WARNING: This session may be a sensitive topic to some young people and so it’s important that you have enough leaders to offer pastoral support if required. It’s also important that you read this resource properly and set it into the context of your group before leading it.
This resource can be used with all ages but if you’re using it with aged 14 plus young people you may like to use Pink’s music video for the song ‘Perfect’ at some point in the session to help young people understand the emotions involved.
If you use this session and have feedback please contact us so we can tweak this session. If you want further support on this subject please head to www.selfharm.co.uk
Items Required: Youtube Videos (links in session), paper, pens, flip-chart, bible verses, ‘My Story’ (downloadable here)
introduction: This evening we’re going to be looking at the topic of self harm and this means that tonight is going to be a pretty heavy session. If at anytime you feel like you need some space please feel free to leave the room…a leader will come to check you’re ok. If anything affects you for whatever reason please don’t hide that, talk to us.
Pray to start: With a sensitive topic like this it’s really important that God is invited into the session, that you pray for His peace, love and understanding to fill each of us as we explore this tricky subject.
Brain Storm: What do you think self harm is? (This activity is great to myth busting and explaining to young people that self harm goes beyond cutting).
Explain: Today might be irrelevant to you in terms of it being something that you ‘do’ but it’s important that we look at this because whether it’s a way that you use to cope or not at some point you’ll probably come into contact with someone who does and having an understanding of it can really help us as Christians in the world.
Video: Use this clip from YouTube to help introduce the topic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoh5rGt1QI0
Ask: What did you think of that? Did anything stand out?
Explain: Self harm is something that people do to cope…all of us cope with emotions in different ways…some of us might write on our facebook’s, some might write music or poetry, some might scream or go for a run and some self harm.
The Myths (Source: selfharm.co.uk)
There are lots of myths around self harm many of which aren’t true and so we’re going to have a quick look at them.
1 – They must enjoy it – For self harmers it’s not about enjoying it, it’s about a necessary coping mechanism for them.
2 – Self Harmers Must Be Mentally Ill – Self harm isn’t a mental disorder but an emotional difficulty. Some self harmers may suffer with mental health conditions but not everyone. It’s an expression of difficult or unbearable emotion.
3 – Self harm & suicide – People who self harm don’t usually want to end their lives. Many self harmers hurt themselves as a way of coping with life so they can continue living. Some self harmers do die but it is usually as a result of taking an act of self harm too far and dying before they can get help.
4 – Attention seeking? – One of the most common myths is that people who self harm do it for attention. This isn’t true and is actually being perceived as attention seeking for someone who self harms can be painful and far from the truth.
5 – Only Girls do it – Society tends to tell us that it’s vulnerable teenage girls who self harm but actually boys do too we just don’t hear about it as often and also if we expand the idea of self harm beyond cutting to smoking, mis-use of alcohol, eating disorders and beyond then it can be easier to understand how it can be more than girls who self harm.
What does the bible say?
Explain: In terms of biblical stories of self harm we don’t really have any but the bible does tell us about going to God to help us cope with things.
Bible Verses: Hand out the bible verse to young people to read.
Discuss: What do these verses tell us about coping? What do they tell us about God? How do you think they may be encouraging to someone who self harms? (You may need to expand the discussion on some verses and not on others. In particular you may need to be sensitive to the 1 Corinthians 6 verse if there is a member in the group who you know struggles with self harm)
Supporting Someone Who Self Harms
Explain: One of the key things Jesus did when He was on earth was spend time with people, building relationships and not just with people like Him but with people who found life tough…those who struggle from day to day so it’s important that as Christians we have relationships with people.
Ask: If someone tells you that they’ve been self harming what should you do?
Explain: If someone tells you that they’re self harming then it’s important that you listen to them. Try not to be judgemental…it’s probably a huge thing that they’re telling you.
If they’re a Christian you may want to pray with them or if they’re not telling them that you’ll pray for them may be re-assuring.
You can direct them to selfharm.co.uk where they may be able to find help but it’s really important that you encourage them to talk to their doctor about being referred for counselling. You may need to say to them that counselling isn’t something for the weak or broken but is actually a really mature step to take because it means they understand they need help.
It’s really important that you don’t make them promise not to self harm because it’s not as simple as just stopping and breaking a promise may add extra feelings of guilt.
Remember even just having someone telling you that they’re self harming may have an effect on you so if you have a trusted adult you can talk to (you don’t have to name names of your friend) then it may be useful for you to do so.
Explain: We’re going to finish by watching a video clip of someone’s story of how they stopped self harming.
Video: Play YouTube Clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oaDW05vlQjU
Pray: Pray to finish, asking God to help those we know who self harm, asking God to help us to be there for those people and asking God to bring His healing in their lives.
To End: It’s really important that there is space at the end for young people to talk one to one about the topic to leaders if they need to. Make sure there is time allowed for this and that the importance of doing this is emphasised to young people before the group ends. If appropriate you may also like to use the ‘my story’ taken from selfharm.co.uk at the end of this session.