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Disclosure: Sharing stories of self-harm

Making a disclosure about your self-harm means telling somebody about it for the first time. Many people who self-harm go through this process at some point, deciding to tell someone they trust about what they are doing to themselves. Opening up for the first time can be really difficult and daunting; it can be hard for both for the person who is sharing and the person on the receiving end, but disclosure can be the key to transforming a situation and getting the support you need.

When a disclosure doesn’t go well though, this can end up being discouraging and sometimes hurtful, causing a person to lose trust in the value of talking about problems. So how do we make sure that we get it right?

Everyone’s experience of disclosing can be different - some positive and some negative. Talking to someone doesn’t always go to plan, and unfortunately we cannot control other people’s reactions. Those initial conversations can be really difficult, and may well affect how hopeful a person feels about recovery. But overall, talking is a really valuable tool that in time - and with the right person - can make a massive difference. In itself, talking is a way of letting things out but it can also lead to referrals or helpful advice or signposting on to another source of information. Perhaps it is worth the risk.

If you are considering making a disclosure to somebody then, first of all – well done! And secondly, here are some suggestions that may help you:

  • Choose someone you really trust
  • Choose a good time when you won’t be interrupted
  • Try writing down what you want to say so that you feel prepared, or opt for writing/emailing/texting instead. Some people find it much easier than trying to talk face-to-face.
  • Let the person know what you would like to happen as a result of the conversation – it helps you to feel more in control.

If you are the person someone chooses to disclose, you may find it daunting and more than a little overwhelming, especially if it’s someone you care about and want to protect. But try to remember – they are taking a positive step, however awful it may feel at the time. Here are some suggestions of things that might help you to react well in that situation:

  • Spend time listening and being patient
  • Try not to make demands or ultimatums
  • Ask them what help they would like
  • Be honest – if you need to tell somebody else then let them know
  • Don’t worry if you don’t understand
  • Get some support for you too


Alumina is a free, online 7 week course for young people struggling with self-harm. Each course has up to 8 young people, all accessing the sessions from their own phones, tablets or laptops across the UK. The courses take place on different evenings of the week and are run by friendly, trained counsellors and volunteer youth workers. You don’t need an adult to refer you or sign you up, and no-one will see or hear you during the sessions – you’ll just join in via the chatbox. We want to help you to find your next steps towards recovery, wherever you are on your journey.

Find out more