Getting help

If you have never told anyone about your self-harm, but now want to give up, it can be very daunting thinking about how to go about getting help.

The first thing to do is find someone who you can trust and tell them about your self-harm. This could be a parent or relative, a friend, a teacher or church leader – anyone you feel you can trust. Be prepared for them to be surprised – people are much more aware of self-harm than they used to be, but they may still be shocked that it is something you struggle with. Try to be forgiving if they react in an unexpected or unhelpful way – remember you are far more of an expert in your self-harm than they are, and this is brand new information for them.

After this, it is advisable to go and speak to your GP about your self-harm, even if you think that your injuries aren’t that bad. They may be able to give advice on how to deal with self-harming urges, and can be a useful source to talk to in confidence and help you see the progress you make or difficulties you face. They will also be able to refer you to a counsellor, and they might suggest that you take some medication to help your mood. Some GPs have been known to react insensitively to self-harmers. If this happens to you, try not to be discouraged, and don’t give up. You are completely within your rights to see a different GP at either the same or a different practice.

If your GP feels that you need more specific help, they may refer you to the Mental Health Service at your local hospital, where you will see a psychiatrist with more expertise in self-harm. Many people hear the word ‘psychiatrist’ and immediately think that they’re about to be locked up. This isn’t the case at all – seeing a psychiatrist at a Mental Health Unit is often very helpful because they will understand far better than a GP where you are coming from. They might also point you to IAPT – Improving Access to Psychological Therapies – who offer counselling and courses to help people cope with life.

Things outside of the NHS are also valuable in recovery. Finding a counsellor who you can work with is a very positive step. Be sure to ask for their qualifications and make sure that they are members of or accredited by either the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) or the Association of Christian Counsellors (ACC). Both organisations have websites that include lists of qualified counsellors, specifying where they are based and the issues they work with. Counselling can be very expensive, but there are also organisations around that offer a free service or have a sliding scale of payment depending on what clients can afford. Check the above websites for local services, or look in your local phone directory.

Getting help is a scary thing to do, but it is also a very brave thing. By using what’s available, you are being active in your recovery. Asking for help and admitting that you can’t do it alone brings you one step closer to freedom.