Self-harm: Parents' experiences

Thoughts about the future

The parents and carers we spoke to told us their thoughts about the future and their hopes that their child would go on to fulfil their potential and lead a happy life. Jo-Ann said, ‘That’s what I hope for, that all will be well, whether she has a relationship or she’s on her own, all I wish for her is a peaceful mind.’ Jim wished his daughter could ‘come through this so she can be happy.’ Some hoped their child would go on to university, though Jackie said she was scared that she wouldn’t be able to keep a proper check on her daughter when she was miles away. ‘I’ve got to allow her the space to make her own mistakes,’ Jackie admitted. ‘So I’m preparing her as best as I can right now for that adult world.’
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Some parents were worried that their child would continue to self-harm if they had problems in the future, or might even die by suicide (see ‘Fears and worries’). Others were concerned that their child would be vulnerable because of their mental health problems.
Even though they were worried, many were optimistic about the future. They saw the difficult time they had gone through as a learning experience, and hoped the young person had developed strategies they could use if they felt like self-harming again. Although Charles was worried that his son’s low self-esteem and lack of confidence might affect his future achievements, he said ‘I’m optimistic that a combination of medication and therapy will help him to be able to live a normal life.’
We talked to some people whose children had self-harmed in the past and had become less likely to harm themselves as they grew older. Dot said her daughter was much more stable. ‘Hopefully now she is in her 30s the highs and lows won’t be quite so extreme, and I hope that she just goes on doing her best. And if she does get low mood she will go to her GP I’m sure and get it sorted.’ Isobel’s daughter was becoming more independent. ‘I’m hoping she continues to mature,’ Isobel told us, ‘and that if she develops any depression that we can spot it and deal with it proactively and if she needs antidepressants then, or if she needs therapy, then so be it.’
Several people told us how important it was to keep hopeful. Fiona advised: ‘try to be hopeful and always talk hope into them, even when inside you’re screaming “How long is this going to last?”’ Joanne said, ‘I’ve always got hope, and that’s what keeps me going’. Others coped by taking one day at a time. ‘You have to take one day at a time, that’s all you can do’, Audrey (whose young husband self-harmed) told us. ‘”Yesterday’s history, tomorrow’s a mystery, today’s a gift”, and that’s what I think to myself every morning because I am gifted that I have my husband. I’m gifted that I have two beautiful children and I thank God every day that I still have my husband here and I thank God that he himself is willing to change.’

Last reviewed December 2017.

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