If you are a boyfriend, girlfriend, a best friend, or just a friend of someone who self-injures it is important that you take care of yourself first.  People who self-injure often put friends (intentionally or not) in helpless situations.  A common request of a self-injurer is to ask a friend not to tell anyone else about their self-injury.  They may hold you ‘hostage’ with the threat, “if you tell….. I’ll cut myself”.  You may think you always have to be available so that they do not self-injure.  Friends tend to want to help the self-injurer in any way that they can, even if the self-injurer does not want the help.  Knowing how much, and how often to intervene can be overwhelming.  Setting boundaries within the relationship or deciding when to let go can also be stressful.

Intervention Tips

  1. Tell your friend that you cannot keep their self-injury secret.  Explain to them that it puts you in an uncomfortable position.  Tell them you will confide in people that you think can help (teachers, school counselor, school nurse, clergy, your parents, therapist, family doctor….)
  2. Know your limits.  Are you spending more time worrying about your friend self-injuring, and less time about your needs?
  3. If your friend self-injures and blames you, tell them that you are not taking responsibility for their self-injury.  This scenario is most common after a ‘break up.’ The self-injurer may tell you, “if you leave me I’ll injure.”  Do not stay in the relationship as a result of manipulative threats.  Tell them that you hope they will take responsibility for their behavior, not self-injure and get the help they need.
  4. Let them know that you are willing to help them look for information regarding treatment options.
  5. Remember, a healthy relationship is one of honesty, compromise and communication.