If the person using self-injury is currently in an abusive situation and would like it to end, provide some practical help such as information that might help them get out of that situation. The kind of practical help that is usually most useful is information on where to get accommodation, benefits and health care, Lists of phone numbers and offers to accompany the survivor to get help from agencies might may the difference.
It is important that you listen to the survivor and believe what they tell you. Even if you hear things that you find difficult to believe, keep an open mind.
Survivors need to be able to trust other people. This means that you have to be trustworthy and not betray the survivor.
Acceptance of self-injury as a coping mechanism is important for the survivor. While you may not understand the reasons for the self-injury, you can learn to accept that the survivor may need self-injury at the present time.
Let the survivor know that he or she is worthwhile and treat the person with respect. See the person as a person first rather that a survivor and a self-harmer.
Help empower the survivor to be able to make their own decisions about their own life. This may include accepting that the person has a right to injure self if he or she needs to. The main thing is ensuring that the person does so in as safe a way as possible.
Do not keep passing the person on to someone else who “knows more about these things.” There is nothing worse that being passed on from pillar to post. Why can’t you find out more from other agencies and then help the survivor decide and deal with it.
Help the survivor find creative outlets for self-expression i.e. painting, writing, singing, etc.
Safety and Self-Injury
No matter what form the self-injury takes, try to ensure that the survivor knows about basic hygiene and the need for it in prevention of infection. If need be, offer to help sterilise blades or whatever else is used to cause the injury. Suggest keeping antiseptic wipes handy and using them.
Suggest that the survivor try to stay in control of what he or she is doing. Suggest not using alcohol or drugs while self-harming.
You may need to offer to help clean injuries or show the survivor how to do so. Talk about it openly with the survivor. They will not be encouraged to harm self just because you are open to talking about what they do to themselves.
For burns, run cold water over them until they cool. For cuts clean using antiseptic wipes and cover with a clean dressing.
Medical attention will usually be needed…
- If burns are large or deep.
- If a cut is deep and will not stop bleeding, apply pressure until it stops. If bleeding continues, or if cut is deep, then get medical attention.
- If an infection gets into the wound, then it is best to seek medical attention.
- If the survivor has overdosed, swallowed or inserted anything harmful into self, then medical attention is probably needed.
If medical attention is needed then survivors need to know that..
They have the same rights as other patients to be given pain relief.
They have the same right as other patients to have treatment and to refuse to have a student observing or treating them.
Treatment should not be dependent on agreeing to psychiatric intervention.
Staff can be asked to explain clearly all treatment being provided.