5 tips if someone tells you they’re self-harming

It can be hard to know how to react if someone you know is self-harming, so here's our advice on what to do.

1. Don’t Panic

Don’t panic – Learning that someone you care about is self-harming can be difficult to bear, and can make you feel upset, confused or even angry. Don’t panic if you’re not sure how to react – often simply being there is enough.

2. Offer to Listen

Offer to listen – Allow the other person to speak without interruption or judgement. For them self-harm may feel like the only way to express very strong and deep-rooted emotions. If someone feels able to open up to you this can be a huge breakthrough, so try not to jump to conclusions or make any fast decisions.

3. Help them find support

Help them to find support – Take the initiative and find out about mental health and other support services in the area. It may also help if you support your friend to make an appointment and offer to accompany them.

4. Be there for the long haul

Be there for them for the long haul – Don’t expect a quick fix. Some people self-harm for years as a way of dealing with difficult emotions or situations. Most people don’t want to be defined by their self-harm, so keep on being a friend to them as normal too.

5. Look after yourself

Look after yourself. It’s hard to support someone if you’re feeling overwhelmed or out of your depth. Setting boundaries to what you can offer and getting support for yourself are important. Be honest about how you’re feeling and don’t take on more than you can cope with. If you’re feeling upset or struggling to cope yourself, talk to someone you trust – you’re doing a great thing by supporting your friend but if you’re worried or feeling down, make sure you speak to someone.

Read about our work on Self-Harm Awareness Day. 

Next Steps

  • Our Crisis Messenger provides free, 24/7 crisis support across the UK. If you’re aged 25 or under, you can text THEMIX to 85258
  • TESS text and email support service runs Monday to Friday from 7pm to 9pm for girls and women aged under 25. Text them on 0780 047 2908.
  • RecoverYourLife.com is an online community where you can get peer support for self-harm and other mental health problems.
  • Under 19? You can get confidential help with self-harm from ChildLine – either over the phone or through an online chat.
  • selfharmUK provides information and advice about self harm. You can ask a question to their expert panel or share your story.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.


Updated on 29-Aug-2018

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