​At a glance

The best way to communicate with someone who harms themselves is to be supportive and a good listener. Often a person who is hurting themselves is trying to find ways to cope with very distressing or overwhelming feelings or experiences. It should not be seen as a behaviour used to seek attention.

When talking about self-harm be respectful and non-judgemental. Focus on what can be done to support the person to reduce the distress in their life, rather than focussing on the self-harm. Display empathy and focus on the person, not just their behaviour.

By being a good listener, you will provide the opportunity for the person to be open and honest with you. This in turn provides the opportunity to encourage the person to get support from a health professional.

Note: If you notice behaviours of concern, including self-harm, and raising the issue with the person is outside the scope of your role, then it is important to let your supervisor know of your observations. Also ensure you follow your organisation’s reporting and recording requirements.

Resources

Non-suicidal self-injury first aid guidelines
These guidelines provide an overview of the signs that indicate a person may have been self-injuring, why this occurs, what to do and what to say.
Type: Guideline
Length 4 pages
Produced by: Mental Health First Aid Australia

Self-harm and self-injury
This fact sheet explains self-harm and includes a section on how family and friends can help, including how to discuss the behaviour.
Type: Factsheet
Length: 3 pages
Produced by: Beyond Blue

Understanding Self-Harm - Alyssa's Story | headspace
This video is a story about a young person's experience of self-harm and her process of getting help.
Type: Video | Closed captions
Viewing time: 7.31
Produced by: headspace

Current as at: Monday 20 January 2020
Contact page owner: Mental Health Branch