Alex's Answer

Worried about my friends

Your Question

I am really worried about two of my friends and school are doing their best to keep them ok at school but I don’t think they are getting the support they need. One of them boards at school and is able to skip meals all the time and the other is a day student so they get to go home but I don’t think they are getting any support from their parents. Both of them are having max 1 meal a day that nobody sees them eat and they are both scratching and cutting themselves. We are a large friend group and everyone is worried and we don’t know what to do. We have tried talking to them but they make it very hard. School is saying there is nothing we can do but we are literally their own support system and we don’t know if they will die or become seriously ill. We frequently have to clean up blood. We are leaving at the end of this year and have our exams soon which is more added stress. What shall I do? Thank you and please 


Hi there and welcome to Ask Alex. 

You have told us that there are two of your friends who are self-harming. You have also said that they make it hard to talk about it, and that they are skipping meals. You are worried they are not getting enough support, and that you believe your group of friends might be the only support they have. You have mentioned the school knows about it. You are worried they will die or get very ill. And you have disclosed having to clean blood often. You finished by saying exams are around the corner and it all adds stress. You are asking us what to do. 

Thank you for your message. You must be very concerned to step forward for your friends. We are concerned too, both for your friends who are self-harming and for you and the group of friends trying to support them and witnessing the self-harm. We understand how hard this must be for all of you. 

There can be many reasons why someone self-harms -feeling intense amounts of emotional pain, hating themselves, trying to feel something if they are numb, etc.-. It is normally related to anger, sadness, or despair. Self-harming can be a coping mechanism to supress suicidal thoughts, or to let go of very high levels of emotional hurt. The intention is different than when someone wants to end their life. There are risks, nonetheless, and people who self-harm should be assessed suicide risk. 

Your friends seem to be struggling with their mental health, and we understand your worries.  

It seems the school knows about it. Schools are one of the services who need to report when a child is not safe. If they know, the parents know and possibly Túsla as well, if they have noticed a lack of support in their homes. Nevertheless, we cannot assume that nothing is being done. Self-harm is a very serious matter, and it doesn’t go away fast or easily, even when people get support. It takes times and patience, and there will be moments in which the person could go back to using self-harm to cope after a period of not doing it. It is a long and difficult process.

We understand although that if you have concerns of the support not being enough, you might want to do something to keep them safe. The best thing would be talking to a trusting adult. When talking to this adult, who could be a parent, a family member or a teacher, the adult can make sense of the level of risk the young person, check-in with their parents and then decide or not to report to The Child and Family Agency, Túsla. Túsla can also be contacted to check if the risk is enough or not to make a report. The main aim would be to look for the right support for your friends, at different levels, like support within the family, in the school, and mental health services. 

As a friend, there is only so much you can do, and by that we mean, that you can be a great support, someone they can talk to and that will listen, but it is important to be aware of our own limitations when supporting someone who self-harms. Jigsaw has a few tips in their website that we believe will help you: 

  • Let your friend know you are there for them if and when they feel ready to talk 
  • Let them know you’re concerned about them. Choose a time when you are alone together. Offering support and having it rejected can be hard to take at first, if they’re not ready to open up. But, respect this and give them their space. Do let them know you are there for them if and when they feel ready to talk. 
  • If a friend wants to open up, the most helpful thing to do is listen. Let them know you understand and will do your best to support them.  
  • Don’t be afraid to ask what they need from you. Think about directing them here to this website, to help them with what they are dealing with. 

If you would like to read all of the tips on the matter, you can continue reading here:  

It is important that you keep yourself safe while supporting someone who is struggling deeply. We can feel a lot of different things while trying to help someone we love who is suffering or who doesn’t find it easy to accept help, and that we can see they are having a hard time. We can feel highly frustrated, sad, enraged, or anxious. We are specially concerned by the fact you have had to clean the blood from your friends’ self-harm injuries, as it can be traumatizing. 

We need some space to deal with those feelings, stop ourselves when we need a breather and take care of our own mental health. Sometimes it is enough to talk to someone we trust, but some others, we need professional help.  

Jigsaw and Pieta House have dedicated lines to support people who self-harm, but also to support the people around them. These are their websites: 

Alternatively, you can reach out to Childline and talk to us about anything you need to let out of your chest. We can be reached through the phone 1800 666 666 or through Live Chat on our website We are open 24-hours a day, every day. You can contact us at any time, for any reason, for confidential and non-judgmental support.

Please, do not hesitate to contact us again if you need further support. 

Take care of yourself, and know you do not have to go through this own your own,


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