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I think my little sister is self-harming

Community Member

She has these scars on her ankle that look very similar to self harm and I don't know what to do. I'm extremely worried about her as she was diagnosed with an ED earlier this year and had to stay in a psych ward for a week or so.

I would approach her about it, but the thing is I haven't self harmed in about 8 months and I want to keep it that way - talking about it can be triggering for me.

I don't know what to do because I'm her older sister and I feel like it's all my fault because I've suffered with depression, suicide attempts and self-harm ever since I was young.

5 Replies 5

Hey sk8ergrl,

Thanks for reaching out today and sharing your concerns with us,

We're so sorry to hear your sister might be self-harming, we can imagine this would cause you a lot of sadness and as though you should reach out to her despite your own mental health issues. We can see how tricky this situation is and are glad you're willing to discuss and explore it here with us. 

If you feel up to it, we'd encourage you to reach out to our Beyond Blue Support Service, which is available 24/7 by phone on 1300 22 4636 or on Webchat 3pm-12am AEST on our website: www.beyondblue.org.au/getsupport. One of our friendly counsellors will be able to talk through these feelings with you and can offer support, advice and referrals. 

You might also like to read through this helpful mind article here: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/self-harm/for-friends-a...

Hopefully a few of our community members will pop by to welcome you and offer some words of support and advice. If you would like to post further, please tell us more about what's on your mind and how we can best support you here. 

Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hi there,

Thank you for sharing with us.

First of all, I think it's a great thing that you're taking care of yourself by recognising your triggers and protecting yourself. It's completely understandable that you're uncomfortable about confronting her about it, and I respect your decision. Alternatively, I think it's important that you confide in a family member or friend so that your sister can get the support she needs.

How would you feel about telling someone about it? You mentioned she had been dealing with an eating disorder and had stayed in a psych ward, is she still receiving treatment or seeing a psychologist?

It's really hard to hear that you're taking responsibility for your younger sister's mental health issues. It is not at all your fault.. mental illness is very complex and due to a lot of different factors, and can also be inherited. Please don't place blame on yourself.

Self care is so important.. how have you been coping lately? Have you felt any triggers because of what you're dealing with?

The best thing that you can do for your sister is be a support system for her. Even if it's checking in on her to see how she's going, letting someone else know who is more willing to start the conversation.

I hope to hear from you.

Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni
Have you asked her why she has these injuries, you may be older but that doesn't she is following you they may be similar but not for the same reason, maybe find that out first and then seek external assistance if she needs it. Have you sought counselling for your challenges? maybe that would be a good start to changing your influence and you could both do well perhaps if you could lead her out of the situation.

Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni
I would also like to add, unfortunately posted before I had finished it is very brave of you to post and I wish more people would. but back to your concerns. Sophie M has some really good points to consider as does Isabella there is a great community here so stay in contact and if you need more support it is always here.

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi sk8ergrl

Sounds like you can sense there's something going on with your sister, perhaps based on more than just the cuts on her ankle. Your sister's so fortunate to have someone so sensitive in her life.

Having lived with depression for a number of years earlier in my life, I can relate to that feeling 'It's all my fault'. It wasn't until much later in life that I realised being sensitive is not my fault, it's actually my ability that allows me to get a sense of what or who's bringing me down or what's stressful. Our sensitivity allows us to also feel when we're in a significant challenge that we may need help with. It can take a long time to come to exercise our sensitivity in positive ways. Btw, when people say 'Toughen up', what they're really saying at times is 'Stop accessing your ability to feel'. I imagine you're pretty sensitive/intuitive, which may help explain why you can sense there's something off regarding your sister. Addressing whether the scars are related to past issues resolved or they're linked to ongoing issues is the question.

Is your sister as sensitive as you? Do you think she can feel what's depressing or she can feel what's challenging but she can't necessarily identify the factors involved, those which lead her to feel so intensely? With sensitive people typically being 'feelers', using the language of feeling can help make some difference. Eg: Instead of 'I think I need to ask you if you're okay. I think there's something upsetting you. I think we need help with this', how would it sound if you were to say 'I feel the need to ask you if you're okay. I feel there's something upsetting you. I feel we need help with this'? This is one way to lead a person to understand you truly do feel for them.

While your experiences with depression are not your fault, it's also important to remember how hard you've worked to get through what's not your fault. I know you've worked hard because I can relate to how incredibly demanding and exhausting the battle can be, especially the very depths of depression. You should feel proud of yourself.

If you imagine you can't approach your sister at all without feeling significantly triggered, is your mum an easy person to bring this concern up with? If you're mum's sensitive also, she may be triggered by this. I'm a mum, we're easily triggered 🙂 It still remains our job to be guides for our kids, especially through the toughest of times. Your mum may need to employ someone to help her if need be.