My friend cuts herself

My friend cuts herself

Dear Mookychick,

Please help with some friend advice. I found out that my friend cuts herself. Tons. All over her wrist, she has cut herself, and she always has a large plaster to cover it, ‘cept for today.

I asked her about it, but she just blanked me out. I really don’t get why she would want to cut herself, and I’m worried she’s becoming suicidal, or something. The problem is, I don’t know what to do. I don’t know whether I should tell someone, or just leave it. What do you think? ”

Love, Anonymous Me xxx

The Mookychick answer to your problem

Amanda says…

Firstly, the majority of cutters are not suicidal. They want to feel pain, not escape from it. Perhaps before you tackle your friend on the subject, or tell her parents or teacher, you should try to understand why people do it. And unfortunately, there are as many reasons as people. However, one thing they all seem to have in common is that once they start, they find the habit very difficult to stop, which suggests an addiction to the physical pain/emotional pain transference. Pain releases endorphins in the brain which cause a rush or a high. Some get addicted to tattoos or piercings, which most people find acceptable. However, cutting is a form of self mutilation that is considered socially unacceptable and is very misunderstood.

I suggest if you want to approach your friend sensitively about the subject, you need to have a good look at all the help sites and blogs (and there are loads) out there.

http://teenadvice.about.com/od/cuttingbranding/

Will give you loads of links to other help sites and is a vast umbrella resource on the subject

http://recoveryourlife.com/default.aspx

Offers loads of suggestions and advice you could put to you friend

http://www.angelfire.com/ks/Cutters/why.html

I have included an extract from this site set up by a practising cutter who’s trying to make sense of her habit and kick it:

Most people think it’s disgusting. Why in the world would anyone want to cut themselves on purpose? Are we sick? Maybe. But it’s about feeling better. The most important thing to remember is that cutting is not a suicide attempt. Self-Injury and suicide are two very, very different things. Self-Injury is often what people do to keep themselves from suicide. Self-Injury is a quick fix. It’s a coping method. And although it may not be the best coping method, it’s still what gets us through.

1. It’s chemical. Cutting releases endorphins in the brain. Those endorphins are adrenaline, which makes you feel better.

2. It puts you in control of your pain. You are causing the pain, and you can stop the pain.

3. It allows emotional pain to become physical. Not only does this make it easier to heal, it allows your feeling to become something tangible.

4. It makes you feel stronger.

5. Control, Control, CONTROL. Cutting makes me feel stronger. It puts me in control. No matter how my life seems to be spinning out of control, I am suddenly grounded. It clears my mind.

6. Eases tension.

7. It allows others to see your pain.

8. It reminds you that you’re alive. Sometimes I forget, and everything feels numb. The blood reminds me I am here.

9. It vents anger. Sometimes I am just so angry at myself, the world, whoever, and I feel I’m just going to explode if I don’t let it out.

There’s an ad on Brit TV at the moment for Nike Endure trainers, and the song played over it goes:

I hurt myself today
to see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
the only thing that’s real

Your friend is obviously very unhappy at the moment and needs help, but you must go gently and be understanding.


Ashley says…

Despite blanking you out, she’s hurting, obviously. There’s obviously something going on, and it may be something that you, as a friend, would be best to help her with, or not. I’d say spend some serious time devoting yourself to just being an unjudging ear for her. If you really do feel her life is in danger, tell a trustworthy other person.


Debs says…

As you may be aware this sort of thing is called Self Harm.  Self Harm is a serious problem. It is a very definite symptom of depression, very serious depression at that. Depression affects people in many, many different ways, not all depressives will cut themselves. Depressive people usually find that their emotions are suppressed, or dulled. Some people find a relief from this by cutting themselves. It means they actually feel something.

You are in a difficult situation, I’m afraid. Your friend will not want to talk about this, until they are ready to talk about this. Which can take years. She does need help, but telling her that will not mean she goes and gets it. The reason for her depression will be complex and she might not even understand why she feels this way. These reasons will also be very painful for her, which is why she retreated into depression in the first place, so she will not feel comfortable addressing them.

However, she does need help, which you obviously want to supply. You have to be very careful not to appear as though you are interfering in her life. Telling someone else may seem like a good idea, and it would help for you and her to get someone to talk to face to face regarding this, however she will feel betrayed by you if you do this behind her back. And, again, although talking to someone will help her, she will probably not feel comfortable talking to you about the problems she has. Also, you are not qualified to do this. She needs to be talking to a trained therapist who will help her.

So, what can you do? You can support her through this. This does not mean you can condone her cutting, but you can help her when she does. Most self harmers do not cut that deeply, but still need to ensure that their cuts are cleaned and dressed properly. You may also want to get some more information yourself on self harm, the NHS Direct site is a good starting place, which also has links to support groups, at http://www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk/articles/article.aspx?articleId=454.

This isn’t going to be easy for you or your friend and I wish you all the luck in the world. You can help her through this and things will get better for her. You just really need to be there for her and not to force her to talk about things she’s not ready to talk about. You need to tell her that you’re not going to force her, but let her know she can talk to you should she need to.


Char says…

Dear Friend

I’m sorry to hear that you’re going through a tough time. The first thing you need to do is approach with caution. You need to refrain from judging her or telling her what to do, as this can make things worse, it can make her feel more isolated and ashamed. Try to find a space and time, like maybe a walk in the park, where you can be alone and avoid interruption. Just be a good friend, let her talk, ask her why she does it (often people don’t know why they do it, they just do) and try to help her find the help that she needs. Sometimes, there is no immediate help, and that can be incredibly frustrating and distressing for the person who needs the help, because its hard enough to broach the subject which we know has a lot of stigma attached to it, and sometimes it may feel as though the person who is self harming is not being taken seriously. Try to ignore sh*t doctors and professionals who say that it is attention seeking behaviour, or a typical teenage thing, or even, sometimes a fashion thing. If she’s serious about this, you need to try to find out whether she has intentions of taking it further, ie thoughts of suicide, and if she does, then get her in touch with a person who can help her. I’m uncomfortable with telling you to go to her parents or your parents as sometimes this can make things worse. The last thing your friend needs is to be judged and criticised by people who may not understand what self harming is all about. Often, the person who self harms feels out of control of their life, they could feel detached from life or be in so much emotional turmoil that they simply need to have some physical pain to compensate. Do your homework, try not to preach, listen and be sensitive to her needs. Together, you’ll figure it out, but make sure there is some outlet for you too, a burden like this can be hard to carry, no matter how much you want to help.



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