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My best friend is self harming

Hi sam,
My best friend recently moved schools and we lost contact for a while. We have tried to stay in touch but he has changed a lot and started acting really weird anyway he has recently started selfharming and sending me pictures of his bleeding wrist. I asked him why he was doing it and he just said family problems and not much else, he is refusing to stop and I am really worried about him. I want to tell his older brother or parents but I'm not sure if I would be making it worse since he's having family problems. I really need help making the right decision for him and I don't really know what to do.

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Sam

Hi there

Thanks for your letter.

Finding out that a friend is self-harming can bring up a lot of emotions. It's completely normal to be angry, confused and upset. It can also be hard to know what to do.

Young people might self-harm for lots of different reasons. Sometimes when they don’t feel able to let out how they’re feeling in other ways it can feel like a safer way to express and even relieve these difficult emotions in a way that feels controlled and safe.

It sounds like you’ve done incredibly well in trying to talk to your friend about these feelings and it’s not your fault that he doesn’t feel able to talk about it yet.

You said that the main people you want to talk to are his family, but you’re not sure if it would make things worse for him.

There’s no right or wrong answer to whether you should tell an adult or someone in your friend’s family about his self-harm. When trying to decide, it can be good to think about what might happen next depending on who you did tell. As well as that, what do you feel would happen if you didn’t tell someone? Whenever you’re scared about the safety of another young person, you’re never doing anything wrong by talking to ChildLine or asking an adult for help. If you are really worried and think that anyone is in serious danger, then ringing 999 emergency services could be an idea - they are there to help people in need 24 hours a day.

It’s important to remember that part of being able to care for someone else is also about making sure that you respect what they want but also take care of yourself at the same time. I’m wondering what it might be like to say to your friend that you’ve been thinking about telling his family what’s going on and what makes you worried about him, you could even give him resources like our page on Self-harm coping techniques to help him be able to help himself.

Letting someone stay in control doesn’t mean that you don’t care, but it can show that you respect them. You didn’t say much in your letter about how you felt receiving such graphic images of self-harm. What you’re feeling is always important too and it’s okay to say how you feel.

It would be a really good idea to talk to a ChildLine counsellor about what’s been happening, not only to help you think about what might be best to do but to give you a chance to talk openly and not have to feel alone in all of this. You can talk to us by calling for free on 0800 1111, or if you don’t feel able to talk out loud you can even speak to a counsellor on 1-2-1 chat or email. Remember that as well as talking to us yourself, your friend can contact anytime as well.

Take care.

Sam

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