Mt Lawley Counselling Centre, Perth - Western AustraliaMt Lawley Counselling Centre, Perth - Western Australia

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Adolescent Self-harm

Julia Pemberton

Registered Psychologist
Perth Western Australia

Reasons young people self-harm

  • When the level of emotional pressure becomes too high it acts as a safety valve - a way of relieving the tension.
  • Cutting makes the blood take away the bad feelings.
  • Pain makes them feel more alive when they feel numb or dead inside.
  • Punishing themselves relieves feelings of shame or guilt.
  • When it's too difficult to talk to anyone, it's a form of communication about their unhappiness - a way of saying they need help.
  • Self-harm is something they can control when other parts of their life may seem out of control.

How friends and family can help

  • Remember that they are extremely distressed and that self-harm may be the only way they have of communicating their feelings.
  • Allowing them to talk about how they feel is probably the most important thing you can do for them. Create opportunities for this to occur and show that you are available for them. Just feeling that someone is listening and that they are finally being heard can really help.
  • Be clear and honest about your feelings. Explain that their behaviour upsets you but that you understand it helps them to cope.
  • Take them seriously and respect their feelings.
  • Don't blame them for hurting themselves. Try to avoid being critical even if you feel shocked by what they are saying. This may make them feel even more alone and prevent them talking to anyone else.
  • Don't ask them to promise never to self-harm again. They may well do it again and then feel guilty about breaking their promises.
  • Encourage them to seek help. Provide a list of contacts for them to choose from.
  • If they won't agree to see someone and you are really worried, go by yourself first and get some advice about how to best handle the situation.

Looking after yourself

  • Be honest about your limits. Supporting someone can be difficult and upsetting. Accept the fact that you can't always be there for them when they feel the need to self-harm.
  • Find someone you can talk to openly so that you have support as well. You can express your frustration or anger to them rather than to the person who self-harms.

Julia Pemberton
Registered Psychologist
Phone: 0407 772 410

Mt Lawley Counselling
13 Alvan Street Mt Lawley
Western Australia 6050

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