You’re such a good friend for writing in and for reaching out for help for the both of you!
Finding out that someone you care about has been cutting can be upsetting, especially since you have had similar struggles.
It’s normal to feel confused, helpless, sad, worried, or mad, especially if you feel you’re the only one who knows what going on with your friend. So I applaud you for writing in for help.
To begin, it’s important to know exactly what cutting is, why some people do it, and how they can stop.
Injuring oneself on purpose by making scratches or cuts on the body with a sharp object — enough to break the skin and make it bleed — is called cutting. People who cut often start cutting in their young teens. Some continue to cut into adulthood.
Why Do People Cut Themselves?
- Some people turn to cutting when they have problems or painful feelings and haven’t found another way to cope or get relief
- People who cut may not have developed healthy ways to cope. Or their coping skills may be overpowered by emotions that are too intense
- Cutting may be an attempt to relieve extreme tension
- Cutting often begins on an impulse. However, cutting can be habit forming, meaning that the more a person does it, the more he or she feels the need to do it
- Cutting has an effect similar to drugs
Myths about Cutting
- Myth 1: Cutting is simply an attention-getter. People use self-harm in part because there’s a painkiller effect. When cutters are in emotional pain, they literally won’t feel that pain as much when they do this to themselves.
- Myth 2: People will outgrow cutting. Cutting only works in the short term. Over time, the cutting typically gets worse because it can take more cutting to get the same relief — much like drug addiction.
- Myth 3: Cutters will eventually attempt suicide. Cutting is usually a person’s attempt at feeling better, not a means to ending it all. However, if your friend ever talks about suicide, take it seriously and call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “Native” to 741741 and talk or text with a trained volunteer.
- Myth 4: You can force a cutter to stop. This strategy doesn’t work and it just puts pressure on everyone. Let your friend know that you’ll always be there to talk to.
Here are a few things you can suggest to help your friend and yourself:
- Start journal – using a journal can give you both a safe place for to explore and express your feelings in a healthy way
- You are not alone – let your friend know that you care, that she deserves to be healthy and happy, and that she doesn’t need to bear her troubles alone. And, get in the practice of telling yourself these things too.
- Reach out – there are people out there who care about your wellbeing, like along with her family and friends. You both can get involved with the We R Native community, as well as the Now Matters Now community who are people also facing challenges with living healthier lives. It can also be helpful to you both to support and encourage each other to become more involved in your tribal communities.
How to Stop Cutting
There are ways to learn how to stop cutting, but you’re going to need some help.
- Talk to you friend. Let your friend know you care about her and don’t want her to hurt herself. You can say something like, “Your feelings must just overwhelm you sometimes. You’ve been through a lot — no wonder you hurt. I want to help you find a way to cope that won’t hurt you anymore.” If your friend asks you to keep the cutting a secret, say that you aren’t sure you can because you care. Tell your friend that they deserve to feel better.
- Tell someone. It’s important to talk to an adult you trust, like a parent, a school psychologist or counselor, or a teacher or coach your friend is close to. Studies show that 90% of those who cut are able to stop within a year of beginning treatment. Other places to find help are:
- Your tribal clinic
- The Crisis Hotline: text “Native” to 741 741
- National Alliance on Mental Illness – help individuals and families get support for mental illnesses. Their helpline 1-800-950-NAMI, or get on their website to find a support group near you.
- Now Matters Now – is a resource that teaches skills that have been shown to decrease cutting.
- Mental Health America has a zip code locator to help find clinics near you with low-cost or sliding scale services. They also have a Crisis hotline: 1-800-273-TALK.
You’re a good friend for seeking help for you and your friend.
I’m wishing you the best of luck. You and your friend are in my thoughts and prayers.