How can I help my child?
- Don’t ignore it but try not to panic! -The worst thing you can do is to do nothing and ignore the self-harm – talking about the problem will not encourage more self-harm
- Speak with the young person – invite them to tell you about the self-harm and any feelings, problems or worries they might want to share – this should be an invitation and not a demand to share everything, it may take a few invitations to talk before the young person feels able to risk sharing with you – the most important thing you can do is offer to listen
- Don’t be critical or tell them to “just stop doing it” – they may already feel ashamed of what they are doing but the self-harm may be their only coping mechanism for difficult feelings– they will need time to build up other ways of coping and being told to just stop might leave them more at risk
- Make a plan – this might be as simple as making another time to listen or the plan might be to agree to find someone else for your child to talk to, or to get some extra help, eg to talk to someone at school or your GP – what is important is that you and the young person discuss and (ideally) agree the plan
- Self-harming isn’t the same as being suicidal – If someone is actively suicidal: they are clear they want to die, they have a plan, intend to act on that plan immediately. In this situation, make sure someone stays with them – you still have time to seek advice as long as they are kept safe with someone. If the young person has already taken an overdose – or if you suspect might have – get them to A&E for medical assessment and treatment.
- Share with someone – you can always speak to us in school – be clear with the young person why you are doing this and give them choices about how you will do this.
- Act – do what you have agreed – even the best plans don’t always go to plan – but do what you can as soon as you can
- Let them know what you have done and what you haven’t managed to do yet, and why
- Stay in the loop – it is important for the young person that parents and carers, schools and specialist services continue to communicate and work together in the interest of the young person.
Useful links for parents and carers