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Worried about a friend who self-harms

I have an Internet friend who self-harms - sometimes she likes to talk about it and other times she prefers me to keep a distance and let her know that I'm there if she needs me. I understand that pressuring someone who self-harms to talk can be the opposite of helpful, and I cant expect myself to magically cure her. Although I don't want anyone to feel like they have to self harm, I try to educate people on how to look after wounds and when medical attention is needed. Because the severity of my friend's self-harm is so high, I worry a lot that she will go too far one day and cause more damage than can be fixed with a few hours in A&E. If someone is self harming (that could have major consequences), should I phone their local police / ambulance station to ask for advice? I know which town she lives in, and her mobile phone number too - would this be enough information for emergency services to locate her if I did think she was in immediate danger?
Ask Sam


Hi there, 

There can be lots of reasons  why somebody might self-harm. It can often be a way to deal with difficult emotions or a situation that feels out of their control. When we see someone else doing this, it can be hard to know how to help.

You clearly care a lot about your friend and understand what might be happening, but you’re right that you can’t change things easily. You’re doing really well to support your friend, but it’s important to know that you’re not responsible for her safety.

You can talk to an adult you trust and should call the emergency services by dialling 999 if you feel her life's in danger. Her mobile number would be useful to give to an ambulance but it could be hard for them to know where to go without an exact address. This shouldn’t stop you from calling them though.

Being friends online can make things harder, because you might not feel able to help her immediately. Especially if you’re not sure where your friend lives. One idea could be to work with her to make a plan of self-harm coping techniques she can use if she feels like she might have taken her self-harm to dangerous levels.

It’s also important to look after yourself online as well as your own feelings about this. It sounds like you’ve been thinking a lot about what’s going on and what you should do. Remember you can always talk to a counsellor about how you’re feeling.

Thanks for the letter and take care,

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