If someone you know has injured themselves or has the intention to injure themselves through self harm, it can be a frightening experience. The safety of the person is what needs to be put first in this situation. Getting professional help is the best thing to do.
What should I do if someone has severely hurt themselves through self harm?
Not all self harm is life threatening or will need immediate medical attention. However, there are some situations where someone’s life or health is at risk, such as if they have badly cut themselves and are bleeding heavily, have caused severe burns to their body or have overdosed or poisoned themselves, that you will need to get emergency help. If you are unsure if you need to get medical help it is best to be safe and call for help anyway.
If you live close to a hospital
If someone has severely injured themselves through self harm, the first thing you need to do is call an ambulance on 999 (for Ireland) or 112 (works in Ireland and the EU). Let the person who is hurt know that you are going to call for help before doing so, but if they say they do not want help you still need to call. In this situation, their safety comes first. When you call the emergency services be honest and let them know how the person injured themselves and how bad the injuries are. The more relevant information you give them, the better able they will be to help you. Ask them for advice on how to help the person until the emergency services arrive and try and follow their instructions carefully.
If you live in a rural area
If you live in a rural area it might take a long time for an ambulance to reach you. If this is the case, contact your nearest medical practitioner such as a GP, nurse or someone who is trained in first aid. Let them know that it is an emergency and that you have called an ambulance but you need help until they arrive. If the emergency happens during the evening, night or on weekends you can all the GP out of hours services and they will be able to send a doctor.
How to help someone who is bleeding heavily
If someone has self harmed and is bleeding heavily follow these steps:
- Try to stay calm and let the injured person know that help is coming
- Remove any clothing from the wound
- Do not try to clean the wound
- Get a sterile bandage or clean cloth and put it on the wound
- Press down firmly on the bandage/cloth with your palm to control the bleeding
- Keep pressure on the wound until the bleeding stops or help arrives
- Wrap the bandage/cloth around the wound to help keep pressure on it
- If the person has injured their hands or arms, if they can, get them to raise their injuries to above the level of their heart
- Help the injured person lie down and try to keep them warm
- If the blood comes through the cloth/bandage add another to it and keep pressing firmly on it
- Again reassure the person that everything is okay and help is on the way
- If they are panicking, keep talking to them calmly, try to get them to focus on their breathing and offer to get them some water
What should I do if someone is threatening to harm or kill themselves?
If someone is threatening to harm or kill themselves:
- If it is safe to do so, take away the thing they are threatening to harm themselves with
- Contact the emergency services on 999 or 112
- Stay with the person and let them know you have called for help
- If you need more support call for someone you trust to come and help you
- Once the emergency services arrive go with them to the hospital to support them
Remember that although you may want to help the person you are not medically trained to be able to do so.
If the person becomes angry or tries to make you feel guilty for calling for help, you still have to do so, as it is the best thing for them in that situation.