Help for cutting and self-harm
Find new coping techniques
Self-harm is your way of dealing with feelings and difficult situations. So if you’re going to stop, you need to have alternative ways of coping in place so you can respond differently when you start to feel like cutting or hurting yourself.
If you cut to express pain and intense emotions
- Paint, draw, or scribble on a big piece of paper with red ink or paint
- Express your feelings in a journal
- Compose a poem or song to say what you feel
- Write down any negative feelings and then rip the paper up
- Listen to music that expresses what you’re feeling
If you cut to calm and soothe yourself
- Take a bath or hot shower
- Pet or cuddle with a dog or cat
- Wrap yourself in a warm blanket
- Massage your neck, hands, and feet
- Listen to calming music
If you cut because you feel disconnected and numb
- Call a friend (you don’t have to talk about self-harm)
- Take a cold shower
- Hold an ice cube in the crook of your arm or leg
- Chew something with a very strong taste, like chili peppers, peppermint, or a grapefruit peel.
- Go online to a self-help website, chat room, or message board
If you cut to release tension or vent anger
- Exercise vigorously—run, dance, jump rope, or hit a punching bag
- Punch a cushion or mattress or scream into your pillow
- Squeeze a stress ball or squish Play-Doh or clay
- Rip something up (sheets of paper, a magazine)
- Make some noise (play an instrument, bang on pots and pans)
Substitutes for the cutting sensation
- Use a red felt tip pen to mark where you might usually cut
- Rub ice across your skin where you might usually cut
- Put rubber bands on wrists, arms, or legs and snap them instead of cutting or hitting
Source: The Mental Health Foundation, UK
Helping a friend or family member who cuts or self-harms
Perhaps you’ve noticed suspicious injuries on someone close to you, or that person has confided to you that he or she is cutting. Whatever the case may be, you may be feeling unsure of yourself. What should you say? How can you help?
- Deal with your own feelings. You may feel shocked, confused, or even disgusted by self-harming behaviors—and guilty about admitting these feelings. Acknowledging your feelings is an important first step toward helping your loved one.
- Learn about the problem. The best way to overcome any discomfort or distaste you feel about self-harm is by learning about it. Understanding why your friend or family member is self-injuring can help you see the world from his or her eyes.
- Don’t judge. Avoid judgmental comments and criticism—they’ll only make things worse. The first two tips will go a long way in helping you with this. Remember, the self-harming person already feels ashamed and alone.
- Offer support, not ultimatums. It’s only natural to want to help, but threats, punishments, and ultimatums are counterproductive. Express your concern and let the person know that you’re available whenever he or she wants to talk or needs support.
- Encourage communication. Encourage your loved one to express whatever he or she is feeling, even if it’s something you might be uncomfortable with. If the person hasn’t told you about the self-harm, bring up the subject in a caring, non-confrontational way: “I’ve noticed injuries on your body, and I want to understand what you’re going through.”
IN AN EMERGENCY OR NEED HELP CALL/CONTACT THESE:
*1-800-DON’T-CUT – More info on self-injury
*http://www.selfinjury.com – Referrals for therapists and tips for how to stop.
*1-800-273-TALK – A 24-hour crisis hotline if you’re about to self-harm or are in an emergency situation.
*To Write Love On Her Arms (http://www.TWLOHA.com) - A non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide.
*1-800-SUICIDE – Hotline for people contemplating suicide.
*1-800-334-HELP – Self Injury Foundation’s 24-hour national crisis line.
*1-800-799-SAFE – Domestic violence hotline.
*1-877-332-7333 – Real Help For Teens’ help line.