Self-harm and social media are in the news... but would you know how to respond?

The triggers for self-harm are complex and varied. Whilst it’s important that social media companies examine their own policies carefully, it may be overly simplistic to assume that images of self-harm are the reason for people self-harming.

There’s a common myth that self-harm is ‘a cry for attention’, however research and testimony from those who self-harm indicates that it can be a way for them to cope with overwhelming and distressing thoughts or feelings. Self-harm should be taken seriously, whatever the reason behind it.

For anyone experiencing feelings they can’t cope with, the support offered by those around them is an important first-step towards recovery.

In mental health first aid, people learn to approach someone and start the conversation. This can be a difficult first step, and of course the person you are approaching may not be comfortable with talking about their feelings initially, but by opening up the topic, you’re showing that you care. Beyond that, it’s important to listen, be non-judgemental and to allow space for reflection- and then reassure them them that help is available - and they should not lose hope.

Finally, seek professional advice. Voluntary sector and NHS services for people self-harming are available and do aid recovery.

If someone is in immediate danger then call emergency services - and don’t forget that The Samaritans are available 24 hours a day and are there to support not only the person experiencing mental ill-health, but also friends, family and colleagues who may themselves experience distress when supporting others.

Samaritans UK: 116 123

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