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Deliberate self harming

deliberate self harming

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Self-harm can be a delicate topic to broach with your kids. If you suspect or discover that your child or teenager is deliberately hurting herself then you will probably have lots of questions. You may not be sure how to handle the situation without making it worse and might not know where to turn for help.

The Working Parent has put together a guide to why people self-harm and what you can do to help.

What is self-harm?

As the term suggests, self-harm is intentionally doing something to physically hurt yourself. It can take many forms including cutting, burning, pulling hair or poisoning through overdose. It’s important to realise that self-harm is not always a suicide attempt, a cry for help or a way of seeking attention. People will often go to great lengths to hide the fact that they’ve been self-harming.

Why do people self-harm?

There are lots of reasons why someone might want to deliberately hurt themselves. The most common include arguments or falling out with family and friends, bullying, grief, abuse, problems in school, low self-confidence and mental health issues. Self-harm can be used as a way to feel in control over your own body, express feelings or appease self-hatred, at least for a while.

Signs to look out for

deliberate self harmingAs many people who self-harm try to keep it a secret, it can be difficult to spot. If you suspect your child might be hurting themself keep an eye out for the following signs:

  • Wearing long-sleeved tops and trousers, even in hot weather,
  • Unexplained cuts, bruises or marks,
  • Patches where the hair has been pulled out,
  • Alcohol or drug abuse,
  • Dramatic weight loss or weight gain,
  • Low self-esteem,
  • Symptoms of depression, such as being withdrawn, lack of motivation and low mood

How can I help?

Discovering that your child is self-harming can be frightening and you might find it difficult to deal with. It’s important to stay calm, speaking to your child or teen in a relaxed atmosphere with no interruptions is a good start. Empathise with them and try not to judge. Encourage other ways for your child to release tension without causing bodily harm. These might be something along the lines of holding ice cubes or waxing legs. It’s also important to identify triggers. Keeping a diary or talking with a friend or counsellor might be a good way of coping with emotional triggers. In practical terms you can keep medicines locked away, also restrict access to items that may be used for self-harm. Kids who aren’t comfortable opening up to parents may find it easier to confide in a helpline or on an online forum.

Professional help

If your child is unwilling to talk with you or the self-harm is happening fairly regularly, then it’s important to get medical help. Your GP will check for underlying conditions, such as depression and should be able to refer you to child and adolescent mental health services. If your child is unwilling to visit the GP, you can still go alone for advice. Suicide attempts, overdoses and serious injuries should always be assessed by a doctor at hospital.








About Maria Brett

About Maria Brett

Maria is a freelance writer with over 10 years' experience producing content for a variety of publications and websites. When not working or looking after her two gorgeous sons, she can usually be found playing flugelhorn in a brass band, helping out at her local hospital radio station, shouting at the television while watching Formula 1, at the cinema or plonked on the couch with a cold glass of wine.

Website: Maria Brett

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