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Gramps,

A friend of mine used to self harm and asked me if she was still worthy to enter the temple. I wasn’t able to answer her. I am hoping you may be able to. Does she need to go to her bishop and confess that she has self harmed in the best?  Thank you.

Megan

 

Answer

 

Megan,

I don’t believe your friend needs to talk to the Bishop. However, I hope she or he is seeing a therapist.

In order to understand why this is not something one needs to confess to the Bishop, first, I would ask why does a person self-harm?  The reasons are unique to each person, however, in general terms we know that self-harm is a coping mechanism.  Everyone has coping mechanisms, some healthy and others not.   For example, have you ever said something along the lines of, “I’ve had such a stressful day, I NEED some chocolate!”  Soothing ourselves with chocolate is a form of coping.  It’s not a terrible one, but not the most healthy either.  Some examples of healthy coping mechanisms include (but are not limited to): prayer, listening to music,, writing, exercise, and/or talking to a friend.

Unhealthy coping mechanisms include behaviors such as self-harm, drinking alcohol, using drugs, looking at pornography, gambling, overeating, and binge watching TV.  Obviously, some of the things in that list are more serious than others.  Some you would need to talk to the Bishop about, others not.  Overeating is a good example of what I am talking about.  We know we shouldn’t do it, but it makes us feel better (temporarily) so we do it anyway.  That is a mild form of self-harm, but it is not something that needs to be confessed to the Bishop.

It is also important to keep in mind that self-harm often goes hand in hand with some form of mental illness such as PTSD, severe anxiety or depression, or Bi-Polar disorder to name a few.  Self-harm can also be highly addictive.  This is why I suggested a therapist.

Attending the temple can be a very healthy coping mechanism, so I highly recommend that your friend go to the temple as often as possible.

If you are still in doubt, consider this.  A dear friend of mine talked to her Bishop about self-harm.  His response was, “Are you in therapy?”  She said yes, and that was the end of it.  It was not a temple recommend issue.

Finally, I always mention this talk when mental health issues come up–because it’s so good–Elder Holland’s Like a Broken Vessel.  If you or your friend haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.  The Lord understands your friend’s pain, and He will be with her.  Healing is possible, sometimes it can take years, but as Elder Holland said, “Broken minds can be healed just the way broken bones and broken hearts are healed.”

 

Gramps

 

Like a Broken Vessel

More information on self-harm.

 

 

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