My friend is cutting herself-- what do I do?
Your friend is so lucky to have a friend as caring and concerned as you. You are truly a very special person and I'm so glad that you wrote to Dear Trevor help.
It can be scary seeing your friend hurt herself by cutting. People cut as a way of trying to deal with or reduce overwhelming, painful, difficult emotions or stress. For some, cutting relives stress or tension or they find that the physical pain of cutting is a distraction from the emotional pain. Some people are angry at someone in their life and take the anger out on themselves by cutting. Others feel that the cutting gives them a feeling of control when things in the life or their emotions feel out of control. Others say that they feel numb or “dead inside” and the cutting and shock of seeing the blood is a way of feeling something. And others cut as a way of punishing themselves. Cutting may help your friend to feel better briefly (not always) but the longer it goes on, the more dangerous it can become as it can cause permanent scars, infections and serious, and sometimes life threatening medical problems especially if she cuts a major blood vessel. The cutting may cause her to feel shame, guilt, depressed and out of control. There are things you can tell your friend to do to help when she has the urge to cut. She can think about how she feels before and after she cuts herself. If cutting helps to release anger, she might try getting the anger out in another way like hitting a pillow, stomping around in heavy shoes, ripping up an old newspaper or flattening aluminum cans. If cutting helps her when she's sad, she can do whatever makes her feel taken care of and comforted. That may be listening to certain songs, talking with a great friend, like you, or eating a favorite food. Sometimes, writing in a journal or drawing/painting helps a person to feel better. For some people, doing something physical like running outdoors or yoga can help relieve stress. If the cutting helps your friend to feel less numb, she can do something that creates a sharp physical feeling like putting her hand in ice water or stamping her feet on the ground. There are websites available including www.safe-alternatives.com and http://www.helpguide.org/ mental/self_injury.htm that can help your friend learn about cutting as well as additional things she can do when she has the urge to cut.
Since the cutting can put your friend in danger, it's very important that you don't keep this a secret even if she asks you to promise not to tell anyone. It's very vital for her safety that you immediately tell a trusted adult such as a parent, doctor, teacher or school counselor in order to get her the help she needs. By talking with a mental health professional such as a social work, psychologist or psychiatrist, she can find safer and healthier ways to deal with the hard things she's going through. If she wants to stop cutting, she can call 1-800-DON’T-CUT where she can be referred to a therapist in her area. You can also tell your friend that when she has the urge to cut, she can always call the Trevor helpline at 1-866-4-U-Trevor 24 hours, 7 days a week. Talking with a Trevor counselor about what she's feeling and experiencing as well as her feeling of wanting to cut, can help to delay or stop the urge to cut.
Seeing your friend go through this can also affect and be difficult for you. It's important that you get the support your need during this time. Please think about talking with someone you trust such as a friend, parent, relative, teacher or school counselor. You can also call the Trevor helpline whenever you'd like to talk. Please know that you and your friend don't have to go through this alone and that we're always here for you at The Trevor Project.