Parents and Carers – Myth busing self-harm and suicide
Not everyone who is considering suicide can appear “suicidal”
Click on the statements below for further information:
There is no such thing as a typical person who self-harms. It can be anyone of any age, background or race, regardless of whether they are an extrovert or an introvert.
Some people who self-harm see it as a way of staying alive and coping with the difficulties they are facing. For many, self-harm is not about the inflicting of physical pain but coping with emotional pain.
ChildLine (childline.org.uk / 08001111) and other support lines for children believe that unvented emotions such as anger and frustration may often be behind self-harm, which provides an unhealthy but seemingly cathartic outlet for the build-up of these feelings.
Other factors that can lead to self-harm may include stress arising from a difficult home environment or a general sense of having no control over life.
Self-harm can be a way of seeking relief where many people cope by, say, crying on another person’s shoulder, some people find that self-harm is a way of coping with difficult feelings when they do not know how else to cope with them.
It is essential any talk about suicide is taken very seriously. People who talk about suicide or threaten to take their own life are often thinking about suicide.
You may not think the issues they are facing warrant taking their own life, but remember that their experience is different from yours.
Talking about suicide may be a way to indicate they need support.
Suicide is not inevitable and may be prevented.
Immediate practical help can deflect a person’s suicidal intentions in the short term.
Stay with the person, encourage them to talk about how they feel and help them to plan for the future.
Seek professional and social support to help them in the long-term.
Some young people self-harm on a regular basis while others do it once or occasionally.
For some people it is part of coping with a specific problem and they stop once the problem is resolved. Other people self-harm for years, or whenever certain kinds of pressures and problems arise.
Self-harm can become habitual behaviour for some people. Telling somebody to ‘just stop it’ will not work and could possibly alienate them further. They may find another more dangerous method of coping or they may also feel they are letting people down if they are ubable to stop, which adds to the pressure on them and the sense of failure.
People need help and understanding to recover and to learn other strategies for coping with emotional pain and stressful situations
Thoughts of suicide can happen to anyone regardless of whether or not they have a mental illness.
While people living with mental illness are at increased risk of suicide, the relationship is complex and people who have never experienced a diagnosable mental illness can experience suicidal thoughts.
Most people who are suicidal do express signs of intent but these are often not easy to recognise or understand.
People may indicate their intent directly (e.g. by talking about hurting themselves or telling someone about their plan to take their own life), or indirectly (e.g. by speaking abstractly about death or referencing suicide in poetry or artwork).
If you have concerns you should discuss these with the person, a health professional or another trusted person.
A suicide attempt is regarded as a risk factor and it’s likely the level of danger will increase with each subsequent attempt.
The risk is high for the first three months to a year after an attempt and then declines, but remains throughout the person’s lifetime.
Stripping naked and running down the high street would be attention-seeking, but self-harming is very private and personal. People who self-harm often go to great lengths to cover up their injuries.
The attention that self-harming does bring is often negative.
For some, self-harming is a release that doesn’t – or needn’t – attract the attention of others.
It can be performed in private, dealth with in private and then covered up with clothing. Self-harm is not a manipulative behaviour – many people who self-harm are often unaware of the effect that their self-harming has on others.
People who self-harm often find that this means they are further isolated from everyone because of the shame they feel and the difficulty they experience in being able to talk about what is going on.
People who are thinking about suicide are experiencing intense and overwhelming negative feelings and may not be able to see any other solution.
While it can be difficult to understand, some people believe that they are a burden on others and think their loved ones would be better off without them.
They need personal and professional support, not judgement. Labelling someone’s behaviour can make it more difficult for the person to seek help.
One of the only ways to really know if a person is contemplating suicide it to ask. Asking someone if they are feeling suicidal may seem difficult but it shows you care.
It is often a relief for a person to have someone recognise the seriousness of their distress and to be given permission to talk about it in a caring and non-judgmental manner. Suicide prevention experts generally agree that asking someone whether they are thinking about suicide will not increase their risk.