Disclaimer: I am not an expert in mental health, this post is based purely on my experience. Trigger warning due to the discussion of self-harm.

Self-harm is a very serious topic and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. If a loved one tells you they self-harm, it can be hard to know what to say. If you are reading this and are supporting someone, I know you are trying your best and we appreciate you ❤ I thought it would be a good idea to share things you shouldn’t say to someone who self-harms.

“If you don’t stop, I won’t be your friend”

In my experience, I’ve always felt guilting and shameful for self-harming. By giving an ultimatum, it will make the whole situation a lot worse. Maybe their first instinct is to panic, but if someone said this to me I would feel so embarrassed.

A lot of people will relapse, by giving this ‘challenge’, it will cause more guilt when they relapse. I sometimes used self-harm as a punishment for whatever so saying this can give such a negative effect. I would wish that I never told them and probably wouldn’t open up again.

“Just stop”

This is similar to ‘just eat’ which I mentioned in 6 things you shouldn’t say to someone with an eating disorder. If it were that simple, we would have already done it. It is likely that they have tried and failed to stop. I tried so many distraction techniques but could never really find one that would work. At the moment, surrounding myself with friends and having a good time stops me. Though those moments can be rare.

“Why?”

A lot of people who self-harm, don’t know why they do it. It took me a pretty long time to figure it out, and even then sometimes the reasons change. It’s confusing for us, so it will be very hard to explain.

I used to feel really silly saying my reasons out loud, I was worried they weren’t good enough reasons or that I was being overdramatic.

If you want to know more, educate yourself – there are plenty of books or blog posts on self-harm.

“But you have a good life”

I hate it when people try to make me feel guilty because I’m not poor, I have a good support network etc. but are still self-harming. Like I said before, I feel ashamed when doing it. I know that my life could be much worse, but my mind is currently not well. Please don’t say things like this. It’s horrible.

“You just need to distract yourself”

It isn’t so easy that you can just do something else. It takes time.

If you think you might be at that stage, or you would like to find some good distractions, I wrote a post in March on How to create a self-harm distraction box

“Your scars will be there forever”

This is wrong to say on so many levels. A few possibilities:

Number 1 – If you don’t have scars, it can make you feel weirdly guilty for not doing it right etc.

Number 2 – It makes me feel more guilt

Number 3 – I don’t want scars, but I can’t stop

“What are those scars etc. from?”

No, just no. Do not point out scars, especially not in public.

“This is just a phase”

Maybe it’s from films or TV shows, but some people think that if you self-harm then you are a goth. This obviously isn’t true. And why would you hurt yourself for no reason? I did it because nothing else would give me that specific release. I wish it was a phase, but it’s a mental illness.

Related post: Suicide myths & 30 reasons to stay alive

For anyone who self-harms or are struggling with anything mentioned in this post, there are some resources and helplines below.

Samaritans – 116 123

Mind

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56 Comments

  1. Alice Spake says:

    Super important, the wording is so incredibly important when it comes to things like this as one wrong word could be detrimental

    1. I agree x

  2. This is such an important post! One of my friends has had a really tough history with self harm so this was really helpful. It’s so important to think carefully before you speak so you don’t end up making things worse! Thanks for sharing x

    1. Thank you xx

  3. This is a really important topic. I definitely think people should educate themselves on how they can help rather than making matters worse.

  4. Thank you for sharing this important and sensitive topic. It’s great that you included some resources and helplines as well. A self-harm distraction box is a very creative idea.

    1. Thank you x

  5. Thank you, Caroline, this is a very important post and shows the real impact of not choosing your words carefully. Just because you don’t understand someone’s impulses, that does not give you right to pass judgement. A very helpful article.

    1. So true x

  6. Elle says:

    This is such an important post which I think so many people should read and find helpful. I’ve never understood why people think it’s okay to ask such questions, i totally get that their intentions are good but it must be so difficult for the person harming too answer. Love this post. Thank you so much for sharing! Xo

    Elle – ellegracedeveson.com

    1. Me too! x

  7. This is such an important topic. This post is appreciated, posts like this are needed to help educate. Thank you for sharing such a well approached and helpful blog post.

    1. Thank you x

  8. I can’t thank you enough for this. Often people want to say something to help you but the words don’t really come out properly and end up causing more damage. Thank you for sharing this.

    1. Thank you x

  9. Such an important post Caroline and I’m sure it will help many people understand what shouldn’t be said in this situation x

    1. Thank you x

  10. I can’t believe these things are even said. Especially ‘just stop’ as if it’s as easy as that. Thank you for sharing your story. It’s such an important topic to speak about and i’m sure it’ll help a lot of people.
    Claire.x
    http://www.clairemac.co.uk

    1. Thank you Claire x

  11. Thank you for sharing Caroline. Just because someone has a “good life” on the outside doesn’t mean they aren’t struggling on the inside. This post will help others to support their loved ones, I’m sure x

    1. Very true x

  12. It seems like all these types of comments come from people who have absolutely no idea about self-harming or how to be appropriate and respectful about it. I hope people learn from this and realize that offering ‘advice’ to someone when you don’t have any/much understanding about it all is not a great idea. Thanks for sharing this — it’s very important to know how we can all do better.

    1. So true! x

  13. What an important topic and one I really haven’t read that much about. Thanks for sharing this information.

    1. Thank you x

  14. This is such a powerful and superbly worded post Caroline, people sometimes are so tactless and they don’t realise that saying some of these things can do more harm than good, everyone should read this x

    Lucy | http://www.lucymary.co.uk

    1. Thank you x

  15. This is such a well-written post. Self-harm is a part of my past and these are all conversations that I would’ve liked to avoid as well, so I appreciate your heart in this so much. It’s really important for people to think through what they’re really saying. Thank you for sharing this – I hope so many people read it and learn from it.

    1. Thank you xx

  16. Thanks for sharing these. Sometimes people get caught up in trying to figure out the right thing to say they don’t think about avoiding the wrong things, and end up making just as much of a mess as if htey’d said nothing.

    1. Thank you x

  17. Thank you for sharing this Caroline. Some people can be rude and insolent when it comes to matters that a) don’t concern them and b) things that they can’t easily understand. But hopefully, through posts like these, they can realize their wrongdoing and change their ways.

    1. It’s so sad, thank you for saying that xx

  18. A helpful post, handled sensitively. An important subject.

  19. Sincerely appreciate you sharing this very important topic Caroline. It’s really vital to be careful with your words and be sensitive when someone is going through this. It’s really important to get help when going through this difficult situation of self harm. Thank you for sharing.

    Pastor Natalie
    Letstakeamoment.com

    1. Thank you x

  20. Gemma Jayne says:

    A helpful post and useful for those that may know others that are going through this. It is so important how we talk to people and similar to a lot of mental health we just need to be mindful of what we say. Thank you for sharing xx

    1. Definitely x

  21. These are some really valid points you have shared and is a very helpful post. Thank you for sharing.

  22. Thank you so much for sharing this honest post.

    It will certainly help others who have either experienced this or those trying to help someone. I’ve been on both ends, the one helping someone else and the person in need. It’s difficult for everyone.

    1. I feel you xx

  23. Ugh, yes. I don’t have *much* experience with this but have known people to self harm and I don’t know who would dream of saying things like this. I know there’s a lot of learning involved in how to approach these things especially if you’re worried about someone. I understand that sometimes these things come from a place of naivety than anything else but when people say them to be spiteful or try and get the upper ground – ugh.

  24. This is a very informative post. Thanks for sharing!
    ~Michelle
    https://michellescrazybusylife.net

    1. Thank you x

  25. Oh wow, thank you for sharing! I’ve never really thought about these things before so its awesome when I can read a post that educates me! xx

    Lynn | https://www.lynnmumbingmejia.com

    1. Thank you Lynn xx

  26. Thank you for writing about this topic. When I was in junior high/high school, I self-harmed & I wish my friends could’ve read this post. I’ve received the “I won’t be your friend anymore if you don’t stop” comment & it wasn’t helpful at all & it just made me feel terrible. I also hated the “why” question because I couldn’t answer it myself since I had so many emotions & thoughts going on.
    I hope many people will read this post & think more carefully about what they say to others.

    1. Me too, it’s so heartbreaking. I hope you feel better now x

  27. I don’t know much about this. I have come across people who have tried to self harm and was not sure on how to react. This article is informative. Thanks for writing about it.

    1. Thank you for reading ❤

  28. This is a really important post and I wish more people knew not to say these things. I had a customer comment on my scars recently and it was just so uncomfortable and awkward. I also really wish people knew that saying “just stop” is not helpful at all; if people could “just stop,” we would.

    Thank you so much for this post. Reading it really validated a lot of my own thoughts about the subject and helped me articulate why people saying these things bothers me.

    1. I’m so sorry that a customer commented! Sending you lots of love xx

  29. It can be traumatic and worrying to learn that.

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