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No Harm Done: talking to young people about self-harm

Young people and their parents talk about their experiences of opening up about self-harm.

Finding out that your child is self-harming or has self-harmed in the past can be difficult information to process. As a parent, you might blame yourself for what your child is going through.

Here’s what Neil, one of the young people who shared their experience for No Harm Done, said about their family’s experience:

My mum felt it was her fault, she was blaming herself for it, so it kind of made me feel bad, because I know it’s not her, but then, to this day, she still thinks it was partly her fault.

Parents who shared their stories for No Harm Done said that believing in yourself and having faith that you’re not a bad parent is important when your child is experiencing self-harm.

Trust yourself, although at the time you think you haven’t a clue what’s going on, you probably have, just remember that actually, it isn’t actually all about you, and that you are ok as a parent still.
Anonymous parent

Remembering that ‘it’s not all about you’ can be hard, as mum Hannah reveals:

She’s done brilliantly, but it had to be when she was ready, on her terms, and not mine, and that as a parent is hideously hard.

Communication is key

Young people and parents said that being open and communicating as a family is really important to a young person who is opening up about their experience of self-harm.

James, another parent who shared their experiences for No Harm Done, said:

I think it’s really important to have the trust because if they don’t trust you, then they’re not going to be open with you, everything’s gonna be secret.

Some families have even found that the experience of mental illness has helped to improve their relationships. Lucy, one of young people involved in No Harm Done said:

It was definitely like a weight off my shoulders, because I’ve always known that these people care about me. I feel very lucky to have a lot of the people around me, all my friends, my boyfriend, my parents, and other, like, people in my family. That’s a very positive thing that has come out of this, being able to communicate a lot more with them.

External support

Many parents of children who have self-harmed say that others shouldn’t be afraid to ask for professional help if their child is speaking to them about self-harm. James said:

…and then when you know the problems you get the professional help. It’s important to get the professional help.

Professional support is also available for parents as they talk to their children about their children’s self-harm.

James continued:

I found talking to a counsellor really helpful. I needed somewhere safe to say all the things I felt too scared to say elsewhere.

Parents’ health and wellbeing is also very important when looking after a young person. Hannah said:

It’s important to look after yourself and the rest of the family as well as the child who is self-harming. Support is also available from friends and other family members, and through taking time out to care for yourself.
Sometimes you have to do something just for you. Have a bath, go for a walk, have a meal out. You’ll come back refreshed and better able to manage.

A parent shares their experience of coping with their child's self-harm

Find help for self-harm

If you are a parent or carer and are worried about a child who is self-harming, have a look at our page on supporting your child who is self-harming.

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