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Cutting and Self-harm: How to Help A Loved One

“Happy people are sometimes sad deep inside…” Self-harm is when one intentionally inflicts physical pain on themselves, this can be in the form of cutting, bruising and burning. Cutting is making small cuts on one’s body, usually the arms and legs. Sometimes, this happens when people can’t handle emotional pain, intense anger or frustration and...

Happy people are sometimes sad deep inside…”

Self-harm is when one intentionally inflicts physical pain on themselves, this can be in the form of cutting, bruising and burning. Cutting is making small cuts on one’s body, usually the arms and legs.

Sometimes, this happens when people can’t handle emotional pain, intense anger or frustration and inflicting pain themselves physically is the way they cope.

A lot of seemingly happy people are not really happy. In one of the episodes of one of my favourite shows, The Red Table Talk, last year Willow Smith was revealed to have been self-harming without her parents knowing. This only lends more credence to the statement that ‘not all that we see, is really what it is’.

Cutting in itself is not really a suicide attempt even though it appears to be so. It is a form of a statement through which unhappy people demonstrate their pain. This is common among teenagers between 11 to 14-year-olds. And very often, these teenagers have gone through physical, sexual or verbal abuse. An injury to oneself seems to be the only defence against the pain, a way to gain control.

Warning Signs


Low Self-esteem: Self-harm mostly occurs in situations beyond the control of the individual involved. Social awkwardness and anxiety are little build-ups to low self-esteem. Kids who can’t communicate well or are being constantly made to feel bad about themselves likely suffer from low self-esteem. When ideas of being worthless keep forming in a kid’s mind, they nurse negative thoughts which sometimes might make them inflict physical pain.

Frequent Cuts and Bruises: If a kid is always bruised, or has cuts and burns around her legs and arms, they are likely self-harming. And a close eye should be kept on them, to intercept this harmful behaviour early enough before it becomes drastic.

Difficulty Handling Emotions: Non-expressive people find other ways to show how they really feel. Some self-harm in order to cope with emotional or physical pressure. If your kid or friend show emotions the way others do, they are likely finding it difficult to handle their emotions and find other means to show it physically. Keep a check on that, to notice when they are being unhealthy with how they express their emotions.

Helping A Loved One

Validate their emotions: When a loved one is self-harming, it is necessary to talk to them kindly and listen to what they feel. Don’t judge or use terms like a crazy, attention seeker, lazy to dismiss their feelings. Letting your emotions get in the way does not happen since it is not about you.

Seek Therapy: Getting professional help is so important. It is okay they have opened up to you, but it would be a huge step in the right direction to help them seek professional help or push them towards seeking help. This puts them back on the right track towards healing both physically and emotionally.

Learn to be mentally aware: Self-harm doesn’t discriminate between gender or positions. While looking out for your loved ones, look out for yourself too. Identify your emotions and speak up whenever you feel overwhelmed.

— With love,
Rejoice Obike.

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