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Self Harming

(48 Posts)
Whichwaytogo Tue 18-Jun-13 09:21:52

This is my first post so apologies if I get this wrong. I am a father to a fantastic 15 year old daughter. Over the last year we have seen a dramatic change in her behaviour at school and discovered that she is cutting her arms, legs and tummy. The school referred her to the school counselor, she went saying 'I'm only here to tick the box' and would not go back. We then, based on a recommendation found a private councilor, again we had to push hard for her to go but would not engaged as she felt she was being 'Physc'd' out. We had a referral through school to camh and were seen very quickly, we had a hell of a job getting her to go along to the appointment. Whilst there she would not engage at all putting up an aggressive/ defensive stance. She said she would not go back to those devil people. We went a couple more times without her at camh's request and the sessions have stopped with an open door but they say that unless she is prepared to engage there is not much more they can do. My wife and I have spoken to her with mixed and inconsistent responses and levels of engagement. We have found diaries where she has written about suicide and how she is fat, useless etc, she is definitely not any of those. She says that its normal what she is doing and we should leave her alone. We believe from what we have read and understood from her that it appears to be a whole mix of triggers, low self esteem, school, bad friends, I could go on. Sunday night/ Monday morning are the worst leading up to school.

Just not sure where to go really, sitting by while she grows out of it doesn't seem the right thing to do.

homoson Sat 12-Apr-14 05:10:35

I actually disagree with what the above poster is saying. It's important to understand that any form of self-harm (which may not only be cutting, but also different behaviours like overdosing, bone-bashing, scratching etc) is a warning sign. Just because the cuts are not near the vein does not mean the problem is any less dangerous. In fact, in a lot of cases, the cuts will in places such as the upper arm, thighs, stomach etc so that the self-harmer can easily hide their behaviour from others. It's inappropriate to suggest that the reason anybody self-harms is linked to suicidal intent. For the most part, and certainly a lot of mental health professionals will agree, self-harm is removed from suicidal ideation as self-harm is broadly seen as a coping mechanism and an outlet for difficult emotions. A lot of people, not just teenagers because self-harm can and does carry on into adult life, will go to lengths to hide the evidence of their behaviour.

CAMHS is a service that can be quite unhelpful and sometimes even triggering for teenagers who use it. Unfortunately, there are very little alternative options available on the NHS for teenagers experiencing mental health issues. Unless you go private, which can be expensive, expect your GP to refer your child to this service.

When in counselling, it is likely that the counsellor will spend the most part of the meeting getting to know the client. After this, the counsellor will probably introduce the client to a type of therapy called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT has proven itself quite effective when properly demonstrated and used, as it seeks to change the behavioural habits of the client, in this case: self-harm, by changing the "cognitive activity", in this case: the negative though/thoughts that are causing the teenager to utilise self-harm as a coping mechanism. In few cases, the counsellor may prescribe a trial of anti-depressants but will try to avoid doing so.

It is also likely the counsellor will want a follow up session to see if the therapy has improved the behaviour or not. Unfortunately, the counsellor has to take the word of the client and this is where, often, the problem is. A lot teenagers are in the CAMHS system not by their own design, and therefore likely to bend the truth or withhold information from the practitioner.

I think it's quite vital that you re-assure your teenager that you are there for them, that you are non-judgemental and just want them to get better. Don't threaten them with "let me check your arms" or rifle through their belongings to find the implement that they may be using. It is very important that trust is there between the two of you, especially during a critical and difficult time in their life.

If the problem persists, ask your GP if there is an alternative service that could be used. The mantra of therapy, though, is that only those that want to be helped can be helped.

I wish you all the best of luck, and hope you keep safe.

Thedaughter123 Tue 11-Mar-14 20:19:20

Okay hi,
So I am a teenager and I felt really bad for my mum after all the things I have out her through and I decided to come on here and help you guys out. (I know what I am talking about)
Firstly there are two types of self harm
1. Cool self harm
Some people think it is cool to drag blades across your skin and pretend like you are depressed and all sorts.
2. Real self harm
The kind that is deep and emotional, the true kind, not before people thought it was cool do do it
A) How easy are their self harm shown?
So I never showed my self harm to anyone, the only way my mum found out was she accidentally walked in while I was coming out the shower, I had my towel on but my arm was out. So if she/he is wearing T-shirts or in no effort to hide it then if IT is probably a social act
B)where are the scars?
If they are faking it, the cuts will probably be on the top of their arms nowhere near veins, they don't wanna kill themselves or put themselves in hospital by accident. If you see cuts in various places on the inner parts of the arm be a bit cautious

Gymbob Sat 08-Feb-14 14:16:29

Just come across this thread whilst looking for stuff on SH. My DD is 14. I thought it was a one off a few months ago, and she didn't break the skin, but have found out through concerned friends at school that she is cutting back and front on her lower arms (at least), and consequently have found blood soaked tissues in her room etc. She is showing her group of friends at school, showing them blood and describing how she has done it. She's also telling them that she is going to commit suicide and asking the quickest way to do it.

I have managed to get her to see Relate as she knows that I won't get any feedback from there, and as yet she is refusing help from CAMHS. she says she is depressed.

How are things Cuddleczar, please give us an update.

Sending big hugs to everyone on this thread, thank goodness I found it thanks

Cuddleczar Sun 08-Dec-13 23:02:55

Feeling dreadful tonight. Have just put together all the pieces of evidence and realised my DD has been cutting herself again. Possibly triggered by a fall-out with one of her friends last week. Tonight, she had asked DH for paracetamol and I just knew that she must have hurt herself. The opportunity came up for me to tell her that I knew it was still going on (it seemed to have stopped for quite a while following the summer hols), that I wanted to help her, I would not leave her to it. I told her that if she didn't take up the option of counselling (which was all that CAMHS suggested), then I would take her back to the GP who would presumably refer her again to CAMHS. I got very upset and so did she--a relief to see that because she just seems to bottle everything up and bury her feelings. Please tell me if you think I am doing the right thing. She is 17, and this started just over a year ago when school started going wrong for her.

Sijeunessesavait Wed 30-Oct-13 22:15:35

Hi Dexter

I'm so sorry that you are going through the all-too common frustration that dealing with the under-resourced mental health services seems to cause. Couldn't agree more that our DCs deserve better, and the longer they are kept waiting for help, the more we and they feel let down and even unworthy of attention. Your DD is lucky to have such a caring parent to fight her corner.

I too turned to Mumsnet for advice when my DD, now 18, was hospitalised for 9 weeks last year after an overdose and several months of (unnoticed by us) self-harming. It would be naive to say she is better, but she is certainly on the road to recovery now, though still taking ADs and having regular (private) one-to-one therapy. We are lucky that we're able to pay for this, as the NHS service to which she was referred has had her on their waiting list for over six months now. I share your anger and sense of helplessness about this.

In answer to your question about St John's Wort, I think in the absence of ADs, it is definitely worth a try (might not be recommended alongside ADs), and I would also suggest a really good Omega 3 supplement. You should take some too - the most important thing, as I discovered a bit late in the day, is to take care of yourself.

In the meantime, can you go back to your GP and update him/her about your DD's condition, which seems to have changed over the year since she was first referred?

Please feel free to PM me if you want to ask anything - and there is lots of advice on hand here, which was a real life line for me, so keep posting.


dexter6000 Sun 27-Oct-13 17:57:36

What a useful if horrendous read! Brand new to Mumsnet and trying desperately to make sense of my DD's mental health issues. All of the posts so far reassure me that there are other parents out there going through similar kinds of hell.
My first observation has to be about CamHs. I am so angry with them. At least my "local" group. My daughter was referred to them last October for anorexia. Since then she has been seen 3 times. In 12 months. Irregularly. The anorexia has gone. Replaced with.... self-harming, suicidal urges and (0h - the irony) compulsive over-eating. In her words "I just want out, I've had enough". And the help they have given? Diddly blinking squat.
And now I trawl the good ole world wide web looking for if not answers, suggestions as to how to help her. Not one of us should be having to post desperate pleas onto this website or any other. I don't CARE how stretched the NHS resources are. I truly don't. Our children deserve a better deal.
Now that rants over with does anyone know about the efficacy/dangers of st Johns wort for teenagers? There are a few threads on here I've checked out but no one seems to have used it (my girl is 14). As the psychiatrist hasn't prescribed any ADs for the DD I am again casting around hopelessly in the vain hope someone will throw a lifeline. God bless you all. x.

Cuddleczar Tue 17-Sep-13 16:12:34

Hogweed, I agree with Chiefsquaw that you have to be very careful about talking about it. However, for us the turning point was me sitting down with my DD and just repeating how I knew how unhappy she was and wanted to be able to help her, could she share the problem, whatever it was, with me. I didn't give up, it took about 2 hours, but eventually she told me about the SH (that was the first I had heard of it). There was some earlier advice in this thread to make sure you have plenty of opportunity to just talk about what is going on in your DC's life; because the SH is a symptom of the unhappiness/depression and they might share some of that with you. It's the causes of the unhappiness you need to get to grips with, imo.

Coocachoo, I agree with Hogweed that you should tell the school about the bullying. Our school handles anything like that extremely well (I wish the academic side was as good!! confused) but I would not want to tell them about the SH. It might depend on what relationship you have with the school, also I wouldn't tell school without my DD's permission. But I would tell the dr. I would make an appointment and tell your DD that you are going to go, with or without her. This worked for me--and although my DD said she did not want to go, she did. They will refer you to CAMHS, and I have heard these services are variable, but we were seen quite quickly (6 weeks!) and I think it was helpful. Although my DD probably resented the external involvement, it did show her I was serious about trying to get her help. Good luck...

hogweed0363 Tue 17-Sep-13 09:15:03

You should tell the school about the bullying even if she doesn't want you too don't let the bully get away with it, maybe keep the SH out of it for now but get her help maybe doctor. Talk to her make sure she knows you support her. Girls can be so horrrid.

coocachoo Mon 16-Sep-13 15:45:41

you are not alone my 14yr old dd has started self harming we recently moved house she started another schl but is not happy bitchy girl twisted what she said and nowthreaten her she is alone its so unfair i am a older mum 55 with 2 other grown up children i had her at 41 i dont know what to do do i tell the school or the doctor. please help.

Innismhor Thu 12-Sep-13 18:43:10

Hogweed - sending lots of sympathy. I discovered earlier this year that my DD was SH and it hurt me to the core. My advice would be to not focus on the cutting as that's just a symptom of what's going on in her head, but focus on the mental state she's in. My DD has depression and is on a combination of drugs and talking therapy. She still cuts and I help her to keep the wounds clean and bandaged. It's a long road to recovery for her but she's going in the right direction.

Chiefsquawtbt Wed 11-Sep-13 10:39:16

Hogweed0363 I would be very careful about how you raise the issue with her, but think you should talk to her about it. Good luck

hogweed0363 Sat 07-Sep-13 09:13:50

Think my DD is SH! Should I raise this with her? a lot of the threads say SH don't want to talk about it?

yellehs21 Wed 04-Sep-13 16:53:59

My daughter is 14 and going through the same difficulties. I have tried so many things to help and the best things I have found is to keep her busy. one post I read mentioned dog walking, this works if they like animals. our pets are a real comfort to her. she as no self esteem and hates everything about herself. I do not confront the problem directly with her anymore as it just causes her to shut down and not talk. I arrange lots of activities for us, think of the best people for her to be with such as family and friends and I even prompt my closet friends to say the right things to her. It is exhausting, I worry constantly and initially felt overwhelmed with guilt. try everything and remind them that you will never judge them and never stop loving them, my daughter was constantly on a social network site that I discovered others posting self harm items to. I try to encourage her and remove anything negative from her. it is hard but occasional glimmers of hope keep me going. hang on in there, it will be ok I am sure. I am ever hopeful.

6133rebecca Sun 18-Aug-13 00:59:26

I came into this conversation to get some support because my son cut himself so badly 4 weeks ago that he ended up calling himself an ambulance. He is now very much, (and I) are in the help of CAHMS. When he was in hospital he cheerfully explained to me that the reason people cut themselves is for a release of ceratonin? which gives an immediate feelgood factor. His dose of Prozac now kicking in, trying to ween him off the diazipan. But I am told that CAHMS now does an outreach service which means that they will come and talk to young people and parents on their own turf. I hope this helps

Mumofselfharmer14 Mon 12-Aug-13 14:28:57

My 14 year old daughter tried to commit suicide 3 times earlier this year due to bullying at school and has been self harming since May. We were waiting for CAMHS from January to May (she tried overdosing the 3 times between those months). It was so frustrating waiting, calling them constantly trying to get an appointment with a psychologist. She started cutting her arms at first in May, has also cut her tummy and legs but it's mostly her wrists and forearm she concentrates on. Back in January she hated everyone (including herself) and was in a self-destructive mode, school had done nothing to stop the bullying. After her first suicide attempt they finally moved the bully away from her though. We were convinced she would be sectioned after each of the other 2 overdoses (not what we wanted but what we feared), but no, CAMHS had a five minute chat with her, asked if we wanted her to remain on the waiting list to see someone, then sent her home with us.

Finally got her an appointment with CAMHS and she has been seeing a psychologist since June. It has made such a difference to her, her panic attacks are far less than they were and the cutting has reduced significantly, and most importantly she says she doesn't want to die anymore.

The thing we have been told about the self harming is, don't tell her not to do it. It won't stop her from doing it and she could end up doing it and really hurting herself and then not telling us. We are to keep sharp objects away from her but not to take away what she was using (a pair of small scissors), as at least we and her knew what she would use and that they were clean.
From a personal point of view, when she shows us what she has done (it upsets her afterwards), I always give her a cuddle and help to clean the area, unless she has cleaned it herself (she has antiseptic wipes) or the school nurse has helped her. I have even kissed where she has cut to show her that I am not disgusted with her, or the cuts.

You have to keep on at CAMHS to get appointments, in our experience our GP couldn't do very much to get an appointment, nor could school, and obviously the child needs to want to get help or it won't work. In a way, our daughter waiting all the months she did was for the best, back in January she wouldn't have listened to the psychologist but now she really wants to be helped.

It breaks my heart to see my daughter like this and to know that there are so many other young people out there suffering like this, as parents all we can do is love them and try and help them. We need to be their voice and try and get them the help that they so desperately need and be strong for them when they can't be.

Chiefsquawtbt Wed 07-Aug-13 13:59:37

Im sending out a big hug to all posters in this thread. i was so upset yesterday (just had one of those days when i wanted to curl into a crying snotty ball), but i found this thread and it just made me feel better knowing that there are other parents who understand and sufferers who have come through it. I've changed my username for this one and am sharing this in the faint hope that another poster may find it helpful.

My DD1 (14) has been self harming for approx 6 months. I am extremely lucky in that she talks to me and seems to be open and honest about her feelings and her reasons. She tells me that she self harms to 'punish' herself if she's done something she perceives of as wrong (it's usually based around what she's eaten), when she's angry as its a release and, what I think is probably the answer in many cases, because its an addiction. She is having private counselling which so far has not helped as it's been analysis based, but that is now changing to very scientific based CBT. She very recently started on a low dose of Prozac and hopefully that will also help. We are a close knit, loving family - always there for her if she needs us and no obvious red flags. She tells me that the eating issues (thankfully they are mild) stem from thinspirations (google it if need be!) and the teenage obsession with the thigh gap. She believes she is fat and ugly (she is slim and beautiful). She has several friends who self harm and she tells me that (since secondary school) she's never had a female friend who is happy with the way they look or their weight.

Now the addiction side of harming - she was recently at her cousins house, having a lovely time, all happy and chilled and when the cousin left the room, she grabbed the scissors and cut herself because the opportunity was there (we hide all the scissors at home). When she first started harming i couldnt hide the tears from her, but it upset her so much and she told me that she couldnt bear to see my 'tears of disappointment', so now I try very hard to come over all Mary Poppins and practical, give her a big cuddle and lots of sudocreme. I also tell her that its all good, she's on the path to recovery but the pathway is never smooth. She will harm again, but hopefully it will get longer between episodes and eventually stop. I don't put any pressure on her to 'get better' quickly. I'm hopeful that we're getting there slowly.

Cuddleczar Wed 07-Aug-13 07:55:04

Just want to say what a huge support it is to be able to come on here and share what we (and our DCs) are going through. Thank you.

simplesalad1 Tue 06-Aug-13 17:51:36

Cuddleczar, like you we struggle to understand why our daughter self harms and like your daughter ours show very little emotion. She has cried maybe twice in the past year in front of me, but I am sure is sobbing her heart out other times when we don't know. We feel like we have hit a brick wall. Trying to keep everything going along for rest of family but inwardly falling to pieces. OP our daughter had written scary things too but if you met her in the street you would think what a great person, and she is but she needs help but only she can decide when she is ready for it.

Cuddleczar Tue 06-Aug-13 09:29:52

JoAlone, thank you so much for explaining what helped your DD. I really appreciate it. thanks thanks

One thing I struggle with though--I had a nanny who did SH (she had been abused by her step dad as a child) and in your case, it seems to have been linked at least partly to your separation from your DH. ie, fairly major life events. In our case, none of that has been going on and I don't understand how the kinds of "normal" teenage issues that we all cope with have turned, in this case, into something that has literally scarred her for life. I am not unsympathetic. I have realised that she deals very differently with events that upset her--her sisters, older and younger, are always sharing with me the things that upset them/they are worried about and crying on my shoulder. This DD, I have seen cry twice in the past two years. Need to think hard about what strategies to use...

JoAlone Sun 04-Aug-13 22:38:14

My DD self harmed last year, I know what you are going through. It was a few months after DH and I separated, I was in pieces, and I think her seeing me completely fall apart made her realize the impact she was having on others. It is all a haze, and I cannot say exactly what it was that made her stop. (Sorry not very helpful). I found out in the worst way, I read her diary. She was out with her dad and I just had to know what was going on, I kept on thinking she was purging, but she wasn't.

I started reading immediately, and other than the very unhelpful man on the childline who only made me more worried, was just to understand it. I asked her to point me in the direction of things that would help me understand it all, she was very clammed up in the beginning, but she told me about videos on youtube and told me about a self harm site that she had looked at. I think what I did was give her the power, I told her that I don't know anything about it, and that I wanted to know how to help her. she constantly would storm out of the room and lock herself in her bedroom for hours. I would feed back to her when I watched the videos (usually through her closed bedroom door). I 'offered' her counselling, and she reluctantly agreed. I gave her the choice, she continually went, even though she thought it was a waste of time. I never asked her directly about the sessions. I never asked her directly if she was still cutting, but I made a promise to her, that if she was able to be '100 days free', I would let her have something she wanted, she asked for a cartlage piercing, and I agreed. Our agreement was, that I would trust her, and she had to tell me when it was '100 days'. She did, and I cried with relief, she is still free, and we talk more openly about it now, but I never push for details. Almost a year on, she is brave enough to show her scars, I don't make a big thing out of it, but I acknowledge it, and tell her how proud I am of her that she was able to stop.

The message I constantly gave her was that
1. I love her more than my own life, and that I am willing to do anything to help her.

2. That I feel helpless, and that I am completely dependent on her to guide me and tell me what she needs.

3. That I appreciate that this is private for her, and hard for her to talk about, and that I would never force her to 'give it up' or talk unless she is ready.

4. Acknowledged that it served a purpose in her life. And that I would not take it away from her, but that I want to help her to find healthier ways of coping.

Sadly it is important to step back. I considered going back to my ex, but my DD swore that she would become emancipated from both of us. It turned out that it was her relationship with her father that was causing most of her anxiety, along with teenage concerns, weight worries, very hard on herself to be a high performer at school.

I think the relationship we had before (even though she felt/verbalised she hated me at times) really helped. I do believe her seeing me so vulnerable and unable to function properly (I normally never cry), had a very large impact on her. I wouldn't recommend falling apart as a coping strategy, but in our case I think it 'woke her up'.

I don't know if that was useful at all. I can only say that I truly feel your pain, it is one of the worst things to go through in life, you can protect your kids from the outside world, but you cannot protect them from themselves. I really truly hope that all the posters in this situation find their answers.


Cuddleczar Sat 03-Aug-13 07:59:02

I think one of the problems is that when my DD is feeling bad, the effects of this mean that she does not want to communicate with anyone. So at the times when she needs us most, she is most withdrawn. We have another appointment with CAMHS in September, and they have asked her to think about whether to go to counselling. I am not sure whether this will help, although if it is angled at finding ways to reduce SH rather than, as someone said, analysing what led up to every cut, then I think she should try it. I find it difficult as a parent that they don't really want to hear from us, when we probably do have good insights into what is going on. Suppose I should be glad that I have any input--this wouldn't be the case if she was over 18. Interesting about the Sunday night/Monday morning thing...I think it's true you might see this whether DC are being bullied or not (though you definitely need to consider bullying). We identified with our DD that she finds it difficult to move from one situation to another, whether that was simply getting ready to leave the house when she was a child, or, now, to change from being at home to the person she presents to the world at school etc.

simplesalad1 Fri 02-Aug-13 20:01:40

My daughter has been SH for a year now. She is 16. We were distraught when we found out and tried to help her but she wanted none of it. The school did get involved but she presents herself as a happy,confident and bright girl to anyone but her immediate family. She completely cut us out of her life for about 4 months but at the moment seems to be happier with us, but I still worry on a daily basis about her and what is going on in her head. She will just not speak to us about it. It is such a worry and all you want is for them to be happy. We moved house last year and I wondered if that was the cause but on reflection I don't think so.

katia2 Fri 02-Aug-13 12:22:17

I've only just picked up on this thread but it struck a chord as my DD2 was selfharming for about 8 months from last November, though I only learned about it in April. Then I found to my horror that she had also had thoughts about suicide & had even got the pills ready on one occasion. Like all of you, it's been very difficult to know what to do for the best, especially as DD kept it all secret for months & didn't even confide in her closest friends (actually one of them may have been the catalyst as she has serious MH problems which has badly upset the rest of the friendship group). The school nurse has been great & referred DD to the equivalent of CAMHS. The first session was not a great success & the line went dead for a while, mainly because DD really doesn't like talking about herself & her problems, but they have now come up with a tentative 'diagnosis' of acute anxiety (rather than depression, which is what DD thinks she has) & have recommended a few sessions of CBT, starting early next term. Don't know what to expect, or if it'll work. I don't think DD is selfharming any more & she does at least talk to me (up to a point) but she doesn't really seem any better even though she is on holiday & away from the pressures of school. I feel for all of you with children going through similar problems as know how worrying it is.

Cuddleczar Fri 02-Aug-13 08:06:45

Any thoughts anyone?

Cuddleczar Tue 30-Jul-13 09:37:05

"In truth, I think she needs me desperately but is pushing me away to see if I will stick by her."
Foster1234--thank you for that--it rings bells for me. Came on here because our 17yo DD, who has been self harming for almost a year now, and had her first CAMHS appointment in July, has just started doing it again even though we are away on holiday. I say "even though" because I really thought that coming away (to somewhere she loves to come every year) for a good break (away from all the friendship problems, school problems etc) would mean that she would stop doing it. She has cut herself in places that aren't normally seen but stopped doing that in preference to scratching herself in a place that can be seen--because she wanted us to know?? So I now know when it is going on. Thank you all so much for your insights and advice on this thread, very helpful. But can anyone advise--our DD totally clams up when we try to talk to her about the self harming. eg my DP asked her yesterday why she had done it again, and she went into a right stinky mood, wouldn't talk to anyone etc. Is it better to ignore it? Or is it better to try to get her to talk about it? Or try to give her extra attention for other things/topics so that she feels more loved by her family? She has one older and one younger sister and I think also she believes she is not as clever as the older one, and not as pretty as the younger one (imo, not true on either count--she is just as beautiful and clever). Also, she tends to lie in bed unless I badger her to get up (difficult because I am doing some work here). I guess I need to tackle that rather more energetically, if I am to follow Foster1234's advice.

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