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How do I deal with friends who self-harm?

24 Answers
Last Updated: 12/07/2020 at 5:16am
1 Tip to Feel Better
United States
Moderated by

Danielle Gonzales, PsyD


Hello! My name is Dani, I am a Psychologist and registered Psych Assistant. I have a passion for helping a different types of clients from all diverse backgrounds!

Top Rated Answers
- Expert in Self-Harm
December 14th, 2014 4:35am
It depends on your relationship with them, and they way you want your relationship to be. If you want to be close, it will be important to be patient, to offer a listening ear, to help gently encourage them to go to therapy and/or a psychiatrist. If you want a more acquaintance relationship, just don't be judgmental. Don't bring it up, but don't shut them down either if they bring it up. If you just can'thandle the discussion, let them know, and acknowledge that your relationship may be permanently at an acquaintance stage, or die off completely. Each outcome is kind of okay. It really just depends what kind of support you can, and want to, give. Learning more about self harm is KEY to being a close and supportive friend. Learning about DBT skills would also be helpful.
December 20th, 2014 9:04pm
Let them know that you are there for them and let them know that you want to help them. Don't judge them, I know that when my friends found out I cut they'd constantly be telling me "I can't believe you do that" or "Why don't you just stop" or "Why can't you deal with your feelings some other way?", I constantly felt like I was under their scrutiny. Love on them....let them know that if they need to talk that you'd love to be able to be there for them. If they end up hurting themselves and needing medical attention, and you can, see if they'll allow you to accompany them to a doctor or hospital-it can be scary to go through that on ones own (even if it isn't the first time they've done it). Check in on them and make sure they're doing ok, sometimes something as simple as a "hey, how are you doing today" text can make all the difference in the world-they know someone cares about them!
December 11th, 2014 10:18am
Do they know that you have realized they self harm? If they haven't, don't force them to stop or force them to tell you. Self harm is a very serious problem and it's a very hard habit to quit. Provide support and empathy for you friend and just be there whenever he/she needs you. Do not tell everyone, perhaps tell a trusted parent or teacher as long as the person dealing with self harm knows first.
December 11th, 2014 12:14pm
i try to understand the reason why they do it. as a person who went through it myself, i know that different people got different reasons as to why they do things. then, i try my best to make sure that he knows that he is loved. that there is someone out there that understands him and that he can talk to and call and hold on to and lean on to without forcing it on them. i understand that we all need space and they need theirs too.
December 13th, 2014 8:41am
You should support them, and not turn away. Be there for them if they want to talk to you, but do not force them to talk about it, as some people do not like talking about it. If no adult knows (parents for example), you should tell them, even if they don't want their parents to know, it's better if you do. The only way your friends will get better is if they get help. Good luck :)
December 30th, 2014 5:18am
I think your position in that situation is to simply be supportive of them, and try to help them figure out other ways to cope. You dont have to agree with them or their self harming, but being a friend for them will do more than enough. Be there to lean on, be welcoming, and be open. Best of luck!
January 4th, 2015 3:57am
The best way to deal with friends who self-harm is to be supportive let them know that you are always going to be there for them and that you would really like it if they would try and talk to you about whats going on and why they feel the need to self harm.
June 22nd, 2015 3:50pm
Based on my personal experience of self harming, I know that people who harm themselves need support. If somebody is self harming, you should be there for them and listen to what they have to say. Ask them why they self harm and what they get out of if; this can help to make them aware that self harm doesn't really make anything better. Never judge somebody or make jokes based on their scars.
August 18th, 2015 2:01pm
Tell an adult or talk to them about it. I mean don't give advice or anything like that just support them and be the shoulder that they could lean on.
October 6th, 2015 9:20pm
The best thing you can do is give your friend the most support as you can...don't try to force them yo stop because it has to be them who want to just be there for them and show them you still love them..its very important
October 9th, 2015 12:27am
Your friends are your friends for a reason. You care about them and you don't want to ever see them in harm's way. It's important that we try and be as understanding as possible, although this issue might seem impossible to understand at times. Self harm is simply a cry for help, and your friend needs you. You should be open to talking with your friend about the issues their dealing with that cause the self inflicted harm, and try and work together to find alternatives for him/her. No matter how many times your friend who self harms tells you to keep it between the two of you, and to never tell anyone, you must always report the issue. Self harm isn't something that should be taken lightly because it is often something that is triggered and can be unpredictable. You shouldn't necessarily tell he/she's parents, but telling another trusted adult or seeking out professional help or a hotline would be your best bet. Never let the issue go, though!
December 8th, 2015 9:35am
All I can say is that you need to be there for them. A shoulder to cry on perhaps. Someone who can listen, and someone who cares. Because sometimes, all they need is someone to be by their side. Someone to stop them from self-harming. So all I can advice you is for you to be there for them, and never leave their side when they're in need.
February 15th, 2016 4:38am
Self-harm is something that should stop immediately, so you should either help them to stop or call social services. I understand calling 911 sounds serious, but self-harm is more serious
February 23rd, 2016 6:41pm
ask them why are they harming them selves and talk to them and be there for them.
March 1st, 2016 5:30pm
Dealing with friends who self harm can not always just be stressful for you and for them, but for everyone else who knows as well. The best thing you can do is to be by their side, support them and keep them strong. And confident.
May 30th, 2016 7:45pm
You sit and talk to them carmlt, asking what caused them to feel this s way, say they aren't alone. Show support.
September 19th, 2016 11:14pm
The same way you'd deal with a friend who doesn't: with compassion, kindness, and respect. You aren't expected to solve any of their problems, just be there and check up on them. If they aren't receiving help from a professional, you may need to alert their parents/guardians if you feel it has reached a point where it would be dangerous not to.
January 9th, 2017 6:45pm
If I have a friend who self-harms, I try to constantly reassure them and tell them that they are enough. If their self-harm goes on for an extended period of time or I fear that their life is in danger, I inform them that I need to tell someone so that they can get help, and give them the chance to talk to that person themselves so that they feel in control of their situation.
March 7th, 2017 6:59am
If you are worried about them, sit them down in a comfortable, private environment and try to talk to them about it. If they seem uncomfortable or nervous, reassure them that you are not judging them, simply trying to help. Also respect if they truly do not want to talk about it, as forcing them to open up about it may worsen the situation.
January 8th, 2018 11:16pm
Tell them that you care about them! Tell them that you are there for them and that you don't want them to continue! Be there for them! Listen to their worries! Comfort them! Tell someone! Tell a parent or adult!
March 5th, 2018 6:08pm
They're still human. The best thing to do is just be there and let them know they are loved. Self harm can be triggered by multiple things that vary with every person, so if they know what their triggers are, try to avoid those.
June 12th, 2018 8:57pm
Treat your friends who self-harm the way you would want to be treated if you were in emotional pain. Be gentle and kind, listen and respond carefully. Be attentive to their realistic needs; whether or not they need a higher level of care, this is important to discuss only if you are close enough with the person and they feel safe confiding in you. If you see self-injurious behaviors, talk to your friend and ask what is going on and what, if anything, you can do to help. Grab them water, bandages, whatever they may need, and stay by their side until the nightmare is over.
June 19th, 2018 7:55am
Well, for one, you don’t “deal” with them. You show them support and empathy and though you may not understand what they are feeling, you can always be a shoulder to lean on. Check up on them and ask them how they are feeling and if they’ve tried alternative coping mechanisms today.
December 7th, 2020 5:16am
Support them, that's the biggest thing. They need you more than you know. Have an open and honest conversation with them. Tell them how much they mean to you, and that you love and support them no matter what. Help them find healthy coping mechanisms, and hold them accountable. Self-harm is extremely addictive, and it needs to be treated as an addiction. They may not even realize how dependent on it they are. As their friend, you need to reach out and help them see that it is unhealthy. Be patient and gentle with them, they are probably in a pretty fragile state as it is. They turned to self-harm because they needed something, they were hurting and struggling and they didn't know what else to do. Support your friends, or you could lose them. That is the risk they are dealing with, and they need you in their corner.