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Loved Ones of those Who Harm
by Mel September 8th 2010, 01:17 AM

Article featured in Avatar - Volume 4, Issue 2 (August 2010).

Loved Ones of those Who Harm
By Casey (Casey.)

Self harm is a very difficult thing to understand. It is scary to find out that your best friend or sibling is harming themselves. It is even scarier to learn that your child is cutting or otherwise hurting themselves as a way to cope. Most people don't understand exactly what self harm is; those who do may not know how to help.

Self harm is just what it sounds like. When someone is upset or angry and is unable to cope in other ways, they may hurt themselves. Reasons vary from person to person, and are unique as the individual themselves. "To feel something", "to cope", "to make it go away"; all reasons a person who harms may give when asked "why?" The problem lies in the fact that the pain they are trying to rid themselves of never really goes away; the person just keeps hurting themselves for release, whether it lasts a few hours, less, or more. Sometimes a person may become addicted to that feeling, resulting in prolonged and worsening cutting, burning, hair pulling, hitting, biting, or any combination of self-inflicted harmful behaviors.

You may be feeling lost upon discovering a loved one is harming themselves, but friends and family members can help tremendously in recovery. Sometimes it can seem like there's nothing you can do, like this is a problem much bigger than you, and while it is true that your loved one may need the help of a professional to recover, nothing can replace the aid of those who love us. Here are some tips on helping someone you love that harms:

Do listen to them if they want to talk about it.
Don't yell or punish them for harming.
Do ask them if they would like to try counseling.
Don't force them to go to therapy.
Do remain supportive of recovery at all times.
Don't harm yourself in order to "show them what it feels like."
Do remember that they don't do this to hurt you.
Don't take your anger or sadness out on them.
Do tell someone if you fear their life or safety may be in danger.
Don't tell others without your friend's knowledge, when possible.

Try talking to your loved one; being there when they need a shoulder or ear is invaluable. Treat them the same way you always do and respect their wishes to not talk about it, if they choose. Remember that they are the same person you knew before finding out they harm. Although they self harm, they are not a "self harmer"; they have a name and countless traits and identities that are more important than self ham. Maybe they are an athlete, a poet; they are a friend, son or daughter, and are probably both funny and smart. Just as you have been, love them for who they are.

Although it is important to be there for those you love, remember that you also need to take care of yourself. It's not your fault that your loved one harms themselves; there is something going on it their lives that causes them to seek relief, and you are not to blame for that.

Self Harm is a tricky and touchy subject, but it's one that needs to be addressed. It might make you uncomfortable, but sometimes we have to work through what makes us uncomfortable to help those that we love and care about. No one is perfect, and that is okay; love is one of the world's most natural medicines.
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