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Help! DD has started self harming - what to do?

(17 Posts)
RGPargy Tue 19-Nov-19 00:04:37

Hey guys, it's been a while since i've posted in MN.

So a few months ago when DD (11) was at primary, i got a call to go in and see FLO. I was told that DD had harmed herself by scratching her arm. It wasn't anything major, we had a chat and the problem seemed to be resolved (or so i thought).

Tonight we're baking together in the kitchen and i notice she's got loads of hair bands around her wrist. I have to literallly grab her arm and yank them off and as she tries to hide her wrist, i pull up her sleeve and there are awful scratch marks on her wrist that she was hiding with the hair bands. I felt like i'd been kicked in the crutch and just wanted to burst into tears. I dont know why she is doing this and how i can help her. When i asked her why she said it was because she doesn't think people really like her. I'm not sure if that was just an excuse for something to say or whether that's the true reason.

She's just started secondary school so i get she might be anxious about that, but i'm just so so upset that she's done this to herself. I feel i have failed her as a parent. I've not told DP about this yet (he's working nights for a few days). What do i do? sad

OP’s posts: |
HPandTheNeverEndingBedtime Tue 19-Nov-19 00:16:26

Self harm is unfortunately very common at secondary school. Contact them in the morning and have a conversation with the pastoral team.

On a positive note she has done it somewhere visible which is more often a plea for help then anything more sinister.

Mind has some good information for both teens and parents.

Has she got friends outside of school? Maybe an activity she is good at which will help build her confidence and resilience.

Papergirl1968 Tue 19-Nov-19 00:29:04

I’m sorry to hear this.
Dd2, now 15, has self harmed for a while, and if it’s any comfort it seems to be very common with teenage girls.
I would do a sweep of her room and indeed the whole house while she’s at school tomorrow and remove anything sharp - razors, nail scissors, hair clips, pencil sharpeners. And tablets, belts, scarves etc. But the bottom line is if they want to self harm badly enough, they’ll find something. And somewhere to hide it.
I was advised to check for slits in the mattress, look in the hems of the curtains etc. But to be honest it was usually bits of razor blade and they’d be under her pillow, in her drawers etc.
I don’t pretend to understand why kids self harm, but it seems to me that it’s a sign of the pressure they’re under. And to be brutally honest, maybe some do just because their friends do.
Some people advise keeping hair bands on the wrists as pinging them stings and acts as a distraction from the emotional pain.
I’d be talking to school to see how she’s settled in and to warn them to keep an eye on her, encourage her to build friendships in and out of school, keep an eye on her phone as she may confide in friends, and let her know she can talk to you and that you’re there for her.
If it continues, you may have to ask for a referral to camhs.
Don’t blame yourself, it’s not your fault and you haven’t failed her as a parent.

RGPargy Tue 19-Nov-19 00:51:38

Thank you both for replying. I do feel over the past few months she has spent way too much time on social media and so i have put a time limit on it now to just a couple of hours a day, although i think she spends longer than this watching countless episodes of Friends on her phone!

I also do think that perhaps my DP and I are not spending enough time with her. We both have our own businesses, although i am looking to go back to full time employment and just dabble in my business as it does consume my entire being when i'm busy (I'm a cake decorator).

Most of the time I get the impression DD doesn't want to spend time with us as she stays in her bedroom a lot of the time watching Friends or TicToc etc.

I wonder if the answer is to persuade her (in a nice way!) to do things with me or with both DP and I, so we can come together as a strong family unit again. I feel i am losing her a little, but understand also that she is growing up and away from me.

She also said that it makes her sad when I am sad because we dont have any money sometimes, so am I transferring my emotions to her?? I have suffered with depression in the past and took meds to help but have been off them for a few years, although now i feel like i might need them again.

Jeez, what a long post, so sorry.

OP’s posts: |
DeRigueurMortis Tue 19-Nov-19 01:50:07

Don't want to go into detail, but peer empathy (poor you and attention) was a big issue as was online activity.

Charity bands were the method of choice for hiding marks.

Thought we had safe proofed the house but the blades from pencil sharpers (taken out with a small screwdriver - including my cosmetic sharpers for eyeliner)
turned out to be a key tool.

The blades hidden in the blue tac holding up posters....all learned online on how to self harm whilst not getting found out,

Best advice, get online and google what they are looking at then clamp down internet access massively.

RGPargy Tue 19-Nov-19 07:20:41

Thank you. She's told me she did it with scissors - they're scrapes rather than cuts. I have already cut down her social media now to 2 hours a day, although I'm wondering if that's too much anyway as she didn't complain that she'd been cut off yesterday.... hmm

OP’s posts: |
lookatthebabypenguin Tue 19-Nov-19 07:29:17

Don't panic. Don't punish her. Don't shame her. Don't treat it as a mis(behaviour) issue. Don't force her to promise to stop. Don't blame yourself.

It's a way to deal with unmanageable intense emotions. So help her with exploring other ways to respond to self harm urges (e.g. Holding ice cubes, drawing on her skin with felt tip... ) as well as ways to manage and understand strong feelings.

For example, some people self harm because a bit of physical pain takes the edge off their emotional pain and therefore makes it more bearable, or because it feels validating to have a visible source of pain when they're consumed by all this intense emotional pain nobody (including themselves) can see.

Viewing it as "attention seeking" is unlikely to be helpful.

Reading through the Mind information pages might be a helpful starting point.

lookatthebabypenguin Tue 19-Nov-19 07:31:05

I'm wondering if that's too much anyway as she didn't complain that she'd been cut off yesterday

Or it means the balance is right. Why do you want to see visible distress from her? Are you trying to punish or help?

Waterandlemonjuice Tue 19-Nov-19 07:42:29

Agree with penguin, completely. I’d say

It’s not your fault, or hers, don’t punish her, please, she’s already distressed. Be really kind and tell her you’ll help her
It’s about emotional distress
Get her some counselling if you can, we paid and found a good person locally
Don’t shame her, she’s already ashamed
It’s very, very common indeed

Read more here

I spoke to several counsellors and this was the advice I had.
My dd did this for a while. She had a lot of counselling and doesn’t do it any more. AFAIK but I have seen her body and there are no marks. Good luck.

Papergirl1968 Tue 19-Nov-19 09:16:23

Just to add, they do spend hours in their room at that age, and doing things with parents loses its appeal.
Has she shown any interest in cake decorating and if so could she help you, by rolling the icing or whatever?
Could you watch tv together? Strictly or I’m A Celebrity?
Walk the dog together if you have one? Christmas shopping with a hot chocolate and a cake?
Or tell her you want to lose a few lbs before Xmas and ask if she’ll go for a walk or a swim with you?

Soontobe60 Tue 19-Nov-19 09:28:37

It's become very commonplace in schools. In my school (primary) probably a quarter of the year 6s 'self harm' at any one time. I honestly believe that for the vast majority it's peer pressure rather than them having a real psychological need.
Your posts are very telling about your own mental wellbeing, OP. She obviously is aware that there is / have been issues and could be very worried about this. At times, parents can be too honest with their children. She could be anxious about your mental health!
Spending more time with her is key, but it's got to be in her terms. Sitting watching tv in the same room whilst she watches Friends on her phone with headphones is much better than forcing her to go somewhere she doesn't want to go. Being in the same space is very important. Try to ensure she doesn't spend hours alone in her room.

Inforthelonghaul Tue 19-Nov-19 09:35:52

We had this too and looking back it was almost a ‘belonging’ thing like some weird club you couldn’t belong to unless you had visible evidence of how stressed you were by teenage life. The constant messaging day and night about self harming and how suicidal they were feeling and the need for support and empathy from friends was strangely contagious and addictive.

As soon as they did their GCSE’s and went their separate ways it pretty much resolved itself. We ended up removing phones at night so that DD could sleep and not be fretting that one of her friends might kill herself if no one replied instantly. A horrible time.

RGPargy Tue 19-Nov-19 10:02:21

Thank you all so much for your helpful replies.

When I saw the scratch marks i asked her why and gave her a massive cuddle. I told her that she could talk to me about anything and asked if she wanted to talk to a counsellor perhaps, or maybe if she was feeling anxious she could write it all down on her laptop just so that it's out of her head and that she could either ditch it or read it in a few weeks to see how much better she is feeling.

I've not shown any anger at her for doing it, I've tried to be sympathetic and told her that I love her very much and that I really don't want her to hurt herself.

She did once have an interest in cake decorating but that died off a couple of years ago, although she does enjoy eating making gingerbread men and macarons. Last night was one of those nights and I pretty much just watched her do it and helped her along the way with pointers, which she really seemed to enjoy.

Perhaps she has picked up on my mental health and that is worrying her. I don't know how to hide it - I'm not walking around like the mother in About A Boy or anything, I'm just quiet, and miserable looking lol. Face like a slapped arse, as they say.

I've suggested to her that she picks up a hobby as she has no outside interests at the moment. She used to love kickboxing and went for 6 years until MIL gradually put her off it (but that's another story).

Most of things I suggest to her that she does or we do together get a "meh" response or a firm "no" Other than spending money on clothes or looking at boys on tiktok, I don't know what else interests her.

Sorry for rambling.

OP’s posts: |
RGPargy Tue 19-Nov-19 10:06:46

Or it means the balance is right. Why do you want to see visible distress from her? Are you trying to punish or help?

@lookatthebabypenguin deffo trying to help. I don't want to see her distressed so yes, perhaps 2 hours is right.

OP’s posts: |
soberish Thu 21-Nov-19 12:43:47

agree with penguin, top tips there. Can be helpful to help young people recognise and talk about emotions - all of them, not just the nice ones ! Can be very very difficult, not something I personally find easy at all, but finding Philippa Perry's book "The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read (and Your Children Will Be Glad That You Did)" really interesting and helpful on this. Validation may be most helpful thing you can do for dd - Philippa Perry advocates this, and you can look up dbt validation on the interwebs / or Also I really like the "it;s not about the nail" video to explain validation - You're not alone, you will get through this, it's really tough but it won't be for ever. Good luck

soberish Thu 21-Nov-19 14:11:18

Not sure I've even heard of the mental health foundation before but just found this when looking for something else -

Nettleskeins Sat 30-Nov-19 12:08:50

Vit d and b12 - lack of these can affect mood in teens - without mentioning selfharm you could ask gp for a blood test - for vitamin d and folates. Also try to encourage communal screen time instead of solo

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