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Ways to notice self-harm



Self-injury is generally a highly secretive act; somebody will probably work quite hard to make sure that you don't know that they are hurting themselves. This can make it very difficult to spot. So what signs can you spot that might give you a hunch?

 

Things like unexplained cuts, bruises and burns on the skin can be a sign that someone is hurting themself. Anything really that the person can't quite explain. Or if it sounds like they’ve suddenly become very clumsy. These wounds will often be concealed so people may wear long sleeves or long trousers even in quite warm weather. Or someone might be averse to things like swimming; anything that kind exposes areas of their body that they don't want anyone to see. Sometimes someone might pull their hair, so noticing thinning of the hair or clumps of hair.

 

You may notice weight changes; excessive weight gain can let us know that some people might be binge eating and weight loss might let us know that somebody is not consuming enough calories or is starving themself. Are they exercising excessively; running much more frequently than they were before, or going to the gym more than once a day?

 

Are you noticing grazing across the knuckles or increased trips to the hospital because of broken hands? This could indicate self-injuries by punching/hitting something.

 


Somebody might lock themselves in their bedroom or in the bathroom at consistent times of the day, most commonly this can be at or after meal times, or in the evening. They might be very clear about not being disturbed at this time. It might also be that they use the bathroom straight afterwards in order to clean up any cuts/wounds. You might also notice bandages and plasters going missing from the first aid kit.

 

You can also look out for things that people are saying. Are they talking about self-loathing, feeling badly about themselves, wanting to punish themselves and not being worthy of things? Or are there any general signs of anxiety or depression? An increase in OCD type behaviours?

 

If you’re worried about somebody you know or you have suspicions they might be harming themselves, the best thing to do is just ask them. It can be quite scary starting that conversation, but the other person will probably be much more frightened of it than you. It can be a real relief for people if you can start that conversation and get the dialogue flowing.

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