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Cutting - How To Help A Friend (For Teens)

September 20, 2016

So you just discovered that your friend or partner is cutting themselves;  I imagine you feel a little helpless and worried.  Cutting is one of the most common forms of self harm.  Whether this is the first time you've had a friend tell you this or you've heard it before here is some information that may be  useful to know  

 

1. Cutting doesn't mean your friend wants to kill him or herself.  In fact, for most, that is not the case at all.  It falls under the category "non-suicidal self injury" and for many is a way to reduce stress and have control over a life that perhaps feels very overwhelming..

 

2.  But.....  there is research that indicates that  teens who have attempted suicide  have a history of cutting.  So we can't ignore it.  Other risk factors include infection , scarring and  accidental death.  

 

3. Yes, I'm going to say that it's important to encourage your friend to talk to a trusted adult. Your friend told you  because you are super trustworthy and a great secret keeper.  However, this is really dangerous behavior and requires intervention by a mental health professional.  Cutting is what people do when they don't know a better way to cope.  A mental health professional like a school counselor, therapist, doctor or trained school administrator can provide support to your friend at a level that you just can't.  

 

4.  Know your limits! Its important that you take care of yourself...really.   Providing support by listening is fine if you aren't feeling super anxious or worried after the conversation.  If you find that your worry is getting in the way of school or other activities, like enjoying other friends you need to create boundaries.   Its okay to say "I don't really know what to do to help you, is there an adult you can talk to about this?"  or "I have 5 minutes to talk before I need to meet my mom, friend or walk the dog".   This doesn't make you a bad friend, it makes you the kind of friend that is available for the long haul.  By being aware of your own feelings; you can be there for your friend rather than  emotionally drained to the point where you completely avoid her.

 

Lastly, if you are cutting please reach out to someone you trust.   There are other ways to deal with stress and sadness that don't involve hurting yourself.  I get it, it feels scary to talk with a school counselor, family friend or therapist about what is going on in your life.  But I deeply believe that when you begin to make sense of what is happening on the inside you can see other options in your life and begin to heal. 

 

 

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