What to say to someone who tells you they are cutting

“Can we go together to tell a trusted adult?”

“When did it all start?”

“How can I help?”

“Tell me more.”

You want to know how you can help a friend who is cutting. When someone tells you they are cutting, they are struggling and looking for someone to listen.  (There are resources below.) There is a sample script below and a video.

Connect with the pain first

In other words, you don’t say things like, “You are so wonderful, why would you do that to yourself?” Because they might not be certain of why they are doing it and second because those phrases tend to make the sufferer feel misunderstood. The shame is likely to drive them to cut more because that is how they are coping with difficult emotions.

Cutting is an unhealthy coping strategy. Bullying, divorce, death of a parent, for example, can be reasons that drive someone to cut but people who self-harm usually have an underlying vulnerability such as a mental health condition or trauma. In short, there is something gravely wrong in this person’s life.

Cutting can go from being a habit to an ddiction but it’s important not to shame the person as that can drive them to engage in more of the behavior. It is one in which someone might not be able to move away from right away and can have many relapses. It can be what prevents someone from taking their life. So it’s important that they replace that coping strategy slowly with a healthier one and that takes time. So what do you do or say?

How is this making you feel?

Since you looked this up, I want you to think about how the fact that a friend is self-harming makes you feel. Are you feeling helpless, confused, anxious? Are you afraid your friend will be mad at you if you do tell someone? Are you feeling overwhelmed that such a big problem was laid at your feet? Write down your own emotions so you can understand your own reactions. While you don’t need to share your reservations with the friend who is cutting, know that you might need to talk and have someone listen to you.

Next, ask yourself this very important question because it’s the answer that will drive what you will do about it.

Is this behavior potentially life-threatening?

Since it is life-threatening do you think this is a secret you can keep? Would you rather your friend be mad at you than dead? Although self-harm is rarely an attempt at suicide, those who engage are at higher risk of taking their life due to being desensitized to pain and fear of harming themselves, so you want to say something before it escalates or gets out of control.

Listening is the key skill

You may think that listening is not doing anything. But the more you listen and not try to “fix” the more you are helping. It’s a skill that is way underrated. Just think about when you stated a problem how you felt when someone talked over you and started presenting solutions. Did you feel heard?

How do you feel when someone is quiet while you talk and even says things like “that must be really hard” or “tell me more?” Empathetic listening is a gift you can give someone and it’s a very valuable one. Empathetic listening involves nodding your head, making eye contact if in person, and saying ummmmm to let the person know you are there and hearing what they have to say.

Ask open-ended questions

So key phrases and open-ended questions might be some of the following.

  • Tell me more
  • I’m honored you trust me enough to tell me this
  • How long has this been going on?
  • When did the self-harm start?
  • How is all of this making you feel?
  • Does anyone else know?
  • Has anything else been going on in your life?
7:45 minute video on What to Say to a Friend Who is Cutting

Sample conversation with someone who is cutting

The script below, although simplistic and probably corny, will give you the idea of a direction in which to go to help you help a friend who is cutting. 

Friend: I’ve been cutting

You: I’m honored you trust me. That took a lot of courage. It sounds so painful.  Do you know why you are cutting? 

Friend: I don’t know. 

You: When did it start?

Friend: I think it started after those girls texted that embarrassing picture of me with Jason naked from that party. It was so humiliating. I was so drunk.

You: I am so sorry that is really cruel.  Tell me how that made you feel. I’m listening.

Friend: It’s so stupid but when I think about that or a lot of things, I cut myself and at that moment it feels good… and then later I feel ashamed and embarrassed. I keep thinking I’ll stop but then I get those feelings again and I do it again. 

You: It sounds like something really awful happened that triggered the cutting. Do you cut when other bad things happen?

Friend: I guess I do. Yeah. A bad test score. An argument. But yeah.

You: I feel worried about you. Can we talk to an adult you trust? I can go with you. Who do you think would be good? How about your soccer coach?

Your friend brought it up because they want to talk about it. Use the things attached to your head called ears, have empathy and ultimately you want them to reach out to a trusted adult and get the help they need to develop healthier coping strategies.

Why? Because you are not qualified to fix this.

Neither is a trusted adult but they’ll know more about what to do next.

Your job is to listen and let a trusted adult know so your friend gets help.

You can do that in partnership with your friend. But if she or he doesn’t want to, you’ll have to go forward and tell a trusted adult discreetly and in private. Because no matter why someone is cutting, you can be sure it is a sign that something is gravely wrong in that person’s life and they need help beyond what you can provide. But you can still be there for support.

Here are the basic steps:

  1. I am honored you trust me enough to tell me about this
  2. Listen empathetically–with your heart without judgment 
  3. Ask if they are thinking of or are attempting suicide
  4. Say things like, “I’m concerned about you.”  
  5. Tell a trusted adult.  You may fear they might get mad at you but I imagine you’d rather a friend be mad than dead. And often no one stays mad. An alternative is to engage that friend and tell that trusted adult together. A trusted adult is a teacher, parent (yours or someone else’s), school counselor, coach, minister.

This doesn’t fix everything but it’s a start. It’s a scary, frustrating and baffling behavior for most of us. We want to say, “just stop cutting.”

Please understand that it’s more complicated than that.

Resources:

  • Calm Harm (App) is available for free through Google Play and App Store provides timed activities to help resist or manage self-harm urges with ability to log completed activities and track progress (for teens)
  • The Adolescent Self Injury Foundation provides information and resources to adolescents and young adult self-injurers and their families. In particular, their How Parents Can Help page provides a list of “Do’s and Don’ts” to guide parents on how to help a loved one, and an extensive list of alternative behaviors to help self-injurers implement alternative coping mechanisms.
  • A.F.E. Alternatives, provides information and resources on self-harm and referrals to treatment options, including an information helpline at (800) 366-8288, 800-DON’TCUT. (USA phone number. Not sure if it works from Canada or not.)
  • Self Injury guidance for Schools/Educators
  • From NAMI self-harm blog
  • The Buddy Project aims to prevent suicide and to provide self-harm alternatives by pairing people through social media as buddies and raising awareness for mental health. (this is not currently active but being developed as an app)

Published by

Anne Moss Rogers

I am an emotionally naked TEDx speaker, and author of the Book, Diary of a Broken Mind and co-author with Kim O'Brien PhD, LICSW of Emotionally Naked: A Teacher's Guide to Preventing Suicide and Recognizing Students at Risk. I raised two boys, Richard and Charles, and lost my younger son, Charles to substance use disorder and suicide on June 5, 2015. I help people foster a culture of connection to prevent suicide, reduce substance misuse and find life after loss. My motivational, training and workshop topics include suicide prevention, addiction, mental illness, coping strategies/resilience, and grief. As talented and funny as Charles was, letting other people know they matter was his greatest gift. And now the legacy I try and carry forward in my son's memory. Professional Speaker Website. Trained in ASIST and trainer for the evidence-based 4-hour training for everyone called safeTALK.

77 thoughts on “What to say to someone who tells you they are cutting”

  1. The thread only went so far so I’m answering your question here. I’m not sure how I feel about it. I don’t really know what to do to help. Because I guess suicidal OCD means she obsesses over killing herself and I don’t really know how to help lessen the obsession.

    1. I suspected as much. I know so well that feeling of hopelessness. I took a class through NAMI (national alliance of mental illness) called Family to family. I joined a support group, too. And one of my young adult friends started a mental wellness group at his school. All of that was to work through those feelings of helplessness because we feel like we aren’t doing enough. But what you do know is that it’s not tied to you. That you are not causing this in any way. Really the only thing you can do is listen with empathy, find support for you and become more educated. And you can share with her that you feel helpless but also you know you can resolve all this for her. You can however, be there for support. And you can listen. That connection, just that simple step means more than you will ever know to someone struggling. Having a friend who cares counts. And just know that is enough and sometimes all we can offer. You are such an amazing friend. The number of comments here proves that. Thank you for caring.

        1. I think that’s all you can ask of yourself. I think it’s really difficult for those supporting the people we care about. I actually know more about this feeling than any other. Watching someone we love suffer is so hard. That helplessness is brutal. I found a support through a group. NAMI has ones for family and friends. And some schools have started mental wellness programs.

          1. Shes gotten a lot worse recently and she’s being admitted into a residential program in a couple of weeks. She’s really scared and I’ve been able to calm her down and make her feel better. And I have been able to cheer her up. But the truth is I looked up the place that she’s going to, and it has some really bad reviews. I don’t know if I should tell her that. She is black and the reviews said that the people that worked there treated the black patients very bad and they were rude and treated them differently and worse than all the other patients. I don’t know what I should do. I’m really worried about her. But we are both minors (we’re both 16) and the place that she goes is really all her parent’s decision. I’m not sure what I should do.

            1. I think, given what you’ve said, she does need inpatient care. And in the current climate about treating African Americans appropriately and black lives matter, they’d be stupid to not treat her equally. In terms of inpatient care, there are often people who get out and don’t like their stay so most of them have their share of bad reviews. Do check the date of the review as well. You can tell me the name of it and I can take a look. I don’t think it’s a good idea to tell her that either. She’s very ill right now. Besides that, it might not be true. If it is, they should get rid of anyone that is prejudiced. If you hear that they are, I’ll call them myself. Nothing makes me angrier than someone being mistreated because of their race, religious affiliation, or sexual orientation. Health inequality is a big subject these days. You really are the most dedicated friend.

              1. Okay, Thank you. And the most recent review is from 3 months ago. It’s a negative review (most of them are) It’s called the Meridell Achievement Center. Thank you so much for your help. Everything that you’re doing really helps a lot.

                1. So I did a quick search. One thing, avoid Yelp! They filter out a lot of good reviews because they know that negativity is what gets them traffic. Kind of like how CNN is constantly throwing doomsday headlines at you becaue they know that keeps worried people engaged. That said, the ones on indeed were a lot more telling and those were not bad. Like everything either people hate it or they love it. And I think it has to do with whether the teen is open to it when they go or not. RTC (residential treatment centers) are a lot about what you put into it and opinions are always all over the place. I think for now, we need to be glad she will be in an environment that will keep her safe from suicide while she finds stability. This process is never easy or short. But I know far more who’ve come through it and done well than the other way around. Since where she goes is not without our control, I’m going to suggest focusing on what is within your control and that’s how you react to the situation. Part of what you have done so well is showing your support. So capitalize on that which you have done well. I wrote my son twice a week when he was in an RTC. And I know those letters made a difference. So think of what you can do and are allowed to send, (comics, stupid stories, quotes of hope) that could show her that you are there. Also giving her an empty journal so she can record her thoughts is one way to help. What I did is pre address envelopes and buy stamps so that the habit was easy to put into action. I hope that helps.

                  1. Okay Thank you. I will try not to worry and I’ll send her letters as much as I can. Thank you for your support through this. I’ll try to keep you updated on whatever happens next. Thank you so much for your help and advice. It really means a lot.

  2. Hi Ma’am, my girlfriend cuts. Alot. She goes to a treatment center weekly and her parents know but I know she hides things from them like the extent of her depression and how frequent her suicidal thoughts are. And then there’s also things that she only tells me, like how she sees and hears voices in her head that make her hurt herself. I know these creatures are real, to her at least. Because she’s described them in detail to me. She matches all the symptoms for schizophrenia but she won’t tell anyone. She cuts so much and sometimes she can’t control it. I’m so scared. What do I do?

    1. You are a good person to be concerned and you are right to be concerned. She is at risk for suicide. That means you must tell a trusted adult. To save her life. Voices can be any number of mental illnesses including schizophrenia or bipolar but she needs to be assessed for suicidality and have a safety plan. As far as the cutting, that is a slow process but oftentimes it actually does prevent those at risk for suicide from killing themselves which I know is hard to understand. It’s not a healthy coping strategy but it is one that teens and young adults use to stop a suicide attempt.

      The suicidality and the mental illness is probably a priority. I would think they would have assessed her for that. So who is the trusted adult? If you know where she goes to therapy you can call and ask for that therapist. While that therapist cannot tell you anything about a patient you can tell her about their patient. Since she is already going there it makes the process more seamless. Do you know who she sees? Find that out and that’s who you tell. Do come back and let me know what happens or if you have other questions or issues. I will answer.

      1. Thank you for responding. Her parents and the doctors know about the voices but not in that much detail. They don’t know how much power they hold over her. I know who her therapist is but I’m scared to tell him what I know and betray my girlfriend’s trust, however I know in the end I should tell someone. I’m pretty conflicted. Do you have any advice?

        1. A.M. – You are kind, trustworthy, and thoughtful and that’s why you struggle with this. If she died and you didn’t tell the therapist, how would that feel? To me, I’d rather a friend be mad at me than dead. And usually they get past mad and understand what you did comes from a place of love. I am honored you posted here and grateful she has you as a friend. I know you will do what’s right even though it’s hard. Take a deep breath and call that therapist. Please. I’m still here. I will answer. It’s OK to struggle with this because it’s hard.

          1. She tried to attempt yesterday. I had told the therapist before and her family knew. She was pretty angry at me but got over it. I thought everything was fine but it wasn’t. This came a little out of the blue but maybe it was a long time coming. She’s okay and she wasn’t successful. Just thought you would like an update

            1. Wow. That’s a close call. Thank you so much for the update. Tonight, I’m posting a self harm safety kit another young lady made to keep her safe from self harm and suicide. This person has a much weaker support system and certainly no one like you to be by her side. She is so fortunate to have you. And just when you think all is good, something happens. But you did what you could and I’m amazed and impressed with your loyalty and perserverance. You can’t fix this and all you can do is what you did. I sure wish I could clone you.

              1. Thank you I will definitely check that out. She’s had some pretty serious diagnoses so she’s going to an inpatient facility today. She’s supposed to be there for about 3 weeks. I honestly don’t know what to think because I’m glad she’s safe but I’ve also heard alot of “horror” stories about psych wards and mental hospitals. I’ve done research on the place but I feel kind of uneasy for some reason. She’s also not allowed to contact anyone except one family member throughout her stay, which seems a little odd to me. I’m really happy she’s safe but she’s been in and out of this facility (for shorter periods of time) and she seems to get worse every time she leaves. I’m just feeling a little uneasy about the whole thing, but I also know that at this point a lot of things aren’t in my control.

                1. You pointed out something important, “At this point a lot of things aren’t in my control.” That is such an important realization. A deep belly breath and repeating that to yourself can help you find a sense of calm. Find out if you can send letters. That’s what I did with my son. I thought they didn’t mean anything to him. But in his backpack we got after his death, every letter I wrote to him while he was in inpatient he saved and put in a gallon ziplock to protect them from getting damaged. He didn’t have much in that backpack but he had those which tells me they were important. How you react is something within your control. So supporting her and finding support for you. And the latter you can find through NAMI support groups in your state/area. Or by calling and asking questions on a “peer warm line.” Again, most states have those. And you are already trying to get educated which is good. You’ve been an amazing friend.

                  1. Thank you so much for your advice and support throughout this journey. I’ll try to put more updates on here in the future

                    1. Thank you for returning and updating thus far. It’s been very helpful. And you are welcome to come back at any time with more questions, information, or updates.

                    2. She’s okay. She’s gotten more meds and she’s been diagnosed with suicidal OCD as well as depression and anxiety

                    3. I couldn’t comment on your update below because the thread only goes so far. You can start a new one but if I did, you would have missed my reply. Thank you for sending an update. I wondered how it might be going. How are you feeling about this diagnosis?

  3. My girlfriend just told me that she cut herself for the first time. She keeps downplaying it thought, saying things like, “I wasn’t even thinking about it so I won’t do it again” or “I only scratched myself so its not that bad.” How should I respond to this?

    1. Instead of telling her to stop, counselors and therapists must help her transition to healthy coping strategies. Some of those are: rubbing ice on her body, taking an extremely cold or hot shower, dipping her face in bowl of ice water, or creating a self-harm safety box. Even then, communicating to a person who cut that it’s “wrong” or “disgusting” may add to her shame. Number 1 it needs to be taken seriously, and number 2 responded to with compassion and empathy.

      This quote from a teen for my latest book: “From personal experience I will tell you that a person has to be in an extreme amount of emotional pain and distress to take a blade or lighter to their skin. We self-harm because we are angry, sad, lost and broken. We hurt ourselves because we want to see the scars we feel on the inside, or as a physical distraction, be it brief, from the hurt we cannot bear.”

      So what do you say? You can’t fix this but you also can’t keep this to yourself and you’re going to have to tell a trusted adult. I know you feel that violates trust but this is bigger than anything you can tackle and is not because of you in any way. Something is gravely wrong in her life right now and that is driving the behavior. So you say, “What I see alarms me and I know there is something you are struggling with and I wish I could fix it. Because I care about you, we need to choose someone to tell and I hope you will do that with me so you can get the help you deserve.” Hopefully, she will comply. But for her safety since this is dangerous behavior (even if it’s not suicidal behavior) someone who can take action such as an adult she knows needs to be alerted. Before it gets out of hand. And it can. It’s much easier to address the issue now when it’s not as bad than it is later when it’s more of an addiction. But either way, most people go on to live productive lives and learn to cope in a different way. I hope that helps. Let me know what happens.

      This can help until she gets help but don’t let these tips be a substitute for her getting help. The issue that is driving the behavior needs to be addressed.

      Below is info on the cold water technique and why it works. Video here: https://www.nowmattersnow.org/skill/cold-water

      It’s been found that cold water on your face combined withholding your breath (triggering the ‘human dive reflex’) can lower emotional arousal and make you feel back in charge of yourself again.

      Bend over, hold your breath, and dunk your face in a sink of cold water for between 30 and 60 seconds. You don’t want the water to be so cold it hurts, just cold enough to feel shocking. You might need to do it a few times.

      *Note that this technique has a powerful enough affect on your body it’s not recommended if you have a heart condition or are physically weak.

      Some people find that ice cubes can be just as effective, and can distract from the urge to self-harm. If you feel you are going to self-harm, grab some ice cubes in a Ziploc or wrapped in paper towels and hold them in your hand. The intense sensation becomes a stand in for the escapist sensation of self harm, helping the desire pass.

      1. Hi Mrs anne,
        my friend cuts herself mostly because of her bullying like people saying she should commit suicide because she was once gay, she changed but they dont understand. They are being very rude and saying she should harm herself and go die. I really dont know what to do……I’m the only person she trusts enough to tell about this………I’m really scared she’s gonna commit suicide. I can’t let that happen!! She doesn’t tryst her parents and I dont think she does any other adult either. I really dont know what to do…..please help me

        1. Rae- What a dear friend you are and thank you for caring deeply enough to try to help your friend. I wish I could clone you. So I am not sure what age you are or she is. But a good person to tell usually is a teacher or a school counselor. If you are on a college campus, then campus counseling. Usually, cutting is not a suicide attempt but a coping strategy. I’m so sorry she is being bullied. But do know that millions have worked through this and having a friend by one’s side makes all the difference. If you are both not school age, let me know and I’ll help you find other ways to help.

      2. Hello my girlfriend has been cutting recently and i don’t know what to do i’ve been reading a lot into it and been asking her how she is and what’s wrong and why she does it and she says “i just get sad sometimes, it’s nothing really” what do i do?

        1. Jaidyn- What a dear friend you are. Cutting (self-harm) means something is gravely wrong in your friend’s life. Go to see, email, or call your school counselor if you in middle or high school. Please tell the counselor that you have struggled with what to do but you are in fear of your friend’s life. You would rather have your friend alive and mad, than dead. Right? And if she gets mad, she won’t be forever. You can’t fix this and it takes a long time for someone to help another replace that coping strategy with a healthier one. And that’s what needs to happen. Don’t hesitate to come back here if you want to know what to say specifically or any other questions. It’s really important, although hard, to do this. But if something happens, I don’t want you to have to live with that. There is something you can do. Tell someone and a school counselor is probably the best option. They’ve dealt with this before.

  4. Evening, my girlfriend has been hurting herself for sometime now since before i met her, she stops but then does it again when things get bad. She first told me about it after when we just started dating but she hadn’t don’t it. However as time passed by and things started to escalate at her home, she began to do it again. Most of the time she tells when she feels like she’s about to hurt herself and i always try and make her feel better, but when she doesn’t let me know she’ll tell me afterwards and i try to make her feel somewhat better, I let her know that hurting herself doesn’t define who she is, it doesn’t make her weak in any type of way, and that its not a bad thing to feel the way she feels. I reassure her that she isn’t dumb but recently i’ve been running out of thing to say when she tells me she’s hurt herself again because i just feel useless, i feel like the thing i say don’t help at all. So i was wondering if you had any advice? please

    1. First of all, you are an amazing boyfriend. Really. And I know it feels like you are running out of things to say. I feel like that too. However, just being there, loving and supporting her by listening is so important. It is the most vital gift a human give another in this type of situation. It sounds like she is managing to have some recovery periods. Is this an improvement over how it used to be? At one time was she cutting to cope all the time? If so she has made progress toward recovery. To stop that unhealthy coping behavior needs to be replaced by something else. Mindfulness meditation and writing for example. And then others have used the self harm safety box. But while all those things might work the process of stopping is slow with relapses along the way. And honestly, just how you are is exactly what she needs. You really are a very special human being. Not many guys would be so empathetic and thoughtful. I wish I could clone you.

  5. hi Anne, i need help for my girlfriend. she been cutting herself lately and she won´t tell me why she is doing it. what can i do?

    1. Hi Lacey. Most people cut because they are using it to manage emotional pain. When they are struggling with something, they cut to cope with something and it becomes habit. When you say your friend is not telling you, do you mean you think there is a specific reason she’s cutting that she’s not sharing it with you? See if you can encourage her to talk to a trusted adult together with you. A school counselor, teacher, parent, coach? Let me know if I’ve answered your question. If not, add some specifics and I’ll try again.

  6. I have multiple friends that cut. One of them very recently confided in me that they have been hurting themselves. I followed all of your steps even before googling this because I have done it before. But usually my next step would be to go talk to my School counselor who I trust a lot, to try and get that person help. But since school is at home, and we are close to the end of the semester any way i’m not sure what to do. The other one who I have known cuts for about 8 months revealed to me that she had been googling ways to commit suicide on Quora. And she had really looking into it. I have gotten her help with the counselor and have talked her off from cutting multiple times, but again without the counselor I am lost. She has gotten help before at a mental hospital a few times, and her mom knows about her cutting, but I don’t know what to do now that she contemplates taking her life as well. I’m really starting to worry, she seemed okay tonight but that could all change. Please advise.

    1. You are an amazing friend. Honestly. The counselors are still working at schools. And if you are in touch with a teacher ask her to get you in touch with one and tell them. You can even tell the teacher you are concerned about a friend who is suicidal. In most states by law they have to connect you to a resource usually starting with the school counselor. They are “zooming” and calling students daily.

      A second option is a county or state crisis line. So here for example it’s the richmond city crisis line. And the one in the county is called Chesterfied county crisis line. So google the one in your county or city.

      Third option is to reach out to your local NAMI chapter. Every state has one. Many of them are adding young adult and teen support groups and they are adept at finding support. NAMI stands for National alliance of mental illness. They are an amazing organization. https://nami.org/findsupport

      AFSP, American Foundation of Suicide prevention also has local chapters and support. They don’t have groups per se but I want you to be aware. They do screen some films and more. https://afsp.org/find-a-local-chapter/

      For your friend who is suicidal, listening helps a bunch. Single most important thing to do. Here is a guide on what to say. And the help would be found at one of the above resources. They are challenging to find right now. https://annemoss.com/2019/12/10/they-said-theyre-thinking-of-suicide-what-now/

      You can come back here ok? I will help you do this. You have a lot of resilience and maturity and I am so grateful for that right now.

      1. I got in touch with my counselor this morning thankfully. I sent her an email explaining and then she called as a follow up. She is going to be checking in with me and contacting both the friends parents to try and help them.

        I sent the suicidal friend the number for the prevention hotline, and gave her more “comforting” talk. I want them to still be able to confide in me, but I’m worried they will shut me out, now that I have gone back to the counselor. If the one suicidal one, lets call her X, is still responding and confiding in me I will try to convince her to look into NAMI. It sounds like a very good tool for her. I can also see if shes seeing a therapist, that might be another good step.

        X knows that I take what she says very seriously and knows I am willing to get her help. And I think she knows from past experiences that I will usually involve an adult when I think shes in danger. But the other friend lets call them Y, has only just confided in me yesterday. We are good friends but I feel that she might be mad at me for going to someone right away. I know it was the right thing to do, I just don’t want that trust broken.

        I found a few hotlines that are good to just talk to, they are not immediate but they helped calm me down a bit and gave pretty good advice. the one I found was called Here2Help which is in partner with the prevention hotline. Would that be something I could recommended to both of them?

        I appreciate you responding so quickly, I love what you are trying to help people with, and your own personal story made me feel like you would listen and help. Hope you are well, thank you for all the advice and aid.

        1. I just can’t believe how mature you are Gwenyth. And the lengths you go to help your friends. It’s remarkable. I think the here2help is a good resource. It differs by area of the US. But it’s typically a good place for students to call.

          I don’t know where you are but in Richmond, VA we have a “peer warm line.” Those warm lines are usually the first step to getting someone to a support group. They talk to someone who has been through exactly what they’re going through. And instead of suggesting a support group to her, maybe say, “Would you consider a support group with others who are struggling with the same issues?” Just plant the seed and let her think on it. Then it kind of comes to her as “her idea.” Then she might come back later and ask for the resource and you can look into the local NAMI groups. This step takes a lot of patience and sometimes suggesting it instead of a question doesn’t go as well. It depends on the person though.

          There are ways to repair a relationship after telling an adult about a teen in trouble. You can say something like, “I am sorry and I know you must feel betrayed. I want you to know that I was discreet but your life an you are important to me and I don’t know how I’d live with myself is somting terrible happened to you so I had to share this with a trusted adult. Even if you can’t understand right now, please know that my telling someone came from a place of love. And that you matter to me and I hope you forgive me.”

          My next thought is that you are so good at this, maybe you start a mental wellness club for your school. A virtual one. I think the school counselor can help you do this. So there is you and an adult sponsor at each one. Then you can have school support groups and feature a theme each month. Maybe even speakers or books. My neice did this at her school and it was amazing to watch how successful it was.

  7. My friend cuts and she’s clinically depressed, her mom is too but her dad doesn’t believe in depression. Her parents threatened to kick her out before and she’s scared that another incident of her cutting and being caught will get her kicked out. I don’t know what to do to help her.

    1. Ananya- First of all, you are a good friend. And I hear you saying that telling her parents might be a risk that triggers a much more serious problem. I would hope they would not follow through with throwing her out but it does illustrate a lack of understanding. Tell me where you are. Just a city or state if in the United States. Or the area in which you live if elsewhere. That way I can help you find resources. There are a lot of virtual meetings and help lately.

  8. Another friend of mine who has been depressed for a while and been mentally abused by her mom’s boyfriend (Imma call him “E” for now) and E’s kids but her mom doesn’t care. Now she’s being forced by her mom to be homeschooled and recently her mom has suddenly decided to take her to some random mental clinic. School was her safe place but now she doesn’t have that. I’m scared her depression is gonna increase drastically and she might start cutting (as far as I’ve ever known she hasn’t yet) or go farther. How can I help her?

    1. You are such a good friend and you are right to be concerned and be her advocate. Call Child Protective Services. Phone: (360) 902-8060 or 1-800 723-4831. This is for the state of Washington. And you can also ask your school counselor for resources. Not guidance but someone in the counseling department. I couldn’t find the school counselor on your school website.

  9. My friend told me she was depressed and then showed me scars on her wrists. I think she was trying to hint that she was cutting but was too embarrassed to say anything. What can I do to help her? Any recommended numbers, sites, or professional treatment I can get her?

    1. You can both use the crisis text line for starters. That’s national and it’s 741-741. You can do that together if you want or separately.

      I would recommend going to the school counselor, though. Ask her if you two can go together. Tell her this is serious and you are worried about her and it’s important that she get help and you are with her. You can do it together. Stronger together. She might say no at first. Be patient and say it again. Which is hard. But really emphasize that none of this will fix itself and she has already been very brave to tell someone and now it’s important to take that next step. If she refuses, you are going to have to go anyway. It’s better that she be mad at you than dead. Your school district appears to have a new pilot program for mental health in partnership with Washington State University.

      Here is the crisis line for your county if you live in Pierce county which would be the same as your school district. Pierce County, Beacon Health Options, 1-800-576-7764. You can call and just ask for advice and tell them what’s wrong. Again, you can call by yourself or WITH your friend. But I would go for the school counselor. If you are not in Pierce county here is the list. https://www.hca.wa.gov/health-care-services-supports/behavioral-health-recovery/mental-health-crisis-lines

      Let me know how it goes or ask more questions. OK.

  10. Hi Anne,
    I just found out that my boyfriend has just started cutting again. He’s been in and out of therapy and his current therapist doesn’t seem to be helpful at all. He hasn’t told anyone yet, including his parents and I’m really worried for him. Do you have any advice for me?

    1. A.B. I’m so sorry you’ve had to struggle with this worry. He is cutting because he is trying to cope with some emotional distress. And this is not something you can fix for him but you can support him in his efforts for recovery. But like you have found, it is frustrating. He needs a healthier coping strategy to replace the unhealthy one (in this case cutting). So maybe he uses writing to to manage pain. Cutting is an effort to avoid pain when what people need to understand that life has pain and we need to allow it in because feelings are temporary. A person can’t heal if they avoid the problem with an unhealthy coping strategy Right now it’s a habit and maybe even an addiction and it takes a long time to find recovery. But people do.

      Some have found a mental health group helpful. I found this to be the most helpful. And NAMI has groups in every state in the US. There are a lot of people in those groups who suffer from anxiety or depression and have been cutters or are cutters. You can find that here: https://nami.org/Find-Support?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI39S8rP-x5wIVi5-zCh0TtQhMEAAYAiAAEgKqxvD_BwE

      This strategy has worked for some. https://annemoss.com/2016/08/03/self-harm-safety-box/

      You have to practice self-care for yourself and accept you can’t do it for another person. You are a thoughtful and caring young lady. Let me know how it goes.

  11. Today my friend who’s been struggling with depression for many years sent me a message “Why do I feel better when I cut myself”.
    How do I respond to that? I’m the only friend she has and I don’t want to hurt her by telling her to tell someone else 😢😢😢 Her psychologist doesn’t help her out apparently

    1. She is doing it as a coping strategy. So when something is painful, like the loss of a sister, for example, people want to divert their attention from emotional pain by causing some physical pain. It’s a form of relief that after a while is like an addiction. The self-harm safety box has worked for many people. But for her to stop cutting, she has to replace it with a healthy coping strategy. It’s also a journey that looks like this. So they cut, then stop, then relapse, and stop and eventually they find full recovery if they don’t die from it prior to that. Did that help? Let me know if you have other questions. I can also ask a former cutter to respond as well.

  12. My friend recently told me she’s cutting herself. It started after she got raped, and I don’t know what to tell her.
    I’ve asked her if she has anyone to talk to, parent or teacher, and she says no
    What should I do

    1. What a compassionate friend you are. She must really be hurting. I know you are honored she saw you as a trusted person she could confide in and thank God she told someone. She is cutting to cope with the pain of the rape. By cutting, she focuses on that physical pain instead of the agony of the aftermath of rape which is more painful to her. You are not the fixer in this situation. But you are a connector meaning you can connect your friend with resources to help her.

      Don’t promise total secrecy but do promise sensitivity and discretion. This could potentially be a life/death issue so it’s important to do something. If you have a mom or dad who is a good supporter, you can engage their help. A school counselor is also another option. But you can do this.

      1. Look for local rape resources by googling, “rape crisis center _______ ___.” Fill in the blanks with your city and state. If you are in a small town, call the national hotline (800-656-4673) and ask them for local resources. So this step is all about doing the research to help your friend find support locally. Places that handle rape cases are the most compassionate, giving and thoughtful people you will ever meet. The idea is to go to her with a plan outlined on her next step. She is in a state of mind where this is too difficult for her right now. It is a trauma. You want to get together an outline of what happens next and you can write that on your phone.

      3. Talk with her, let her know about your research on the resources for rape and tell her you will both call and/or go together. If she has confided in you, then taking the next step will be easier. She’s already done it once. She can do it again. If you are not yet 16, find a trusted person to give you both a ride. Some towns are so small they don’t have a center but a number. There is usually a statewide number. But there are resources for this.

      4. This does not mean she has to press charges but she will get the support she needs to work through this.

      Let me know your thoughts and concerns. I am here to help you.

  13. Hi…so a while back my friend added me into this chat with a few of her friends and a bunch of people we don’t really know, they don’t live in the same location as me, some of them even live in a different continent, I don’t have any of their emails and the only way I can talk with them is in the big chat, one of the girls in the chat admit to my friend that she cuts herself and I don’t know what to do because the only way I can talk with them is through a text-chat, I don’t know if she is joking or if she’s being serious because I don’t know her, what should I do?

    1. First I want to say how thoughtful you are to want to help this friend although you do t even know her. If she said it publicly in the chat, do take it seriously as I feel she is crying out for help. If there is no way to send a direct message, and she says it, ask if she wants to email privately to talk about it. You will have to say it publicly if there is no other option. I am going to guess she wants to discuss this with someone. That’s what it sounds like to me. You are a lovely friend. Others are lucky to have you on their side.

  14. My friend has told me she has been cutting. But I never know how to go about because she’ll think it’s weird that I’m asking so much about her cuts. And we almost never see each other in-person, we only speak through texts. How can I talk to her about it but not seem weird?

    1. Asking shows you care. And you can start it with, “I care about you so I might have questions to try and understand better what you are going through. I hope it’s ok if I ask them. And let me know if something I ask is too sensitive. Understanding it will help me support you better.” I hope that helps. Feel free to ask me more questions.

      1. Hi, I just discovered my friend is/ was cutting. I don’t know if she is still doing it or whether she stopped. I just saw the scars and my heart poured out for her. I feel so bad and I don’t know what to do. How can I breech the topic with her? Though I’m afraid we’re not that close so she’d probably not be interested in talking to me. Am I a bad friend? Please help.

        1. Hi sally. I think you just say to her, “can we talk in private? I noticed you have some battle scars that I figure are the result of some struggle. I am here to listen. Not judge or fix.”

          You as a special person.

  15. Hello!! I recently discovered that my friend is cutting herself.. can u please tell me what I should do? I’m really confused..

    1. First of all, thank you for being a good friend. Listen to her first. I don’t know where you are writing from and what resources are available but she is doing the cutting to cope. Cutting gives her relief at the moment. It’s an unhealthy coping strategy. Ask her if she wants to keep cutting? If not you can share the article below with her. But you need to know, you can’t fix this but you can only help her fix herself.

      So the Self Harm Safety box is one way to do this herself. https://annemoss.com/2016/08/03/self-harm-safety-box/

      If you are in a school and there are resources, ask her if she wants to stop cutting and if she says, yes, you say, “We agree you want to stop cutting so we should go together to tell the school counselor.”

  16. My daughter is 26 years old and suffers with bipolar, anxiety and depression. She has been cutting herself for years and letting us know after the fact. This morning at 3:30 AM she called to tell me that she wanted to cut her self but wanted to talk to me or her dad because she really didn’t want to. I honest don’t know what to do. She has been in a mental health facility twice. She can’t keep a job and relationships are extremely hard to maintain. It’s very hard to offer her words of encouragement as she sees life is a very bleak place. My husband and I don’t know what to do at this point as she is an adult.

    1. There is one thing I regret not telling my son, “As much as I want you to get well, I love you even if you don’t.” It is ok to feel defeated and exhausted. But you know you won’t give up.

      I understand the guilt of feeling that way. What helped me the most was a support group. It helped me with strategies of managing my own difficulties and how to see, understand and manage my son who suffered from mental illness. I think your daughter took a big first step in recognizing the behavior before it happened. That is huge. Reinforce that. Tell her that is a big step to getting well.

      But you can’t always be the only go to. Her plan needs to include you, another family member and the crisis text line. Together you guys need to identify some others to call.

      She needs to identify and write down those feelings she has prior to cutting. Now that she has felt it and stopped it, she should be able to do that. She will need to Develop new coping strategies to replace this one.

      All that takes time but she has turned a corner. It might include some hiccups and relapses but this really is a monumental step. Look up Tammy Ozolins on this site. (Make a Comment On her article about cutting so she sees it) and ask your daughter to review the article here “self harm safety box.”

      There were times I felt wrung out with worry and exhaustion. For you https://annemoss.com/2017/06/03/done-refueling-comment/

  17. My best friend today admitted to me that she was cutting herself. I didn’t know what to do at the moment and I really wanted to make it better. I want her to stop cutting or at least help her but I don’t know-how.

    1. First of all thank you for wanting to help an friend and listening. We can listen, ask questions but the frustrating part is seeing someone be self destructive and not being able to fix it or get them to stop. By asking them the questions I outlined above we can sometimes plant seeds that make them think. Asking “do you know why you are cutting yourself?” Simply helps them see they are using it to cope. But ultimately we want them to get help. We aren’t qualified to help them stop so finding g a trusted adult to get help for the person is what we can do. Often a school counselor.

      You are welcome to write more about your friend and vent your frustration here. I have felt that frustration. It’s not a great place to be. And it’s really hard to understand and watch another go through this. It’s a helpless feeling. Thank you for commenting. Again. You are a caring and thoughtful human being.

  18. Hello,
    A friend of mine is cutting herself. She has done this multiple times before in the past and went to therapy and all. But she started again recently and it’s even worse this time. She prays for God to kill her soon in church every Sunday. It is really freaking me out. I asked her what she was planning on doing next and if she expects to do it again. She said that she knew where the blade was and that she could cover it up more since it’s fall. I’m scared to tell my school officials as I would betray her and when somebody else did last time it didn’t help her. But at the same time, I want to do something before things get serious and out of control. I was wondering if I could get your advice on this.

    1. First of all I admire you for being a real and genuine friend. And caring enough to look up and ponder what to do. So I will start by asking a question. If your friend were to die as a result of self harm or suicide, would you the. Have wished you would have told someone? I understand your struggle because I have had to tell someone as well and it does feel as if we are going behind the person’s back. But I know you would struggle if your friend died and knowing you could have done something to prevent it. You are smart to think about that but I think you already know the answer. In choosing which trusted adult to tell, consider a school counselor, a teacher, a minister, a coach or a friend. Choose one who will try to get her help. And if she gets angry just tell her you would rather have her mad at you and alive than dead. And you were concerned for her life and you knew how friends and family would react to such a huge loss. I hope that helps. Feel free to come back and comment or ask questions

  19. Hey today at dance class there is this girl I just met a few weeks ago. I’m new to this dance studio and this girl kinda got close to me. It was weird at first but then she kinda reminded me of me when I was little. But anyway she bluntly told me that she was cutting herself. (This is how it went)
    Me: I gotta take my Sweater off or else I get really hot and sweat. That surely wont be fun for me.
    Her: I cant take mine off (pulls up her sleeve) cuz apparently this is frowned upon. (She acted nonchalant as if it was normal.)
    Me:…mhm…(I freaked out and blurted this out.) Ya know you can get staff infection?
    What do I do? Aren’t people that do this ment to be secretive about it? This is really confusing. I need some help on how to approach this as you can see.

    1. Wow. She clearly wanted to tell someone. Start by asking her questions. “Why do you cut?” “Do you want to stop?” “Are you willing to tell someone?” Then there’s this if she wants to try to stop. https://annemoss.com/2016/08/03/self-harm-safety-box/

      You are a thoughtful person to care enough to look it up. There is no perfect solution. But ultimately, you can talk with the teacher about it if it gets too intense. You are not telling because you are ratting someone out but because this is dangerous behavior that is life threatening. It’s stressful for you, too.

  20. So sorry for the loss of your son Ma’am. I write inspirational articles for mental health organizations and I am currently writing a book. I am currently writing an article to amazing people who cut and in my own words. I wanted to share with them healthier alternatives without harming themselves in addition to seeing someone who is an expert in this area. God bless you. Love ,Danny

      1. Thank you Ma’am. I just submitted my article I did called the FIGHTER! The story of how I persevered and won the war over my struggles. Love,Danny Gautama

      2. My Friend Grace has been cutting herself I met her a few months ago and she was a pretty cool person and today I found out she was cutting herself because my friend Sebastian told me “If a friend was cutting will you help them” I said yes and Grace was like “I Cut myself” with Grief I felt so bad they asked me if I cut myself Thank God I don’t and she had a scissors when I found out she was cutting herself and I took it away from her and she said don’t tell no one and to give the scissor back I didn’t I hid I still have her secret till this day. 😔😟

      1. My Friend Grace has been cutting herself I met her a few months ago and she was a pretty cool person and today I found out she was cutting herself because my friend Sebastian told me “If a friend was cutting will you help them” I said yes and Grace was like “I Cut myself” with Grief I felt so bad they asked me if I cut myself thank

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