Ask them how they feel, when you notice they are closing off. Leave them space, when they ask you to. You can find different ways of expressing how much they mean to you through simple things. For example, bringing them a snack you know they will like. Sending them a picture of something related to their interests, saying „hey this made me think of you“. And of course, listening to them when they need someone to talk to. Communication is key! Ask them, how you can help them best. Maybe they don’t know, and that’s okay. You can figure this out together. If you’re patient with one another, you can find out what your friend needs specifically of you. Respect their wishes, and don’t try to lecture them. On the other hand, please also communicate to your friend about your needs. In the end, it all comes down to communication and compassion. Please don’t forget to take care of yourself as well.
February 25th, 2015 1:43pm
If my best self harms and it comes to my attention then my first step is to confide in him/her. It can be scary to talk about the very thing you have worked so hard to hide, but it can also be a huge relief to finally let go of your secret and share what you’re going through. Also, being best friend my behavior in such circumstances should be trustworthy so that he/she can at least think of sharing there dark secret to get a sought of relief. I should make them earn to manage overwhelming stress and emotions. Get in touch with their feelings. Offer support and encourage communication. Positive communication and try to divert their mind. Help to cultivate good hobbies and habits.
June 3rd, 2015 10:49pm
It may be a scary time for you, but consider what she/he is going through and put them over your own fears. Be supportive.
July 21st, 2015 12:39am
This is a difficult matter. Non-professionals need to proceed with caution. But as a friend, you can help him or her understand WHY he/she does this. Freaking out or trying to demand they not do it is probably not a good approach because of the inherent judgementalness of it. From people I have known, self harm is often a phase, though sometimes it's not.
February 9th, 2016 8:10pm
You should ask how they're feeling, do not make them feel guilty about what they're doing, and listen to them.
May 30th, 2016 6:15pm
I ll listen to her properly. Be there for her whenever she feels alone and tries to inflict self harm
August 1st, 2016 9:48am
Take away her blades, encourage her to go out for walks or to shop with you and be there for her when she needs you.
May 8th, 2017 7:28am
I have done self harm myself and I understand what he/she feels. I would start by asking the person why he/she is doing it. Then show sympathy towards them; be caring.
May 23rd, 2017 2:21am
Don't try to make her stop or be hostile towards her. Even if you are trying to be helpful, she may shut down if you're too aggressive. Instead, just be there for her, treat her as normally as possible, and if she hasn't sought help yet, tell a trusted adult about what's going on so she can be treated.
June 4th, 2018 10:22pm
try not to get angry, that will make them feel even worse. Try to be calm and figure out the root of the problem. Ask them if there's anything that you can do to help the situation. If he or she will absolutely not stop, you may need to involve the ER or family.