Conversation Tips & Tricks:
You first. These conversations carry a lot of weight and you aren’t expected to be an expert. If you aren’t comfortable talking about self-harm, it’s ok to use the following language to offer resources and then get the conversation back on topic.
“You were brave to share how you’re feeling with me. I’m here for you. I also want to make sure you have access to resources that may have more expertise. Would you allow me to share a few resources that might be helpful?”
Clarify intent. Self-harm is not usually done with the intent to die, but it’s important to clarify with the client to determine the appropriate level of risk.
“You’re strong to open up about this. I want to clarify, are you self-harming with the intention of ending your life?”
Safe For Now. Ask the client to commit to staying safe for now by removing the means that they would use to self injure during your conversation.
“I’m here for you and I want to be the best support I can. I also want to make sure you’re safe while we are talking. Can you agree to refrain from self-harm while we are chatting today?”
Validate their feelings. Acknowledge the pain they are feeling. This does not mean you need to normalize the desire to self harm, but rather the negative emotions or even numbness behind that desire. Allow them to share in a non-judgemental environment.
“It sounds like you aren’t trying to die, but rather you’re looking for ways to cope with all of the things going on in your life. It makes sense to be struggling. How can I be most supportive to you?”
Offer Resources. It’s important to connect with mental health professionals or helplines who are able to support someone thinking about or engaging in self harm. Utilize one or more of the above resources to ensure folks get a higher level of care when needed.