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sarahjane90's avatar

What can I do to help a friend who has started to self harm? (UK)

Asked by sarahjane90 (1805 points ) November 25th, 2010

My friend and I are both international students. She is from the Middle East. I have been with her for two years now, and after returning from the summer she has seemed like a very different person.

Recently she started taking antidepressants, and the doctors here aren’t very helpful. They just keep telling her to keep taking the same medication, even though she asks to be changed.

She has been smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol throughout the course of her taking the medication. I have told her many times to stop doing that, because I have taken anti depressants before and I know mixing with alcohol, on top of pot, is not a good mix.

Recently she basically dropped off the face of the earth for the past three weeks. She had sent me a few messages, so I did know she was at least alive. Finally today I was able to see her, and have a talk with her. She has not been attending any of her lectures, has not turned in assignments and is now receiving warnings from the University. When I did see her today, to my alarm, her forearm was covered in light cuts. I asked her what happened and she told me she did it with a knife. I asked her why and she told me that she felt numb, and when doing this she felt some emotion, and calm for a moment. All I could do was tell her to stop, and to go see a doctor tomorrow. She said she would, but I have my doubts that she will.

Basically, I don’t know what to do. She is my closest friend. I feel like her depression has gotten worse and worse very quickly. I make it known I am here for her any time of the day, and even gave her my mother’s phone number, who is a nurse, who would be able to talk to her on the surface about any problems she has, without being judgmental. She can’t let her family know any of this. She is Muslim, and her mother is a doctor. She told her mother she was having problems but her mother is in denial, and is telling her she is fine, that her feeling sad was just a phase. My friend talks about being homesick, but the last thing she wants to do is go back home.

I am no medical professional, and I feel like she is beyond any help I can give her. I want to go to someone in the University to alert them that she has problems, but I am not even sure that I can do this, or that they will act on it. I am also worried that she would be angry with me for sharing these problems with someone without telling her. Have any of you ever been in a situation like this? How involved should I even get? I can’t just sit and watch my best friend self destruct.

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8 Answers

Zyx's avatar

EDIT: I should have said this first:
Most suicide hotlines and such also cater to people who aren’t personally the one in trouble and they might know more.

WHAT I SAID: I should be considered an insane observer at most, but hallucinogenics seem like a great tool to help these kinds of people. Of course I should mention people that hallucinate also sometimes kill themselves. So people should never do it alone. But if you find something non-addictive that will force her mind to move from the place she’s in you could start a positive trend while she’s receptive.

You could try less extreme methods to shock her out of it. But if she’s smart and depressed she’ll probably just make it into something bad.

Solving the underlying problem(s) seems like something she would have already tried.

harple's avatar

Which uni are you at @sarahjane90 ? There are people there who are responsible for student welfare, and there will be someone who can help, you may just need to ask about a bit first. Is it a campus uni? If so, at worst you could visit the onsite-doctors if there is one, who will be able to tell you who you can tell, or ask one of your [more down to earth] lecturers, who should at least point you in the right direction.

If the welfare staff there become aware that someone is self-harming, they have a duty to get involved and do all they can to help. And you would be doing a good thing by telling them – you have very correctly acknowledged that you are out of your depth. You can’t be responsible for your friend’s self destruction, but by telling someone you can do a very valiant thing. Best of luck to you.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Report her actions to the school and her parents immediately. Intervene without fear.

Yes she may be mad and never forgive you and you may lose a friend. But you’ll definitely lose a friend if you don’t. Don’t even begin to think that you can save her. You can’t. And it’s obvious she won’t listen to rational advice because her mind state is irrational.

Intervene and walk away. Set examples for others and tell the story to all. Be there for her if she needs a friend. Walk away if she doesn’t.

jhacienda's avatar

Couldn’t agree with RealEyesRealizeRealLies more. You have to get people involved. You will likely lose this friend, but in your heart, you’d feel much better for possibly saving a life.

CaptainHarley's avatar

It sounds to me as if your friend may be suffering from what some call “culture-shock.” She definitely needs help. I agree with @RealEyesRealizeRealLies ( Amazing! ) : D

Andreas's avatar

@sarahjane90 Your friend is in a terrible spot; one that I have no experience with. What I can say from experience is this: A true friend will do all that’s possible to get her friend the help she needs. So take the above OP’s advice as circumstances allow and help your friend.

You are on the right track by seeking help from us, but now is the time to get it from those where you live.

I wish you both well.

Eggie's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies has hit the correct answer on the nail…..Interviene and then walk away. She sounds pretty serious about killing herself, so do the right thing and let the people at the university know and her parents as well.

seti003's avatar

I’m sorry to comment that it sounds like people are parotting each other here. This is book sense, not common sense.
First and foremost, your friend cannot even hope to change unless she gets off medication and all drugs. If she can’t do that by herself, then her mother should intervene to commit her. This child is crying for attention. Period.
This is the only way she knows how to get it.
Get her some serious help off drugs entirely. That’s the first step.

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