Discipling People Struggling with Self-Harm

These are pages taken from our ‘Good News For Real Life’ booklet. They contain short introductions to some common pastoral struggles. Think of them as conversation-starters to help us begin to understand and respond to complex issues. Not as experts but as brothers and sisters in Christ — pointing one another to Jesus with words of hope and grace.


In other words: to walk together as those with good news for real life

WHAT IS SELF-HARM?

Self-harm is the act of deliberately causing oneself physical pain or injury in order to bring about some kind of emotional relief. It can include cutting, burning, taking overdoses, pulling out hair, punching walls and depriving oneself of oxygen. The aim is not to end life but to manage emotions so people can keep on living.

HOW DOES SELF-HARM WORK?

There are 4 main ways in which self-harm functions:

Self-harm works for a little while but the relief doesn’t last. It becomes like an addiction.

HOW DOES SELF-HARM BEGIN?

Usually, 3 things have happened in a person’s life before they start self-harming.

HOW CAN I HELP SOMEONE WHO IS SELF-HARMING?

Listen to what life is like and the pain they are experiencing

Encourage them to see their GP

Help them to see that God knows them and understands them (Psalm 139)

Help them to see that God accepts those who feel shame (John 4)

Help them to see that God cares when people get hurt (Amos 5)

Help them to see that God is sovereign, powerful and good (Mark 1-8)

Help them to see themselves biblically (Ephesians 1) — full of hope (Ephesians 4)

Help them to work out when they are most like to self-harm (by keeping a diary)

Help them to find other ways of expressing their emotions (eg sport, writing, music)

FURTHER READING

Self-Injury, When Pain Feels Good by Edward Welch (P&R Publishing)

More about the author :

Helen Thorne

Helen Thorne