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Re: How to speak safely about self harm on the forums

It's good that you're trying to create a safe space and break down stigma, and that you're taking time to explain your policies and avoid confusion.


There's a couple of thoughts on this topic that have been coming up for me when I come on this website. I basically... don't think the goals of breaking down the stigma of self harm and creating safe spaces to talk about it are being met. Sorry. It's good that you're trying and I see where you're coming from, but...


If the only acceptable way to share about this topic is saying 'I self harmed (or thought about it) but I'm safe now and don't need medical attention, and am sharing about it here because (some reason staff deem acceptable- personally I'm not sure what those are)', it excludes most people the discussion affects, and is very easy for people to get wrong (especially when emotions are running high). And the responses to someone not sharing in a way that ticks all those boxes is that they are shut down or shut out of the community. And when I see that happen it honestly triggers me way more than hearing someone post honestly about these topics when they are struggling. (I'm just one person though and know those posts may affect other people much more than me, but my main point is this kind of response can also be triggering).


I don't even touch these topics on here any more (even though I'm fairly confident I could word it so it fit the guidelines) because the limited extent you can talk about them makes it not really valuable to me. Also because of these guidelines/ this culture, responses like 'I'm glad you're safe/ thanks for confirming/ are you safe' now carry the weight of 'because if you weren't you wouldn't be welcome here'. (Just for the record, I am safe).


To me it seems like it might be better to not even try to create a space to talk about this, than to try but create a space that is very limited and kinda volatile


Re: How to speak safely about self harm on the forums

hey @hellofriend

I first want to write that ReachOut really appreciates your feedback. These forums are just as much your space as it is ReachOut's, and so it's really important for us all to work collaboratively with each other. 


I can understand your frustration about not being able to talk about certain topics on the forum, specifically around active suicidal ideation and self-harm intention. Not being able to talk about some heavy issues can feel like you are being gagged. We know this, and so we have not made the decision to ban any "unsafe" suicide/self-harm discussion lightly. 

The first and most important reason is your own safety. If you are posting about immediately wanting to self harm or attempt suicide, you are (by definition) in crisis. When a person is in a crisis situation, they require immediate professional help. ReachOut is not a professional service, as this is a peer support platform. While the guidance, advice, and support users gain from each other is incredibly important and invaluable, it is not professional advice. While us moderators are trained in mental health, in this role we are not counsellors, and cannot act as such. On top of this, we are not on the forums all the time, and if someone was to post overnight in an unsafe way, no one would be able to help them. This is why we recommend that anyone in crisis needs to contact a professional immediately. This might be Kids HelpLine, LifeLine, or Suicide Call Back Service. It could be 000, or it could even be your parent, or a loved one. Any of these resources and services have a far greater capacity to provide immediate care in the event of an emergency. This is something we cannot offer. 

Secondly, it is not safe for other users. I do understand that you don't feel triggered or distressed when reading about people in an intense crisis situation, and I believe you. These things can all effect us differently. However, for other users it might be intensely distressing. Some users may have a traumatic history where suicide has effected either them or their loved ones personally. We have had users email us or contact us privately to tell us they have become distressed due to reading a post. It's also important to remember the age range on the forums. Users can be as young as 14, and so reading intensely distressing content - like unsafe discussion around self-harm and suicide - may affect them more than it would affect older users. 

Like every mental health service, ReachOut has a specific purpose and goal. This purpose is peer support. Because it is not focused on professional support, we cannot offer crisis support either. This does not mean that anyone is unwelcome on the forums. We respect and appreciate all of our users, and all of the vastly different life experiences each of them have had. Many of our users have struggled with thoughts of self-harm and suicide in the past, and may even continue to struggle with these thoughts. We welcome them, and their experiences to the forums, and we genuinely encourage people to talk about their mental health struggles and successes in a healthy and productive way on ReachOut. 

I hope this clarifies things for you, and thank you again for your feedback, we appreciate and respect all of our users thoughts, and want to make this community the best it can be for everyone. I can see that you care deeply about the forums, and we feel privileged that you care enough to want to make it a better place. You are a great role model for the community Smiley Happy Smiley Happy


Re: How to speak safely about self harm on the forums

Thanks for the response @Andrea-RO Smiley Happy I'm wanting to send an email to clarify a couple of things, is there an email I can contact RO on? Had a look around the site and couldn't find it


Re: How to speak safely about self harm on the forums

Hey @hellofriend 


You can ask on here if you like - it might be helpful for the community, who may have the same questions as you. 


Or do you feel like the questions you want to ask may break the guidelines, hence wanting to send us an email?


Re: How to speak safely about self harm on the forums

@Maddy-RO I sent an email to, hopefully that finds its way to a mod. It included questions/ concerns about how RO responds to people talking about self harm related topics in a few different contexts, and I don't want to make others uncomfortable if they've had that experience with RO and feel like I'm opening up their situation for everyone to discuss. If you see it and think there's some of it that would be helpful to share here let me know


Re: How to speak safely about self harm on the forums

Hi @hellofriend 


Thank you for sending us your questions/concerns and for considering the other members of the community Heart We will track down the email you sent to - for future reference if you're ever wanting to ask a private question the forums team can be directly contacted via 


We also wanted  to acknowledge the important ideas raised in your post. You mentioned feeling as though we were not meeting our goal of creating a stigma free space to talk about self harm and what we wanted to emphasise is that ensuring posts are safe for everyone to read is our first priority. As we are a public service that can be quickly accessed by anyone we have to be really careful about what we let sit here for people to read. 


Breaking down stigma is really important to us though - so we wanted to give some examples of ways self harm can be discussed on ReachOut. 

  • Discussing/getting support for the emotions that come up as a result of self harm. 
  • Getting tips/ideas for way to avoid/distract from self harm. 
  • Ideas for how to talk to loved ones about self harm 
  • How to get professional support with self harm 
  • Sharing experiences of recovering from self harm 

These are just some ideas for ways  we can talk about self harm but also make sure our conversations are safe for everyone who is part of this community. 


We realise that there are still conversations that need to be had around self harm and we strongly encourage the community to seek support from people who can have them. People such as GP's, psychologists, family members are good people to talk to if you need to discuss aspects of this issue that we aren't able to keep on the forums Heart 



Re: How to speak safely about self harm on the forums

@Bre-RO @Maddy-RO @Andrea-RO 


One issue with that often people don't have anywhere else to turn to.

Like crisis services can be great but sometimes they aren't online, aren't helpful and are too busy. Sometimes talking to someone can just be too much.


And that can really contribute to some of the issues @hellofriend brought up.

It means that people can be asked to stop using the forums but be unable to access crisis services, which can definitely make it feel like you're not welcome to any sort of support.

Honestly this feeling is a really big trigger for me, and there have been times when I've self harmed while waiting hours for a crisis councilor to become available.



Could I suggest a resource page that you could direct people to if they're at risk of self harm, which would primarily include links and phone numbers to available services?

I feel like that would be a way of avoiding triggering people while also changing the type of conversations that are happening, and making support more accessible.


Importantly, it would still be a RO resource.

Instead of the message being "that's hard, but we can't help you, go somewhere else",   it would be "that's hard, we've actually got a really useful resource to help anyone feeling like that, I can get you the link".

Directing someone to a RO resource shouldn't take any longer than directing them to a few external ones, but more importantly it could make people in crisis feel more welcome on RO when they need it most, even if they need to be directed away from the forums for a time.

It would also put more focus on providing more suitable resources, rather than taking away unsuitable options, as feeling like you're running out of options is never useful for someone in crisis.


At the moment, there is a really difficult gap for people who are in crisis when they post; the time between someone asking them to seek help and a crisis service actually being able to help them. I've waited anywhere between half an hour to an entire week to access a crisis support service. 

That gap leaves people in a sort of limbo when there is nowhere for them to get help, which is really unhelpful in a crisis for obvious reasons.

Having a resource that includes things like alternatives to self harm and links to a greater variety of services could really help bridge that gap, greatly reducing the amount of time people are left to fend for themselves.


It also provides space for options that someone might forget to suggest or decide isn't important. (this isn't a criticism by the way, but an acknowledgement that the RO staff are in fact human and will therefore forget things occasionally, especially under stress)

Like, I personally find suicide callback service more helpful than kids helpline. Some people will find KHL more useful than SCS. Just seeing the name of a service that has helped before can be enough to encourage someone to seek help, so having various services consistently and reliably listed could make contacting a service more likely.


Finally, sometimes a support service isn't the right option for someone thinking about self harm.

Like I personally find a list of ways to avoid self harm a lot more useful in these situations than a list of services. Having a resource that gives people a choice between both options would allow them to use the strategies most useful to them.


I probably shouldn't male this literal essay any longer than it is already for the poor person reading this, but if you think that idea has potential I could suggest a few ideas on how it could be done?


Re: How to speak safely about self harm on the forums

@Tiny_leaf some valueable discussion points here, I wanted to point out that we do infact have some resources, which I'm going to link some here for you. Perhaps we can try to be more mindful of linking them more often?


Resources for Self-harm Which links to articles around Self-help and a story: my green box a way to manage urges to self-harm and a couple of others.


We have resources for suicide too, which include how to make a safety planwhat to do if you're having suicidal thoughts and other stories/factsheets.


Also, we have the tab at the top urgent help.


I hope this helps with knowing what we have in the way of resources Smiley Happy

Remember you're amazing just as you are Heart


Re: How to speak safely about self harm on the forums

@Bee well in that case my suggestion is like 100 times shorter and mostly involves mentioning/ linking them alongside the crisis support services. 


Re: How to speak safely about self harm on the forums

@Tiny_leaf I want to check I'm understanding you correctly, are you thinking something like this when users are in distress? Would it be more helpful?


"Hey (Username),

this sounds pretty tough, and I hear that you're feeling suicidal and thinking of self-harm. I wanted to link you to some crisis lines and provide you with some resources on 

 Self-harm and suicide."

Remember you're amazing just as you are Heart