Does your friend have cuts or other unexplained marks on her body? Does she have bandages or wear clothing that hides more than she should? Does she get upset or feel down and want to feel alone?

I have been there and it is a scary place for someone to see that happening. So what do you do? What do you say? How can you help?

First, do your own research because your friend isn’t trying to commit suicide. She is trying to “feel” her emotions. She is either struggling with something very deep and confusing or isn’t feeling much at all.

Either way, self-harm is a way out to “feel” physically instead of mentally. Sometimes the person is just numb to all emotion and feeling. Nothing phases her, good or bad. She just wants to feel something, have anything actually affect her. She’s so deep in her thoughts that she needs out. Cutting or self-harm allows her to escape.

But this isn’t a healthy way to handle the deeper emotions or depression that is lingering underneath. Talk to your friend. She needs to know she has you to lean on. Show her you care about her and how important she is in your life.

With my own experience, my friend thought a lot about self-harm. It was on her mind all day, every day. I removed all sharp objects from the entire house: blades, razors, knives, scissors, anything with a point. This was a start. Could she go buy something? Yes, and she did; she bought an art cutting knife and kept it in her car. She also bought new razors and would remove the blades to use directly.

Her reasons were depression based, but that loss of feeling held true. She couldn’t get out of her head and feeling the enjoyable pain of cutting and seeing the blood that followed gave her an excitement. But she soon realized that this wasn’t helping how she felt. When she self-harmed, I found out; I always found out. Then she was flooded with feelings of guilt and embarrassment. This cycle makes mental health issues even worse as it continues.

If you want to be the one to help your friend stop self-harming, call a professional for advice and gather information on why she is cutting herself. Provide her with the knowledge that she doesn’t have about other healthy outlets. Tell her you want to help.

If you don’t know about self-harm, you can’t help her in the way that she needs. Don’t judge her; don’t be disappointed by her; don’t yell at her; help her! Learn why she is doing it and how she thinks it is helping. Think about these questions:

  1. What is she fighting mentally, emotionally or physically?
  2. Who is her support system and are you a part of it?
  3. What traumatic event or life-changing events caused her to need a release?
  4. What does she use and when does she self-harm?
  5. Is she simply trying to feel and not trying to commit suicide?

Get her to talk or write what she is thinking and feeling. Try to open up to her so she feels comfortable to share her feelings with you. Understand that she is fighting her own brain and she is overwhelmed; don’t add to it by judging her. Ask her how she feels before cutting, during and after.

Take notes and ask for specifics so you can refer her to a professional or at least research more on your own as her additional support. Make her understand that this will all go away and a professional can give her more healthy coping strategies of her choice. There are healthier outlets that she can get a similar feeling from that aren’t self-harming. An example is holding an ice cube, which still has a sense of pain associated with it but it is a healthy release.

The most important thing for you is to support her while trying to keep her safe. You can’t stop her from self-harming if she doesn’t have another outlet. Allow her to feel in another way and assure her that you care about her future. You don’t want her to add regret to her list of emotions when her body is scarred. Be there to hear what she is battling with and provide her with strategies to redirect her thoughts.

Create a writing journal for you to share. Create an outline for her of before, during and after self-harm thoughts and emotions.

Make her feel important and that she isn’t “crazy.”

Create a list of redirected activities if she feels like self-harming.

Get help.

You can only do so much for her. You can’t fix her on your own, but you can help her get help from the right people. You can help her through this but she needs support, not judgement. Be her friend like you always have. That’s what she needs the most!

Article written by Stacy Ingersoll