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How to Tell Someone You Are Self-Injuring and Ask for Help

About one out of every five teenagers engages in self-injury at some point in their lives.

Typically people do it to help manage intensely painful emotions. For many it is a way to reduce those negative feelings and gain some control over what feels like an overwhelming situation. The relief it may bring, however, is short-lived and can lead to serious health consequences such as permanent scarring, infections, or even fatal wounds.

If you are injuring yourself, you deserve support in finding ways to manage difficult emotions that don’t involve hurting yourself. Here are three steps to help you do that. 

Confide in Someone You Trust

The most important thing you can do if you’re self-harming is to tell someone you trust. That could be a family member, coach, teacher, school counselor, or your doctor or therapist.

You can share this information in whatever way feels comfortable—face to face, over the phone, or in a text or email. Here are some things you might say:

  • “For the past [insert length of time], I have been hurting myself every time I feel painful emotions.”
  • “I have been really sad, and often the only way I can handle it is by hurting myself.”
  • “I have been hurting my body to feel better. I need you to listen to me, not judge me, and help me get help.”

It’s also critical to discuss the issue in what feels like a safe and private space, and when you’re in a calm mood. Talking about self-injury is likely to bring up a lot of emotions, both for you and the other person—especially if the other person is a parent or sibling.

Remember You’re Loved

People don’t always know how to respond when they hear that someone they love is hurting themselves. Caregivers often equate self-harm with a desire to die. The mere thought of their child hurting themselves may trigger them to overreact or assume you are thinking about suicide. They are just scared, though, because they don’t want you to suffer.

They may react from that place of fear. They may ask you to stop immediately. They may make statements that make you to feel more isolated, such as, “Why would you do that to yourself?” They may even say things that make you feel shame about harming yourself, such as, “You could really hurt yourself,” or “I wish you’d just talk to someone instead.”

They may also assume you are thinking about suicide, and it’s important to tell them whether you are so they can get you the best kind of help for what you are going through. 

Find out how to tell someone you are thinking about suicide.

If you aren’t feeling heard, you may want to say, “I need you to hear me and help me. I’m scared.” If they don’t understand why you are self-injuring, you can share this article with them to help them recognize what you are going through. 

If your trusted person is not able to help you, keep reaching out to other trusted allies until someone does. 

Get Good Treatment

Once you have shared your struggles with self-harm, you and your trusted person can look for good treatment options for you. 

Learn about the treatments available for self-harm.

 In some cases, it may be a one-on-one appointment with a doctor, therapist, or social worker. In other cases, it may be a spot in a group therapy setting where you can learn skills to help reduce intense emotional pain. For immediate assistance, try connecting to the Teen Line by texting TEEN to 839-863 between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. PT to reach a trained peer counselor.

There’s no set timetable for overcoming self-harm, but the first step to feeling better is asking for the help you need and deserve.

If you need help right now:

Text HOME to 741-741 for a free, confidential conversation with a trained counselor any time of day.

Text or call 988 or use the chat function at 988lifeline.org.

If this is a medical emergency or there is immediate danger of harm, call 911 and explain that you need support for a mental health crisis.

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Get Help Now

If you or someone you know needs to talk to someone right now, text HOME to 741-741 or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for a free confidential conversation with a trained counselor 24/7. 

If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, text or call 988.

If this is a medical emergency or if there is immediate danger of harm, call 911 and explain that you need support for a mental health crisis.

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