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Self harming suicidal teenager - feel like lousy parent

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Self harming suicidal teenager - feel like lousy parent

Casual scribe

Self harming suicidal teenager - feel like lousy parent

This is my first post and I need to hear that this will get better because right now it feels like there is no hope and I can’t understand how I let this happen. My teen is 15, permanently and horribly scarred on her arms and legs with self harm I didn’t even know til 2 mths ago had been happening. She is suicidal, is being watched by me 24 hours a day now, has professional support and significant and increasing medication for OCD and anxiety but I cannot stop feeling so guilty about this. How did I end up such a lousy parent? How will this impact my other two kids? How on earth will this ever get better?

Casual scribe

Re: Self harming suicidal teenager - feel like lousy parent

Firstly, you are not a lousy parent, it’s not your fault and you are not alone.  Unfortunately there are more and more teens suffering with mental health issues.  I sympathise with you, I have a 17 yr old daughter who is diagnosed with OCD and ASD, I also have a 15yr old daughter who unfortunately is in care, who is diagnosed with ASD,ODD and emotional dysregulation.  My 17 year old never self-harmed but my 15 year old has and still does.  Last year my 15 year old had approximately 10 hospital admissions in such a short period of time, we could not longer keep her safe.  It got to a stage where we had locks on every door of the house as she would access anything to self-harm with, prior to going into care we had 2:1 carers 24/7 living in our home for a period of 5 weeks to keep her safe and out of hospital.   In our daughters case we felt something happened outside of our house,  she now  requires trauma therapy to address her issues.  Which she is due to start soon.  Our daughter in the beginning wouldn’t open up to us, she was very deep and didn’t express verbally how she was really feeling, she hid behind her smile.   Before going into care she started to open up, I tried not to react even though some of the things she told me, horrified me. Try to talk to your daughter, try to find out why she is feeling this way, let her know that whatever she shares with you, you will listen and be supportive, try not to be judgemental, even if she shares something you disapprove of.   

Social media and phone’s although brilliant on one hand, on the other have a lot to answer for, the increase in  children’s mental health,  it’s too much for some children to deal with, I feel social media is the number one cause for the rise in children’s mental health issues.


your not a lousy parent, this isn’t normal day to day  parenting this is extremely challenging for anyone, the OCD alone is challenging,  seek as much help as you can, but at all cost avoid social services!  

Does your daughter tell you when she has self-harmed?,  the reason I ask is our daughter used to tell us, it became habit forming, a cry for help, the way she expressed herself, she needed help but could not express what it was she needed help with.  Even when she was in a good place she used to collect and conceal items for when she was feeling low.  She used to take pencil sharpeners apart, razors, it became where everything  in our home was locked up, we also had to lock up all medication, as she had taken overdoses of her own meds.    Remember you are doing your best in such a trying time, don’t feel guilty, just try to be there and listen.  I wish I could advise you more, however I do resinste with some of the feeling you are having because I myself feel like I have failed, why couldn’t I keep my daughter safe in her own home, I have to try to remind myself we did our best.  I do feel a  let down by the system because although both of my children are supported by CAMHS, with my younger daughter it wasn’t enough, more funding needs to be put into mental health for our children preventing them getting to crisis point.         Try to stay positive, your not alone

Casual scribe

Re: Self harming suicidal teenager - feel like lousy parent

@Lightbulb thank you so much for your reply and I'm so sorry for what you've gone through. I totally agree with you about social media. My daughter as a group of online friends who she 'vents' with who all appear to be young like her but who all describe themselves as recovering from self harm and eating disorders. She says they're people that understand her but if they are who they say they are, they're all kids, all dealing with signficant mental health issues, and not best placed to support each other in a way that's healthy and doesn't just reinforce the harmful behaviours. On balance, I think social media is doing far more harm than good.

Active scribe

Re: Self harming suicidal teenager - feel like lousy parent

  • Listen to them closely when they’re sharing their life with you
  • Avoid being judgmental or punitive
  • Be empathetic and think about how you might feel if you were in their shoes
  • Avoid wanting to tell them to “get over it” or minimizing their experience in any way
  • Validate your teen’s feelings (i.e. “It looks like you’ve been feeling sad lately. Is that true?)
  • Try to understand your teen
  • Connect with your teen emotionally
  • Make a date with your teen to do something together that they enjoy
  • Communicate to your teen that you’re available to talk about anything
Star contributor

Re: Self harming suicidal teenager - feel like lousy parent

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Hi @phoneagent007 , @Lightbulb  and @Cocoarrarra , 


We're so glad to have you here on our forums, it can feel incredibly isolating when your kids are struggling - @Cocoarrarra we are so sorry to hear that your teen has been having such a tough time, and I hope that you can see from the responses here that you're not alone, and you are absolutely not a lousy parent.


I can hear from your post how much you love your daughter, it must have felt really confronting and frightening to find out that she had been self harming and experiencing thoughts of suicide, as well as having OCD and anxiety.  Self harm is something that's often really secretive, and a lot of young people we support describe feelings of shame around having self harmed- and many of them do hide it from their families in particular. It's often something that becomes a coping mechanism that's then really hard to stop, but it sounds like you've done a wonderful job in making sure your daughter is linked in with the right levels of professional supports. 


If you're interested in reading a bit more about self harm, we have some resources here on our ReachOut Parents page: 


Self Harm and Teenagers

Things to try: managing self-harm


As @Lightbulb  has said, you're absolutely not alone, and it doesn't mean you're a bad parent. I know that as a parent myself, there's a natural tendency to blame ourselves or wonder what we could have done differently - especially with mental health issues, but @Lightbulb said it perfectly- all we can do is our best. I know that I am always trying to learn more about parenting, but I also know that there's no such thing as a perfect parent.  All we can do is the best we can, and look for support when we need it- exactly like you've done by posting here


@Cocoarrarra I did also want to mention that we do offer a one to one parents coaching service, which may be helpful for you, especially in terms of workshopping ways to help to support your other two kids, and also give you a sounding board to help you through this challenging time. It's a free service and delivered online or over the phone, you can read more about that here if you are interested:



 @Lightbulb   I wanted to thank you so much for sharing your experiences here as well. It sounds like you and your daughters have been through a lot in the few years, and I'm so sorry that your younger daughter has experienced so much. It sounds like you've done the absolute best you can to navigate the system and find her the right level of support-  it must have been incredibly hard to get to the point where she could no longer stay safe in your home. I love your advice around being supportive and non judgemental, even when it's really hard- I'm wondering if you've been able to get much support to help you through everything you've been through? 


@Cocoarrarra  I think a lot of parents can relate to your concerns about social media- on one hand, it can be a really important way for young people to connect with each other, but there's also a lot of downsides there too- I don't know if your daughter would be interested in this, but we do have a professionally moderated, anonymous Online Community for young people to connect and find support around all things mental health, in a space that is much safer and designed to give the benefits of that peer support, in a much more safe environment. 


That's probably enough from me! I hope that it's been helpful for you both to connect here, please keep us posted with how you're all travelling- you're definitely not alone, and this is a really safe space to vent if you need to. 


Casual scribe

Re: Self harming suicidal teenager - feel like lousy parent

I just found out an hour ago my daughter has self harmed. I immediately reached out to a therapist to try to get her in to. I then immediately found this forum. I also do feel like a lousy parent. Is there any other advice or direction? This forum is great any advice?
Frequent scribe

Re: Self harming suicidal teenager - feel like lousy parent

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Thank you for sharing this with us @Imoverwhelmed 


It sounds like what you are going through is very difficult at the moment and we're glad that you can talk about it here. I am sorry to hear about your daughter and it sounds like a very difficult time for her and you. I want to first say that I don't think you are a lousy parent, but instead, I'd like to thank you for finding a therapist and coming here immediately.


Sometimes self-harm can be very complex and reasons for engaging can be very complicated. I was wondering if you would like to read some resources that may be helpful? Here is a fact sheet about teenagers and self-harm and some tips for supporting your teenager with self-harm as a parent.


I also want to check in and make sure that you are supported during this difficult time. Do you have any supports for yourself? (e.g. friends, other family or professional support). Would you be open to us exploring some options with you?  


There are many members of our community that have been through similar experiences. You are not alone and we're glad that you're here.