Tough talks: How to tell your parents that you self-harm and want help

Self-harm is a serious issue that affects many teenagers. Over a one-year period, 27% of young adolescents reported thoughts of self-harm and 15% reported at least one act of self-harm. If left untreated, self-harm behaviors can lead to permanent injury. If you are seriously injured, you must tell your parents right away. But if you want long-term support, it is crucial to tell your parents during a time when you aren’t stressed or self-injuring.

Self-harm is a behavior that is often hidden, and you may feel ashamed or embarrassed to talk about it with your parents. However, seeking help and support from parents is an important step in overcoming self-harm and ensuring your safety. Your parents can help guide you through your treatment process, support your recovery and help you stop self-harming.

What is self-harm?

Self-harming refers to when a person hurts themselves on purpose. It can be a behavior related to different mental disorders such as anxiety and depression. It is also usually a response to the experience of intense emotions with the intention of release and relief. Self-harm is different than a suicide attempt, but it can be lethal. 

Physical signs of someone who self-harms can include: 

  • Constantly wearing long sleeves.
  • Avoiding activities that expose the body, such as swimming.
  • Hiding potentially dangerous objects, such as razor blades or sewing needles.
  • Interacting less with others.
  • Having unexplained wounds or injuries.

How should you tell your parents about your self-harm?

As mentioned above, self-harm is a serious issue that can be difficult for teens to talk about, especially with parents. You may be afraid to tell your parents about self-harm because you fear being judged or punished by your parents. You may also feel ashamed or embarrassed about your behavior, or you may be worried that your parents will take away your freedom or autonomy. Additionally, you may be afraid that your parents will be too overwhelmed by their own emotional reactions to the situation to be able to offer the support and guidance that you need.

However, it is important to seek help and support in order to overcome dangerous self-harm behaviors. The following are a few things to keep in mind when telling your parents about self-harm:

  • Be honest and direct — In an open and private space, you can take the opportunity to tell your parents how self-harm makes you feel, how it is affecting your life and how your goal is to get better. Being honest and open can help your parents feel more equipped to help you manage your symptoms and keep you safe. 
  • Be prepared to answer questions — Your parents may have a lot of questions about why you self-harm and how they can help. You can bring resources like videos, websites, and pages from a reputable source that explain self-harming, especially among adolescents. 
  • Assure your parents that you want to get better — Self-harm is a symptom of an underlying mental health condition, and it is not often something that can be controlled or stopped on your own. Let your parents know that you want to overcome self-harm and that you are willing to work with them and professionals to get the help you need. 
  • Ask for help and support during your treatment plan — Let your parents know what you need from them, whether it’s emotional support, help finding a therapist or just someone to talk to. You may also ask them to be patient with you while you recover and to attend therapy sessions with you.

When planning to speak to your parents about your self-harm symptoms, it can be extremely beneficial to speak to a professional therapist who can help you approach your conversation with an open and honest attitude. 

What can you do if you want help and want to address your self-harm? 

Remember that your parents care about you and want to help. They may not understand self-harm completely, but they may try to understand it better after hearing how it makes you feel. If you want help in addressing your self-harm in addition to telling your parents, there are a few steps you can take:

  • Reach out to a therapist or counselor — A therapist or counselor can provide support, guidance, and strategies for managing self-harm. They can also help you identify the underlying causes of your self-harm and work on addressing them via intensive therapy and possibly medication. 
  • Seek out support groups — Joining a support group for teens who self-harm can provide a sense of community, understanding and validation. It can also provide practical advice and coping strategies. 
  • Educate yourself — Learn more about self-harm and its causes, as well as different coping strategies and treatments. This can help you to understand your own experiences better and communicate more effectively with others. 
  • Make a safety plan — Identify and plan for situations that may trigger the urge to self-harm, and establish alternative coping mechanisms. Your therapist can work with you to implement an effective safety plan in times of crisis. 

Lightfully can help you get the support you need to manage your self-harm symptoms

Self-harm is a symptom of an underlying issue, and seeking help is the first step toward healing and recovery. With the right support, it is possible to overcome self-harm and build a better future.

At Lightfully, we treat our clients as people, not as disorders. Our team of expert clinicians will help address the root of your self-harm habits and help you develop an effective safety plan. We can also help you talk to your parents about self-harm, bringing your family together to help you through your treatment. 

Change is possible. When you’re ready to take the first step, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of you.

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