What can be done?
It’s important to talk to your child about self-harm because it can result in a serious injury or become a habit. Self-harm may also be a risk factor for future suicide attempts. Some people self-harm as a result of a mental disorder. That's why it's important to ask the child or youth if they're experiencing any other symptoms.
What can be done about injuries from self-harm?
- in an emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room
- care for any injuries properly, keep basic first aid supplies on hand
- see your doctor if you’re not sure what to do
- in BC, call 811 and talk to a registered nurse
What can be done about self-harm behaviours?
The following treatments may be helpful:
- Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT)- teaches how your thoughts and behaviours affect their mood. It may help reduce the feelings that trigger self-harm and may also improve anxiety, depression, self-esteem, problem-solving skills and coping skills.
- Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) - teaches how to replace extreme and rigid ways of thinking with more flexible ways of thinking. It also teaches skills like acceptance and problem-solving, and can teach your child how to cope with uncomfortable or difficult thoughts, feelings and situations.
Managing self-harm at home
Encourage the child to try new, healthier ways to cope with their feelings. For example:
- talk to friends
- write in a journal
- learn exercises to relax
- avoid anything that makes self-harm look ‘cool’ (TV shows, movies, etc.)
How can I help my child?
It’s natural to feel shocked, angry, frustrated, confused or guilty when you find out that someone you love self-harms. But remember that self-harm is a sign of distress. The best way to help is to show compassion. Here are other ways to help someone who is self-harming:
- educate yourself about self-harm
- avoid anger and judgment. They aren't trying to hurt you, make you feel guilty or get attention
- focus on their concerns or issues, not the act of self-harm
- encourage positive, healthy coping methods. It takes time to learn the these skills.
- don’t demand that your child stop self-harming immediately
- let your child know that you’re willing to listen, but don’t force them to talk
- encourage your child to seek professional help
Tips for caregivers:
It’s important to take care of yourself, too. Do things you enjoy, talk with a friend about your own feelings and set boundaries for how much you can help the person you love. It may help if you get support from a mental health professional or support group.