While in college you are sure to come across someone, if not yourself, you is struggling with some sort of mental disorder and is in need of help. About 17% of college students try to put this in their own hands by inflicting injury on themselves instead of seeking help. As a friend watching someone destroy themselves can be one of the most painful experiences of your life. One of the biggest issues connected to self-harm is that those who self-harm do not want help and are very defensive about it. They feel it is what is keeping them going and as long as they can have their release they can get through these devastating feelings they are going through. So as a friend what can you do? You do not want to attack them and make them isolate themselves even more, so what is the best way to help them?
If you know someone who is self-harming you need to do them a favor and get them help. They may hate you for it at the time but it is what is best for them. They do not realize how much better they will feel once they address this issue with someone and learn healthy ways to cope that do not involve hurting themselves. You can tell your Resident Director or Resident Assistant, a family member, security, or even your campus’s wellness center.
Be there for them.
People who self-harm like to isolate themselves and be alone. This way they can continue self-harming and no one will bother them. Be there for your friend and let them know every day that you love them and that are not alone. If you cannot physically be there with them check in periodically throughout the day to let them know you are thinking of them. People who self-harm do not want to hear a lecture on how what they are doing is hurting them and not good for them, so don’t lecture them. Just show your support and show your friendship and be there to listen when they are ready to talk and acknowledge their pain.
If you find out that you have a friend who is self-harming, try to understand where they are coming from. Understand what self-harm is and why they are doing it. People do not want to feel as if they are crazy because they self-harm so do not make it seem like it is a crazy thing. If you are informed you may also be able to help find them alternatives to self-harm or convince them to get help. If they feel as if they are being understood you may be able to have a significant breakthrough.
As a former self-harmer, I understand how hard it is to stop this habit and to accept help from others, especially those who I feel do not understand. When my best friend found out he went to my house and told my mother and wouldn’t let me go back to college until I addressed the issue with my mother and a counselor. I can’t even begin to explain how upset I was with him for doing this, but today I can honestly say I do not know where I would be right now if it wasn’t for him forcing me to get help by telling someone. So if you yourself are a person who uses self-harm as a coping mechanism, what are some good ways to try to break this habit?
Go get help.
While this is the piece of advice you most more than likely to ignore, it is the most important. Trust me, I know how it feels to be in the moment where your mind is blurred and there is only one thing that you can do. But if you can take just one minute to self-reflect and look at yourself, try to be strong enough to realize that you do need help. No one is going to judge you. There are people who love you and want what is best for you, tell them and let them help you.
Find alternatives and distractions.
Surprisingly enough there are alternatives out there that can itch your self-harm scratch. Try squeezing onto an ice cube or putting ice on the back of your neck. Get some daily exercise and healthily push your limits (just not too much.) Find some music or a good friend to distract you in times of high anxiety. When you have that feeling in your stomach that you need to self-harm, get on the phone and call a loved one and talk through your feelings.
Keep your friends and family in mind.
You love your friends and family just as much as they love you and you don’t want them to be hurt just as much as they don’t want you to be hurt. Every time you cut yourself or burn yourself you are not just inflicting pain on yourself but on everyone that loves you. When I saw my mother cry when she saw what I was doing to myself was the first time I have ever seen my mother cry. This image resonated with me and whenever I felt the urge to cut I would remember my mother crying. While you should quit self-harming for yourself, remembering what it does to others can be the wake-up call you need to do some self-reflection.
What do you think about self-harm in college? Do you think there is a deeper cry for help from those who self harm? Is there something more that we should be doing?
Below is a video of story of a person who has overcome self-harm and how she did so. On a more serious note if you or anyone you know are need of someone to talk to or have thoughts of self-harm or suicide this link will lead you to the suicide prevention hotline where you can find someone to talk to and get help.