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Self-harming teen

(16 Posts)
SadAuntie Thu 05-Sep-13 23:23:57

I am aunt to a wonderful 16 year old girl. She has just confided in me that she self-harms, and has asked me not to tell her parents.

I'm at a loss as to what to do - how can I help her (if I can)?

cloudskitchen Thu 05-Sep-13 23:29:25

I'm sorry I have no practical advice. I had a conversation with a couple of friends recently and they said its extremely common, I was shocked. I hope you find her some help soon.

Walkacrossthesand Thu 05-Sep-13 23:32:32

I presume the self-harm takes the form of cutting (because overdoses tend to end up in hospital?) . Firstly, it's good that she felt able to confide in you. Cutting is usually a way of coping with distress - the cutting feels like 'release'. Most areas have confidential helplines for distressed teens (a google search with your town name might be useful) and maybe she would feel able to talk about things to a trained helper?

Minx179 Thu 05-Sep-13 23:52:42

She must feel secure in your company and trust that you won't betray her. Can you try and build on that further, just make her aware you're prepared to listen to her non-judgementally and won't infer she's weak and manipulative?

Give her the number for the Samaritans, in case she would prefer to talk to a stranger.

The YMCA have free counselling in some areas, you could enquire into that to find out if it's available in your area. The down side of the YMCA is that they use a lot of trainee counsellors and she probably wouldn't see the same counsellor twice, which can be frustrating, esp if she's having to provide background each session.

If she's still at school (in our area this classes you as a child), would she go to her doctors and ask for a referral to CAMH? I think she can do that without her parents knowledge.

If she's at college (classed as an adult), she may be able to get a referral to adult MH.

Minx179 Thu 05-Sep-13 23:54:29

If she is still at school, is there somebody on the pastoral team she could confide in? Schools sometimes have access to counsellors.

SadAuntie Fri 06-Sep-13 00:28:39

Thanks everyone. I will look into help where she lives and try and persuade her to accept help.

Wingedharpy Fri 06-Sep-13 04:28:46

I would also work on encouraging her to tell her parent(s).
Most, if not all, loving parents would be horrified if their child was going through this and they knew nothing about it.

ratspeaker Fri 06-Sep-13 09:38:21

It's a really good thing that she feels able to talk to you.
You are helping by just listening. Try not to judge or act horrified, which is hard I know.

If you can, suggest some other "coping" mechanisms these can include lining up cushions and pillows to berate, shout or punch. Suggest pinging an elastic band on thumb or wrist or holding ice cubes in hand, but you may find she says these don't feel the same.

"Substitutes for the cutting sensation

Use a red felt tip pen to mark where you might usually cut
Rub ice across your skin where you might usually cut
Put rubber bands on wrists, arms, or legs and snap them instead of cutting or hitting

Source: The Mental Health Foundation, UK"

SadAuntie Fri 06-Sep-13 13:54:48

Thank you, I am trying to persuade her to talk with her parents - they would be upset but they love her very much and would support her.

Notmoreschoolholidays Fri 06-Sep-13 14:42:29

As a former self-harmer I second the advice of ratspeaker. Be very careful that you don't push her too far when trying to persuade her to confide in her parents. If she feels too pressured she may cut herself off from you altogether. Give her the information she needs to seek help if she chooses, and be available to her when she wants to talk.

Also, be prepared for her parents to be very hurt if/when they find out that you knew before them. I think the decision to let them know should always be hers, but be aware of the damage this may do to your relationship with them. It's a difficult position to be in op, I really feel for you.

Vivacia Fri 06-Sep-13 14:44:34

Do you know why she told you? She might be scared that it's got out of hand. She might want help to stop. Or she might just want that part of her accepted by someone?

tangerinefeathers Fri 06-Sep-13 14:58:16

I would encourage her to talk to her local doctor - ask if she has one and if not, if she would like you to find her one and make an appointment. She needs to learn how to access the right professionals who will know better how to help her. I am not sure that you need to tell her parents - she obviously trusts you and maybe they are part of the reason she is clearly so distressed.

SadAuntie Mon 09-Sep-13 21:17:48

Hello all

I'm a not-so-sad Auntie today. DN has spoken with her mum and is getting help. smile She sounds relieved and says she won't do it again.

Thanks for all the wise advice, and for helping me not to panic.

cloudskitchen Mon 09-Sep-13 22:53:19

Well done for being such a fab Aunt. I hope she can now resolve whatever is making her feel she needs to do this.

SlangKing Tue 10-Sep-13 01:33:31

Glad the above has resulted in some positive steps (even if that does mean I'm posting to a redundant thread). It's ALWAYS a good thing when a self-harmer talks to somebody. Teens are especially vulnerable., lacking the means to easily identify and certainly to resolve internal conflict. I've heard self-harmers describe their actions as "pain I choose for myself" which makes sense when their real trauma lies beyond their control. Worth noting is that many teen issues are rooted in the home so getting them to tell parents isn't always the best course of action. They also have school and peer pressures - a combination of either or all three plus whatever else. Tis a minefield being a teen. Antisocial behaviour can have the same root causes as the harming but is anger/frustration directed out rather than in. Anyway, when a teen chooses to trust you with their 'confession' it's a trust you shouldn't betray since they'll be reluctant to trust anyone else. If you feel ill equipped to help remember that you are helping just by providing an outlet. They won't mind you suggesting they tell somebody else, just don't be making that decision for them.

sparklekitty Tue 10-Sep-13 07:50:10

Great news, don't want to put a downer on it but after every time I SH its always the last. I've not SH-ed for 18 months, however, I know that I probably will again at some point.

It's great that she's getting help, hopefully they'll be able to provide her with some better coping strategies. They never worked for me and in the end my psychiatrist said to me, to help me with my shame, many people drink wine after work to unwind and cope, some people take drugs, I cut. (saying that my cutting never resulted in a hospital visit so they're not deep)

I really hope your DN gets the help she needs

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