How to respond to friends who self-injure?
Adolescents who self-injure often hide the behaviour from adults, including parents, teachers, and the school counsellor, and prefer to seek help from friends and peers. Therefore, friends can be the first to know that a peer has self-injured. However, it can be very scary and confusing when you find out that a friend has self-injured, and it can be difficult to know where and how to seek help from adults. It can also be difficult to know whether you should seek help for your friend who self-injures, especially if you have promised them that you will keep what they tell you a secret.
If you are worried about a friend who has self-injured or suspect that a friend has self-injured, it is important for you to speak to them openly and honestly about your concerns and encourage them to seek help to overcome self-injury. It is important not to get upset, anxious, or frustrated at your friend, even though these reactions are completely understandable when you are concerned about your friend.
It is also important that you do not promise your friend that you will keep what they tell you a secret. Your friend may be have self-injured because they do not know how else to cope, and although your help and support is vital for your friend to stop engaging in self-injury, they also need help from someone who has training to support people who self-injure. By telling a trusted adult, such as a parent, teacher, or the school counsellor, your friend can get the help that they need to learn other ways of coping.