Fear and Misunderstanding
As a rule, the first expression to cross one’s face is shock mixed with fear and disgust, soon replaced by either a pitying look or the uncompromising gaze of the self-righteous. This is quickly reinforced by appropriate words, something like “You shouldn’t do that”, or “Why?”
A limited amount of sympathy and space is allowed before the bystander begins to feel an obligation to do something about you and your “problem.” They see themselves as either your would-be savior by helping you, or guilty for letting it continue. Either way, their reactions are bound to complicate things, and so it’d be wise to choose who to bear your secret very, very carefully. The best reaction I’ve ever had was a calm and unjudgemental acceptance, and the offer of help if needed. Unfortunately, I’ve only experienced such a reaction from those who have or do self harm. Perhaps those who haven’t truly don’t understand? I don’t know, and I won’t assume.
Person [male, age 16, began to SI at age 7, high school student]