- Congratulations! By visiting this site, you are engaging in one of the most important steps you can take for your loved one...... educating yourself about the behavior.
When family members find out about a loved one who self injures, most feel at a loss. They might begin to question their past behavior toward their child/relative and worry that, from now on, every word or action will prompt an incident of self-injury. Family members usually describe initial feelings of shock, fear, confusion, and frustration. Many fear that their child/relative will commit suicide.
Family members of self injurers often agonize about how to approach the topic. Some relatives want to deny the problem, or think the behavior is too crazy to accept or understand. Others are worried about how this behavior will reflect on them.
Q: What should I do it I suspect my child is injuring?
A: The first thing to do when you suspect, that your loved one is self injuring is to think through your own reactions to the possibility before actually speaking with your child. It will not be helpful to respond to your child with anger, threats, or conversely, minimize the behavior as "just wanting attention," The most appropriate response is both direct and non judgmental.
Ask your child/relative if they are physically harming themselves. If they say yes, then tell them that you are glad that they were able to tell you and that you are there to help. Tell them that you know they must be in a lot of emotional pain, and you are sorry that they are 'needing' to do this in order to feel better.
Q: What if they say, "it's no big deal"?
A: Ask them if the reason they are saying that, is because they fear you'll get mad. If they answer no and continue to minimize the behavior, then tell them that you would like to get a professional evaluation.
Q: Could my child be suicidal?
A: While most kids who self-injure are not suicidal, a number of people who self-injure also have thoughts of suicide. It is important to ask them this question directly. "Have you ever, or do you now, have any thoughts of suicide". If they say yes, then ask if they have a plan. If they have a plan with access to carry it out, then get immediate help by taking them to an emergency room or psychiatric hospital for an evaluation. If they say have had thoughts of suicide but have never thought about how they might carry it out, then let them know that you care about their happiness and want to get them the help they need by getting an evaluation by a licensed therapist.
If they say no, then ask them if they know why they self-injure and whether or not they are scared. Tell them you'll be there to listen to whatever they have to say. Be prepared to hear things that may be difficult for you to accept. If you know that you have not always been there for them, consider telling them that you will be there for them now. If you are sorry, tell them so, even if it wasn't under your control (e.g., illness, divorce, job demands etc.). Tell them that self-injury is not something they have to, or should, deal with by themselves.
THINGS NOT TO SAY OR DO:
Tell them that they are just doing this for attention!
Threaten to punish them
React in anger "Why are you doing this to me" "That is stupid, just stop"
Break down and tell them you can't handle it
If you are experiencing an extreme and unhelpful reaction, please consider talking to someone (e.g. clergy, therapist, friend, EAP or school counselor etc.) who can help you deal with the problem more effectively.