I have been getting a lot of emails from people recently who would like a little support and advice. I will be posting their questions (with their prior consent) here. For obvious reasons, any names will have been changed and all identifying information has been removed. As I have made clear to those messaging me, I am NOT a professional and I do NOT have qualifications in this field. My advice is based purely on my own experiences and experiences I have witnessed or been told about. Any advice given here should not replace professional guidance.
I am at my wits end, and I just don’t know what to do any more. I am not coping and me and my husband are always fighting about the best way to approach our daughter. She is 13, and has recently started cutting herself. We have no idea why, and she wont talk about it. She spends all her time cooped up in her room. I am scared for her, I keep finding tissues with blood on them in the bin, and there are blood stains around the bathtub and on the towels. I am so scared I am going to walk in on my baby dead. Please help us! – Jennifer
Jennifer, I am so sorry you are going through such a rough time. To get through this, you and your husband are going to have to be on the same page, so please take some time to listen to your husband (and him listen to you) and talk everything through calmly. You need to be strong now, and you both need each other for that to happen. Try and get that spark back and go from there.
Once you and your husband are a strong unit, it is important that you maintain it. Keep working at it, and don’t let things boil up. I suggest your first port of call is speaking to your local child mental health team. You can get your GP to refer you to them or phone them direct to see what they suggest. You may have a fight ahead to get her the right help, simply because services are so stretched but do not give up! You could also see if her school has a resident counsellor who she might be able to see.
Whilst all this is going on, try to get your daughter to open up. There is a reason she is self harming. Talk to her one on one at first, so pick whichever parent she is closest too. Don’t make it too heavy, and don’t push her into talking. It is important that you remain calm when talking. It is easy to get frustrated but it wont help. It might help to take her out of the normal environment, perhaps out for a meal or a nice walk or to feed ducks or something. That way she may open up a little more. If she says something that makes you angry, sad, or lost, be careful with the way you react. You must remain calm, because if you don’t she wont open up to you again.
If you can’t get her to open up, don’t give up. Keep trying. Don’t get angry with her, just let her know you are genuinely interested in her life, you want to help, and that you will always be there for her no matter what. Don’t forget to tell her you love her whenever you can. Try to include her in your family activities. And remember, the cutting is a symptom, not the problem. We need to tackle the problem.
Also, have a read of my blog post about a crisis box which may help your daughter. I have also added a list of useful numbers so that you can get support for both her and yourselves. Whilst you should not put too much pressure on her, don’t allow her to hide completely. Make sure she does join in with the odd family board game or make sure she does go out and about with you. Please let me know how you get on and if you have any questions please let me know.