People cope with difficult thoughts, feelings, or situations in different ways. Some people cope by injuring themselves on purpose — and it may be the only way for them to feel better.
What is self-injury? Self-injury means that someone hurts themself on purpose but doesn’t intend to end their life. Common acts of self-injury include cutting skin, burning skin, hitting yourself to the point of injury, and preventing wounds from healing. Self-injury itself isn’t a mental illness but may be a sign that someone needs care and support. People self-injure for many different reasons, including:
- To cope with anxiety or depression
- To cope with loss, trauma, violence, or other difficult situations
- To ‘punish’ themselves
- To turn emotional pain into physical pain
- To feel ‘real’ and counter feelings of emptiness or numbness
- To feel euphoria
- To regain control of their bodies
- To simply feel better
What can I do about it?
If you self-injure, it’s important to begin talking with someone you trust. This could be a friend, a family member, one of our Wellness Support Specialists, or anyone you feel comfortable talking with. Your support person can help you work through the next steps, like talking with a doctor or other health care professional. If you self-injure, it’s important to take care of your injuries. If you’re worried about an injury, talk to your doctor, go to your local emergency room, or call 9-1-1. You should be treated with respect no matter how you received the injury.
If self-injury isn’t related to a mental illness, it’s still best to talk with a mental health professional. Your doctor can recommend a counsellor who can help you. They can help you work through the thoughts, feelings, or situations behind self-injury, teach you skills to cope with difficult thoughts and feelings, and help you find alternatives to self-injury. It can also be very helpful to connect with support groups where you can share your own experiences and learn from others, and help you connect with people who understand what you’re going through. Other activities you can do to help yourself are: connecting with family and friends, eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep, and spending time on things you enjoy.
How can I help a loved one?
If you are concerned about a friend or family member, it’s okay to ask about self-injury. Talking about self-injury won’t make someone start hurting themselves. It’s a good idea to learn more about self-injury before you start the conversation. It can be difficult to hear what your loved one has to say. Self-injury may not make sense to you and you may wonder why someone would hurt themself, but your loved one’s feelings are very real. Learning more can help you give support that respects your loved one’s experiences. Here are a few more tips for helping a loved one:
- Instead of focusing on your loved one’s self-injury behaviours, it may be more helpful to focus on your concern for their well-being.
- Don’t demand that your loved one immediately stop self-injuring. New healthy behaviours take time to learn. Instead, focus on supporting new behaviours and celebrate your loved one’s small steps forward.
- Avoid guilt, shame or judgement—these can get in the way of open and trusting relationships.
- Seek help or support for yourself, if you need it.
Some people cope by injuring themselves on purpose — and it may be the only way for them to feel better.
Thoughts of Suicide
If you’re experiencing thoughts of suicide, you are not alone. Suicide may seem like the only way to deal with difficult feelings or situations, but it really isn’t. It’s important to talk about your experiences with your doctor, mental health care team, or any other person you trust. They can help you learn skills to cope and connect you to useful groups or resources. Other things that you can do include:
- Call a crisis telephone support line
– Mobile Crisis Service (24 hours): 204-940-1781
– Klinic Crisis Line (24 hours): 204-786-8686
– Manitoba Suicide Line (24 hours): 1-877-435-7170
- Reach out and connect with one of our Wellness Specialists at 1-877-602-1660 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Connecting with family, friends, or a support group. It can be helpful to talk with others who have experienced thoughts of suicide to learn about their coping strategies
If you’re in crisis and aren’t sure what to do, call 9-1-1 or go to your local emergency room.
Some people find a safety plan useful. A safety plan is a list of personal strategies to use if you think you are at risk of hurting or ending your life. You can create a plan on your own, with a loved one, or with your mental health care team. Your plan may include:
- Activities that calm you or take your mind off your thoughts
- Your own reasons for living
- Key people to call if you’re worried about your safety
- Phone numbers for local crisis or suicide prevention helplines
- A list of safe places to go if you don’t feel safe at home
How can I help a loved one?
Suicide is a difficult topic to bring up. However, when someone talks about suicide or you think they may be considering it, it’s important to take action and seek help quickly. If you’re concerned about someone else, talk with them. Ask them directly if they’re thinking about suicide. Talking about suicide won’t give them the idea. If someone is seriously considering suicide, they may be relieved that they can talk about it.
If someone you love says that they are thinking about ending their life, it’s important to ask them if they have a plan. If they have a plan and intend to end their life soon, connect with crisis services or supports right away or call 9-1-1. Stay with your loved one while you make the call, and don’t leave until the crisis line or emergency responders say you can leave.
Here are tips for talking with a loved one:
- Find a private place and let your loved one take as much time as they need.
- Take your loved one seriously and listen without judgment; their feelings are very real.
- Keep your word – don’t make a promise you can’t keep or don’t intend to keep.
- Tell your loved ones that they are important and that you care about them.
The two most important things you can do are listen and help them connect with mental health services.