Shall We Talk about Self-harm

“What should I do if someone around me is engaging in self-harm behaviours?” Sometimes, people come to me with this question and I thought it would be good if there is an article they can refer to for information.  

Firstly, why people engage in self-harm (non-suicidal self-injury)? The behaviour might seem irrational to the public eyes. I remember myself not understanding it either when I first came across it before I was trained in mental health. Self-harm is usually a way to cope with emotions, be it intense negative emotions or an inability to feel emotions. They are trying to get away from the intense feelings inside of them by concretising those pains physically on their bodies. They can also be numbed from all the feelings that they are self-harming to feel something, even if it is pain.

So how can I help if someone I know is self-harming? The ideal situation would be to get the person to helping professionals. However, we all know that the reality is often less than ideal. If the person is not keen on seeking help, try to get the person to at least speak to people whom he/she could trust so that there can be more people around to support the person. Having a safe space where the person could talk about his or her story without being judged is a good start. If the person has interests and hobbies that you know of, you can also rope the person into doing those activities together.

Ultimately, what would be helpful for the person in the long run would be for the person to develop awareness of his/her emotions, be able to regulate it via alternative methods or to increase his/her tolerance for those emotions that trigger self-harming behaviours.

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