In short, now what?
Firstly, it is important to remember that this is not your fault, they are not crazy, they are not seeking your attention and that they are in some degree of emotional pain or turmoil which has manifested in self-injury. They are still the same person you have always known and loved, they are just coping with a problem in a way that might not appear to be very helpful to you, and it is not your fault!
Now that you've processed this information, you need to know what to do, and what not to do. It might take some trial and error to understand which is right and which is wrong for the individual you are dealing with because we are all individuals, and we all hurt ourselves for different reasons and in different ways. The only way to figure that out is to communicate with the person, but for now here is a list of things to do and things not to do!
- Talk about self-injury with the person, but don't press them for information. Be non-judgemental and let them know that you are there to talk to if they need to discuss this, or anything else, with you. Self-injury is a behaviour that is often very secretive, and the person may feel ashamed about the fact that they hurt themselves, so understandably it might be something that is difficult for them to talk about at first. Just be patient, supportive and do not display any hint of behaviour that may portray you as being judgemental of their self-injury.
- Do not ask the person to stop self-injurying and do not issue ultimatums. They are very distressing to the person because they feel that their self-injury is often the only thing they can do to cope with their own distress. If you force them to stop self-injurying, they will become even more withdrawn and secretive, and often very afraid that if they do not stop self-injuring you will not love them any more.
- Do talk to a counsellor about your own feelings and reactions. It is important for anyone in this situation to receive some kind of "self-care" to look after their own wellbeing and mental health. Do not be afraid to seek help for yourself. Caring for someone who self-injures can be very distressing and emotional, and it is important to take care of yourself. You are number one. Always.