Friends – (the information in this section is based on how my friends helped me during my recovery)
“I noticed her smile had disappeared before I saw the marks on her arms. I really wanted to help her but I was worried that if I reacted it would seem confrontational. I didn’t really know how to approach her and worried that what I said or did might ruin our friendship or make matters worse for her.”
My Suggested Action Plan
It can be tempting to jump in and try to understand what’s behind your friend’s self harming, especially if you are very close and have tended to share most things. Doing this however can have the opposite effect and instead of opening up, your friend is most likely to shy away from discussing it. Instead, stay calm and reassure them that you are there to listen whenever they need or want to talk.
If you suspect that your friend is self-harming but aren’t completely sure, avoid acting too hastily. Seeking advice from a trusted adult can be a good way to get support but this should be done in confidence and only after you’ve established your friend has a problem. If your friend has chosen you to confide in, it’s important that you keep their trust (whilst making sure you also have someone to talk to and do not feel emotionally burdened).
They may become withdrawn and less interested in socialising, especially in larger friendship groups. If other friends notice and start to question their behaviour, try if possible to deflect the attention away from them. Standing up for your friend is one of the best ways to let them know they have your complete support.
It’s likely that they could be finding it hard to keep up with the pressures of a daily routine. Whether it’s school, University or a career, it can be doubly hard when you’re dealing with the emotional impact of self-harm. Helping them where you can to lessen or manage their workload will make everything seem less overwhelming – organising a study session together or swapping notes on a presentation are just some of the ways to help alleviate their stress.
Photo by Juliana Coutinho