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Teenager self harming(5 Posts)
Please can someone help as im at my wits end. I found out last night that my 14 year old son has been cutting himself. And i dont know what to do. He also said he had previously contemplated suicide and got as far as writing goodbye notes to us all but thankfully didnt do it. I tried getting him to see our gp today and he refused to go in there and he walked off. He refuses to speak to anyone about it. He says he just feels so low and unhappy and cant snap out of it. Our background is that his father, my ex husband, was extremely violent and beat me for years, often in front of the children. I eventually plucked up the courage to leave him 4 years ago and moved away with the children. He took me through the courts for access but the courts thought he was unsafe to be around the children after they interviewed them. So the only contact he is allowed is written contact and the children are overjoyed at this. We later found out that my ex had regularly hit my son too. One of the goodbye letters that my son had found was to his father saying that out of all the things he had done to him the worst was making him feel so unloved and worthless. We constantly tell him how loved he is and how proud we are of him but it doesnt seem to sink in with him. He is so so loved and its breaking my heart to see him like this and i am terrified if what he will do to himself. Im certain he needs counselling but he just refuses and i dont know which way to turn, he holds so much inside and i dont know if theres something he isnt telling us. Has anyone gone through anything like this ? I feel completely guilty as i should have been stronger and got the children away from my husband long before i managed to but i just wasnt strong enough at the time. The guilt is just killing me inside
A lot of kids self-harm even when they come from 'perfect' families. Don't blame yourself. They all talk about it, it's dead common.
I don't want to advise what you do next except you need him on side, you can't force him to talk about it. Not talking directly about the self harm but instead just getting him to talk at all (you listen whenever he's willing to talk about anything) can be a good start. Maybe ask about minor details of his day, what's on his mind to get organised, what he wants for lunch, can you help with his homework etc. Talking about the ordinary stuff can sometimes open doors to more sensitive things.
Wow that sounds like you’ve both been through a lot. I haven’t got much advice but have a look at Helping Teens Who Cut.
Have you spoken to his school too? I’d start there, they may be able to help. If you phone Wonen’s Aid too they may be able to put you in touch with an agency that helps children who have been physically abused.
This really isn't your fault and lljkk is right it is now sadly v v common in teens. I think the key might be to have deep empathy for his feelings.
Step one Practical steps: antiseptic wipes, plasters maybe pads, gauze, tape all in a small tin or something he can carry with him. Perhaps a set in his room and one for his bag? This is not going to encourage the cutting but say you want to help him to keep himself physically safe.
Step two: Building trust around this will be important. There are books on talking to kids about self harm.
The temptation might be to talk about your anxieties that he is hurting himself. Perhaps be interested in how he is managing and how you can help him to manage? Being anxious as a parent about self harm is normal of course. He probably doesn't have the energy to manage any parental distress/disappointment though (not saying you have shown these).
Fleeting suicidal thoughts are one thing. Planning and taking steps perhaps another? He sounds very overwhelmed and needs you not to be. (Though that can feel like a big ask if it's all new to you). Maybe tell him how glad you are that he has told you and that you will do everything you can to keep him safe.
For some cutting provides a release, a way of managing internal pressure, or stressful memories or any host of things. Together you might find ways to support him to find release in alternative ways. Over time he might become ready to talk to someone else. The sense of shame can be overwhelming too. He needs lots of non judgemental empathy right now. He's just finding a way to manage things that feel unmanageable. At 14 there's puberty and strong emotions too. Good luck.
Perhaps encourage him to seek help online - there is a website kooth.com offering free online counselling to kids. It was recommended to my DD by CAHMS when she went for her assessment - also for self harm, but by the time she got her appointment a lot of time had passed and the friendship issues etc that had triggered it had been resolved so she was no longer cutting. They mentioned it as a ‘just in case’ option - might be a start?
I remember the night I found out she was self harming - worst night ever - please don’t blame yourself.
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