Practicing acts of self-harm, and having suicidal thoughts can be extremely painful. The reason why most people engage in behaviours of self-harm is because they are experiencing such intense emotional pain, that they feel the only way to handle it is to transform it into physical pain. Similarly, most people who have suicidal thoughts do not want to die: they feel that they cannot deal with the intense pain in their life, and think that the only way for them to find relief, is to escape the situation by ending their life.
Being in an abusive relationship can be stressful and painful enough to cause someone to experience suicidal thoughts or to engage in acts of self-harm. Studies have shown that a quarter of people who have been subjected to abuse in a relationship (either physical, sexual or emotional) have engaged in self-harming behaviours. Suicidal thoughts and self-harming behaviour are normally accompanied by other mental health issues such as depression, anxiety or Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Experiencing suicidal thoughts and self-harm can be very lonely. If you are thinking of harming yourself, it may be helpful to reach out to someone, be this a friend, family member or professional.
Although it is common to feel guilty or ashamed about your experiences of abuse, it is important to remember that it was not your fault.
Feeling extreme guilt or shame after experiencing a traumatic event such as domestic abuse, increases the risk of developing PTSD , which raises the likelihood of experiencing suicidal thoughts. If you are going through self-harm and/or thinking about suicide, you may be feeling that you have reached a dead-end, that there is no hope that things will get better. When people are having suicidal thoughts or engaging in self-harm, their unpleasant emotions can nurture negative thoughts that are not true (for example, ‘there is no way to change my life, my only solution is to kill myself’) while blocking the realistic, positive ones (for instance, ‘I am going through a hard time at the moment, but there are ways to deal with it; all I need to do is to make a plan and talk to those who can help me turn my plan into reality’). Remember that emotions change with time, there will also come a time when you once more won’t have suicidal thoughts. Your current situation doesn’t have to predict your future, and you have already taken a step towards improving your future by visiting this site. You may also find it useful to view our information on different treatment options.
How to support someone who is self-harming
If you know someone who is suffering from suicidal thinking and/or is deliberately harming themselves, recognise that they probably feel very lonely and vulnerable, so they need someone they can trust to listen to them in a non-judgemental way. They need to feel that they are not alone, that there are people who care about them and who accept them unconditionally.
- Take it lightly
- Try to advise them on what they should and shouldn’t do as that can feel patronising,
- ‘Shower’ them with questions since that might sound as if you are trying to interrogate them
- Scold them for it.
There is a myth that ‘those who truly want to kill themselves, don’t tell about it to anyone’ or that ‘if they’ve told you they want to kill themselves, they don’t really mean it; they’re just seeking attention’. This is not true. Almost three quarters of those who commit suicide have talked about their intentions in advance. Most people who are suicidal do not truly want to die, but they do feel that they can no longer cope with life. They are not thinking about committing suicide out of selfishness, but out of desperation. Self-harm and suicidal thoughts are not signs of weakness, so the solution is not to ‘be tough’, or ‘stop complaining’, or ‘carry on’ and ‘just deal with it’. They are overwhelmed by negative emotions and thoughts, and are most likely suffering from another mental health disorder. Luckily, with proper social support there are ways to overcome these issues.