Things I Know About Self Harm That the School Counselor Somehow Doesn’t

It’s been almost six months since one of my best friends, who won’t be given a name for the sake of her privacy, attempted suicide. I haven’t mentioned it pretty much at all on this blog, although I’ve wanted to, because I felt talking about the details of something so personal would be crossing a line.

It happened on Easter. She texted me and we brought her to my house and we just sat together and watched movies and didn’t talk much while I pretended not to panic and wondered what was going to come next. Then, a couple days later, she told me she wanted to go to the school counselor. I tagged along as moral support. Despite originally not intending to, she ended up telling the counselor everything, and was admitted to the adolescent psychiatric ward that night.

I’ve written a lot about the entire ordeal. Mostly things for my own benefit—I find writing to be cathartic. I’ve written, among other things, a lot of poetry as my personal way of working through things. With her permission, I decided to turn it into my sophomore project. I’ve been working on it a lot and I’ve got over fifty pages of poems (and I’m really really hoping to put it on the amazon ebook store so stay tuned for that!!) and while it’s definitely theraputic for me, it’s not exactly the most uplifting work. So I set out (in a two-in-the-morning insomnia haze on my phone’s notepad) to write something a little rougher and less restrained. I’m starting to think it won’t make it to the final cut of the book, but I figured I’d stick it here for your enjoyment. I’m wondering if others have had similar experiences. So, without further adieu:

Things I Know About Self Harm That The School Counselor Somehow Doesn’t, by Sophia Hudson

people can and do become addicted to self harm because of the rush of endorphins it causes, it’s not just something I made up.

when people are self-harming, their first thought is usually not “damn, I might get a nasty infection from this so I should stop.” telling them they will get a nasty infection will, therefore, probably not get them to stop and could actually make them more guilty.

people, for the most part, won’t stop self-harming just because it interferes with school and telling them that their grades will suffer isn’t doing anyone any favors.

there are better, more helpful self-soothing techniques than just holding an ice cube or snapping a rubber band against your wrist. while I can (sort of) appreciate the validity of these, they really shouldn’t be the only ones you mention.

the goal is to, eventually, get the person to a place where they don’t *want* to self harm—not just to force them to stop doing it or give them substitutes for it. these might work in the short term but in terms of actual long-term recovery they seem to just make things harder. just because it doesn’t leave a permanent mark doesn’t make it any less harmful.

trying to guilt-trip someone out of killing themselves by saying things such as “but what about your little sister!” is manipulative and shitty (and, in my experience, doesn’t work at all).

not to tell you how to do your job or anything, but I think in general school counselors should be neither manipulative nor shitty.

there are a number of reactions, each with varying levels of appropriate-ness, to discovering someone self harms. discomfort and confusion, for a school counselor, are probably on the very inappropriate side of the scale.

“do you guys just hang out with a bunch of depressed people?!” is not, never has been, and never will be a good question to ask—to anyone, but especially not someone who is themselves depressed. (especially when they say that “bunch of depressed people” is a huge reason for them to keep living)

saying things like “we’re gonna call mom” in a soothing voice may make things seem like a group effort, but trust me when I say that they don’t go a long way toward easing the tension.

(I sort of take that last one back. having an abrasive counselor definitely wouldn’t have helped matters either)

really, and I can’t repeat this enough, it’s an all-around shitty situation. being awkward about it isn’t going to help one bit.

I probably should give them a break here, but listening to this counselor was torturous. I knew so much more than this person did and it was so frustrating—but I definitely wasn’t in any position to be arguing or showing off how much I knew. What are your thoughts? Have you had any less-than-ideal experiences with mental health professionals? What about the good ones? Let me know in the comments.

P.S. As of about 9 tomorrow morning, I will be in absentia until the afternoon of the 25th. If there’s any comments or emails or whatever between tomorrow morning and then, I’ll make sure to answer when I get back ❤

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4 comments

  1. First of all, I liked all of the observations you had of your interaction with the counselor. It really sounds like they’re not good at their job. (I’m studying for my Masters in Social Work, and I’d be ashamed to have that reaction.)

    I’m curious to know — and this is just for my general information — are your experiences with school counselors mostly like this? The discomfort and awkwardness, as well as the ineptitude of the counselor all around? I never had to see one in high school (thank gods) but I’ve always imagined them to be sort of worthless. Please correct me if I’m wrong; I’m writing a book where the MC sees a counselor and I was to portray them accurately.

    Also, best of luck to your friend! And to you as well. I wish you both healing and happiness in your dark times.

    1. At my school, the counselors are divided up alphabetically by last bame. A-G all get one counselor, H-M all get another, and N-Z all get the third. She and I have different counselors and the one that we went to see was hers, not mine.

      My counselor (and I so wish that I could identify her by name because I think she deserves recognition) is one of the most lovely humans I’ve ever met and very good at her job. She’s professional without being impersonal. She doesn’t get judgemental or uncomfortable or upset with you. I absolutely adore her, and she’s helped me through quite a lot—especially this school year.

      So, to answer your question, no. Most of my experiences with school counselors have been absolutely amazing. This particular counselor just happened to not be so great at her job. I want to stress that it’s not from lack of compassion (what non-compassionate person would ever want to be a school counselor?) but just general…incompetency? I don’t know exactly.

      If you want to portray the counselor accurately, whether they are a good one or a bad one, just remember to keep in mind that (in my experience, at least) whatever the personal shortcomings of the individual, they really do want to help.

      By the way, I am so feeling any conversation about writing. I’m well-versed in the inner workings of teenagerhood. Feel free to ask my anything else if something comes up! 🙂

      1. Awesome, will do! It’s been a little longer than I care to admit since I was a teen…(all right, almost six years, but who’s counting?).

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