How to Help
Are you worried that a friend is self-harming? It’s a good idea to talk to someone you trust, like a parent, a teacher or school counsellor.
If your friend is in a crisis, please call:
- Calgary’s Distress Centre (free 24/7 crisis line): 403-266-HELP (4357); (TTY for the hearing impaired: 403-543-1967)
- ConnecTeen 24-hr support line: 403-264-TEEN (8336)
- Kids Help Phone (24/7 support line): 1-800-668-6868 (Especially if you DO NOT live in Calgary)
Here are a few other steps that you can take to help your friend:
- Educate yourself about self-injury (you’re already off to a great start);
- Lead with compassion, and avoid anger and judgment. Your friend isn’t trying to hurt you, make you feel guilty or get attention;
- Focus on your friend’s concerns or issues, not the act of self-injury;
- Let your friend know that you’re there to listen, you care about them, and you want to help;
- Encourage your friend to get a trusted adult involved in order to seek further help.
If you are self-injuring, there is support. You are not alone.
If you know someone who might need help, here are some steps you can take:
- Listen: It takes courage to talk about emotional problems or mental health concerns. Sometimes the best thing a friend or family member can do is lend an ear. Focus on what the other person is saying rather than thinking of what you will say next, and ask for clarification if you don’t understand something. Don’t offer “quick fixes” or advice unless they ask you for it.
- Help the person find support: Offer phone numbers and names of organizations that can help them find their way to better health. Offer to make calls and set up appointments, and drive them to appointments if they ask you to and you are able.
- Don’t judge or blame: Whether a mental illness is caused by genetics, trauma or a chemical imbalance, it’s not the individual’s fault. Reiterate that out loud to the person you are supporting.
- Help the person remain hopeful: Point out that he or she will get better with treatment, time and support. Remind them that you and others will support them.
- Don’t label: Remember your friend, peer or family member has a medical condition, but he or she is not the illness, nor are they defined by it.
- Be patient: The journey to mental health takes times and can often take more than one treatment. A mental illness is not something a person can just choose to “snap out of.” Be mindful that there may also be periods of improved mental health followed by periods of challenges before long-term mental health is achieved.
- Pay special attention to what that person needs: If someone is having challenges, ask what they need and listen to the answers. Ask them or brainstorm together how they think you could best help.
- Celebrate success: Recognize positive steps a person experiencing mental illness takes no matter how small a step might seem. For example, if a person has been too depressed to get out of bed, them having a shower or going for a short walk is a big improvement and should be celebrated.
- Discourage using mental illness as a crutch: Encourage individuals with a mental illness to take responsibility for what they can control in their lives, such as choosing to get help, their treatment plan, and healthy lifestyle choices.