Showing posts in 'Self-harm Series'

Self-harm - top tips for supporting others

Helen Thorne | May 16, 2015

Books have been written on how best to support people who self-harm. We don’t have the space to go into detail on a blog. But here are our ten top tips for supporting those who struggle:

Be analytical
Spend time thinking about what the person has been through and listening to them talk. How have they been sinned against? What distorted views do they hold about themselves and God? Are they using self-harm to try to bring cleansing / control / sensation or punishment?... continue reading

Self-harm - top tips for supporting others

Helen Thorne | May 3, 2012

Books have been written on how best to support people who self-harm (and I suppose I could do a shameless plug for my Grove Book on the subject!). We don’t have the space to go into detail on a blog. But here are our ten top tips for supporting those who struggle:... continue reading

Self-harm - The mirror of change

Helen Thorne | May 3, 2012

If you’ve ever been to an old fashioned fairground you’ll know what I mean by the hall of mirrors. That small corridor of concave and convex glass which produces the most disturbing effects on your reflection. The enormous head – the bulging legs – the stomach the size of a pin. A perfectly average human-being can stand in front of one of these panes of glass and be confronted with an image that is distorted in the extreme.

We all have self-image. We all hold beliefs about ourselves and God. As Christians, we aim to hold biblical beliefs – ones that state that we are in God’s image (Genesis 2), ones which acknowledge both our sinfulness (Romans 3:10) and the fact that we are forgiven, washed whiter than snow (Psalm 51:7) and adopted into God’s family (1John 3:1) because we are loved by an awesome God and his sacrificial son (John 3:16). Ones that are clear that we have great hope for the future (1Peter 1:3).... continue reading

Self-harm - how to respond

Helen Thorne | May 3, 2012

If someone at church has told you that they are deliberately hurting themselves, then you are in a privileged position. If they have shown you (because sometimes it’s easier to show than to speak) you are clearly trusted and valued as a friend or leader.

But even with those facts in mind, it can sometimes be hard to hear that someone you care about is self-harming. And harder still to know how to respond in ways that are loving and wise.

So here are 5 ideas of things that it is helpful to say to someone when they confide in you:

  • Thank you

It will have been hard for the person to have confided in you. Thank them for trusting you and speaking with you. Acknowledge that it’s always a privilege to stand alongside brothers and sisters who are struggling.

  • Help me to understand more

Take the opportunity to listen to what the person who is self-harming is going through. Listen to their story, non-judgmentally, whatever the twists and the turns of their life.

  • You’re loved

Reinforce that God loves them – and show them that from Scripture rather than just trotting out the phrase. Remind them that their church family loves them too. Just as Jesus welcomed people from all walks of life and with a whole host of struggles, so should Christians.

  • You can change

Be clear and confident that there is a way out of self-harm, Be realistic that the path of change may be tough … it may include hearing difficult truths from the Bible, being challenged to forgive people who have hurt us, letting go of false beliefs about self & God and persevering through times of temptation, but it is possible. God is in the business of changing his children to be more like Jesus.

  • I will help

Offer to support the person who is struggling. It’s probably best not to offer to be their sole support – biblical pastoral care is a corporate activity not a secret 1:1 pursuit as no one individual has all the gifts necessary to point someone to Jesus all day every day. But it will be great if you can promise to play at least some part in encouraging recovery.

Self-harm - breaking the code of silence

Helen Thorne | May 2, 2012

It can be hard to admit to self-harming. In fact, far from being the “attention-seeking” behaviour that it is so often described as being, most people keep it secret for months, years … even decades.

The problem is, it’s not easy to say “I deliberately cut myself” or “I take fistfuls of tablets when I can’t cope any more” . Doing so can seem like a terrifying prospect. People worry that others will see them as mad, bad or just plain weird. In certain church circles the assumption can be that someone who self-harms is demon-possessed (drawing on the story of the man in Mark 5). And no-one wants to be inappropriately placed into that category!

The stark reality, however, is that most people who self-harm are simply normal human beings who are struggling with the pain of the fallen world.

There are ways churches can help to overcome the wall of silence:

  • Create a culture of openness and acceptance

People who have a “big pastoral secret” to share will often share smaller struggles first to test the water. If they are loved and accepted when they admit to small struggles, they are more likely to share the big ones.

  • Raise awareness through literature

Simply popping a poster in the church which says that the leadership team are concerned for those who struggle with self harm (and alcohol and eating disorders and porn etc) and willing to talk with those who are affected can be a great reassurance to those who know they need help.

  • Raise awareness through teaching

Every time the Bible is taught, there will be application. Ensuring that such moments of application, at times (when appropriate!) include application to those who struggle with pastoral problems is so helpful in encouraging people to seek help and seek help that is based on Scripture.

  • Raise awareness through testimony

It’s always encouraging to hear how God is changing, healing and molding his people. So every now and then, why not ask someone who has stopped self-harming to give a testimony at church. It’s bound to encourage someone else!


By taking these small steps, churches can more and more become places where the code of silence is broken and people seek help for their struggles.

Self-harm - a word to those who are struggling

Helen Thorne | May 1, 2012

The blog series we’re running this week is aimed at those in the local church who have a heart to get alongside those who struggle. A blog isn’t a great place to offer pastoral care - the place for that is the church family - so we’re not setting ourselves up as a place for counseling or support. But I don’t want you to think that you’ve been forgotten.

I’m not just writing this series as someone who has done a little bit of thinking and writing in the field of pastoral care over the years. I’m writing this as someone who had a long battle with self-harm. I struggled for many, many years. And have been free for 10.

My experience will have been different to whatever you are going through now. But I know how hard it can be to ask for help and to persevere on the road to recovery. And I also know it’s worth it.

In the grace of God, change is possible. So do please ask wise, loving and biblical people in your local church for support. Together, and in the power of the Spirit, there is no reason why you cannot put self-harm behind you too.

Self-harm - how it functions

Helen Thorne | May 1, 2012

So what role does self-harm play in people’s lives? It tends to function in one of 4 ways:

  • Punishment
    Sometimes people feel guilt or shame. They’re overwhelmed either by the fact that they have done something terrible or the feeling that they have (even though they haven’t). Hurting yourself can lessen the feelings of guilt because it gives the impression that ‘justice is being done’ as punishment is meted out.
  • Cleansing
    Other people may feel dirty inside. They have a swell of negative emotions within them that they can’t seem to get rid of. By putting a hole in their skin, the bad stuff can, symbolically, be allowed to escape and, for a while at least, the pressure of negative thoughts subsides.
  • Control
    At times, life can feel completely out of control. Other people – be they family, teachers, employers or even God seem to dictate how each moment is spent and how each emotion is expressed. Some people use self-harm to reclaim control … they may not be able to control their diaries but they can control what happens to a small patch of their skin.
  • Sensation creation or depression
    Sometimes people struggle with the pain of life. They try to suppress it through ingesting an excess of painkillers to literally numb sensations… Other people feel numb, such people may cause themselves pain just so they can feel something. No-one wants to go through life feeling nothing at all …

All these techniques help people keep on living in a world full of pain. But they are notgood solutions or long-term solutions to the effects on a fallen world. As Christians we have the awesome gospel message of the Son of God who took the punishment we deserve, to wash us whiter than snow so we can follow the loving, sovereign King of the universe and enjoy life and life in all its fullness. Over the next few posts we are going to explore how we can better understand those who self-harm and support them with these truths as they recover.

Self-harm - what is it?

Helen Thorne | Apr 30, 2012

It can seem a bit unfathomable: the fact that rational, intelligent human beings at times choose to cause themselves harm. People often ask “why?” because on the surface it makes no sense. But the reality is that self-harm need not be a mystery. It is understandable. It is a privilege to stand alongside those who are struggling. And those who are currently hurting themselves can be confident that there is a way out.

So this week on the blog we’re going to dip a toe into what self-harm is, how it functions and how we as Christians can support the many people who struggle.... continue reading

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