• Resolving Problems

How do you handle a friend who is self-harming?

Published: December 18, 2013 | By | Reply Continue Reading
Threats of suicide or knowledge of self-harming are secrets no friend should keep.



I recently had a falling out with my friend B. I thought he was ignoring me, so I thought he didn’t need me anymore. Later a mutual friend said B had been going through a really hard time; his crush apparently hates him so he thinks it would be better if he died.

Before our mutual friend told me he had self-harming, I was kind of being judgmental and started saying shit to him which pissed him off. The friend said B doesn’t care about anyone else but his crush and that’s why he doesn’t mind killing himself for her and only her.

Nothing seems to work on him. Telling him that others care about him. That he isn’t alone in this. That he doesn’t deserve to die. I’ve tried everything possible but he always has an answer for what I say. He says he doesn’t want to be helped. He thinks he’s a lost cause and he doesn’t deserve any friends. And that is why he’s trying to get on our nerves to make us hate him.

Now that only friend whom he used to open up to is also fed up of him, I see B everyday and can see that pain in him. I know he wakes up everyday and with a pain in his chest and cries himself to sleep. His life is miserable. I really want to help him. I want him to know I care. And I told him this on several instances.

I thought leaving him alone would be a good idea but I’m scared he’ll start self-harming again. How can I help him? And how can I make him open up to me and trust me again especially after I kind of judged him? I wouldn’t judge him this time. I’ll do anything and everything possible that will help him out of this misery. He’s a really nice person but he is in a really bad place right now. Help please.


Dear Carl,

I’m really glad you wrote to ask for advice. When people like B are depressed and in crisis, they can hear even the most helpful advice as criticism, so if you’ve been critical in the past, it’s probably hard for him to open up to you. That doesn’t mean you should stop trying, just that you should proceed cautiously.

You are very right to be concerned about B. Self-harm and suicide talk should always be taken seriously. B probably thinks his life won’t improve and can’t picture feeling better or not so depressed, even though you and his other friends can verbally assure him of this. That’s part of the seriousness of depression.

Depression and self-harm aren’t problems that friends can solve for each other, and the reasons are rarely just one issue, like being hated by a crush, even if there is one major problem affecting him at the moment.

If I were you, I would talk to B and tell him you are worried about him because you care so much. Urge him to talk to his parents, a teacher or the school counselor. Tell him that you will talk to the school counselor if he doesn’t do so himself. He might be mad that you’re talking to an adult and feel like you betrayed his confidence, but it’s better to have a friend who’s mad than a friend who has hurt himself or worse.

He might try to get you to promise not to tell anyone, but suicidal thoughts and self-harming aren’t secrets you should keep. Sometimes it is wiser to risk a friend getting angry than it does to keep a dangerous confidence. It can save a life.

B is lucky to have you as a friend, even if he can’t see that right now and even if he can’t express that to you.

Signed, *Amy Feld

*Amy Feld, PhD, MSW has trained and worked as a child psychologist.

Disclaimer: Nothing in this or any other post is intended to substitute for medical, psychiatric or clinical diagnosis/treatment. Rather, all posts are written as the type of advice that one friend might give to another.

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Category: Depressed friends

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