How To Spot The Signs Of Self-Harm In Friends And Loved Ones

Warning: it can be upsetting and potentially triggering to read information about self-harm. If you feel vulnerable, you might not want to read the information below.

Self-harm might seem like an issue exclusively impacting younger people, but actually it affects people of all ages – whether they are sons, daughters, parents or even grandparents.

People who self-harm will hurt themselves as a way of dealing with difficult feelings, painful memories or overwhelming situations and experiences. In some cases, people might self-harm because they intend to die. According to the NHS, more than half of people who die by suicide have a history of self-harm.

But how can you tell if a loved one is harming themselves? Laura Peters, head of advice and information at Rethink Mental Illness, says there are a number of signs to look out for. Not just in terms of physical wounds but also behavioural changes. 


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“The clearest indication to look out for are the physical signs,” she explains.

“Self-harming is a physical act that leaves some form of wound on the person. Traditionally this can be a cut on the wrist, but there is no guarantee that this will be the manner by which they hurt themselves.”

She advises to look out for a series of physical injuries in a similar location on the body. “One scratch or bruise might not equate to self-harm, but consistent injuries in the same spots can be a warning sign,” she says.

It’s worth noting that if a person doesn’t want other people to know they are self-harming, it’s likely they’ll hurt themselves in a hard-to-see area.

“If there are no obvious signs but you’re still worried, there are a number of things that you can look out for,” Peters explains. “The most obvious is a change in behaviour that typically come with being ill.”

For example, the person might become reserved or even evasive when you ask how they are. “This can be difficult to accept, as you might want to help them. It is…

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