Im beginning a Mental Health Nursing course and worried about scars left from self harm?

Ive had a uniform fitting and i know they are short sleeved. I am emotionally stable (the occupational health made sure of this by writing to my GP) I self harmed last about 2 years ago but i have an arm full of scars which im often quite reluctant to show around strangers.

I dont want this holding me back and i will not allow it. But i am worried about the reactions of other students on my course and colleagues as well as the other allied health professions i will be working with.

I dont know how to deal with it and i know ill be stuck for words when asked (as well as feeling ashamed)

If anyone has experience on this it would be nice to know how anyone coped and the reactions.

Thank you all

(Im located in the UK)


  • Nina D

    If you’re doing Mental Health Nursing you only have to wear you uniform on general or elderly placements – the vast majority of placements you get to wear you own clothes. Go with previous advice of wearing a long sleaved t-shirt underneath and if infection control is an issue on the ward, speak to the nurse in charge and explain you’ve got some scarring (you don’t have to elaborate) you don’t feel comfortable having on display. Most importantly, enjoy your course, it’s a really good career and you’ll be able to use your life experience to help people. In your own time you’ll take ownership of your scars and be less embarrassed. All the best x


    Your scars show that you’ve been there and done that. If anything, it makes you more credible to patients and they’ll be more apt to relate to you. Use it as an instrument to your success in curing patients in this field.

    If you understand the pain, where people are coming from and what it’s like — you’re a step closer than a lot of other mental health professionals.

  • Shana B

    You could wear a thin white long sleeve shirt under your uniform and say that you are always freezing cold.

    I think that’s probably the best bet.

    If you absolutely must wear the short sleeves, when someone mentions it or you see them staring, you could just say "I was such a drama queen when I was a teenager. So glad I’m over that!" That response would work if you want to discourage questions.

    Or you could say "I used to self harm but I got help and now I have more appropriate ways of expressing myself."

    Personally, I would go with the long sleeves to avoid having to deal with the whole situation!

  • Pammie

    Honestly I would just make up a story like you were in an accident or something. It is none of their business what you did in the past. You arenow making a future for yourself. Don’t let this hold you back from a great career.

  • I think you should not be ashamed and instead use it as a reason why you will understand many patients you will see. If people ask say it happened when you were younger and you have learned a great deal since then.

  • Deber

    I have scars like these as well. 55 of them. You need to stand behind your statement of "I will not allow it to hold me back". It was something you did, what you went through. It will make you more understanding in the future if you encounter another cutter. It all depends on how you react to it. If you are embarassed, it will show. If you are going to be confident and have the right attitude, then that seems to be the best solution. Do not feel ashamed. This is part of where you have been. Wear them as a badge of courage and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You cannot allow it to become more than what it is, your past attempt at making yourself feel better.

  • slices_of_heaven

    A quick easy answer, is if you’re allowed, to wear a long sleeved shirt under your uniform top. Another idea for "hiding" is a tastefull tattoo of some sort, of course this too could attract some negative attention, but it would be a much different form of negative attention.
    But if you’re tired of hiding, as it can be a very tiresome thing. I think the best thing to do is to be open and honest, to a point. If someone is looking oddly but doesn’t ask, don’t voulenteer any information, but if someone should ask, just tastefully reply, that when you were younger, you tried to solve problems in an unhealthy way, or something like that.
    I’ve self injured on and off for many years. I’ve also done the hiding thing for a long time, there’s some people who you’ll just never want to know about it. I had decided to get a tattoo, which in the long run is a very good cover up, as you never have to worry about what to wear, or if you’re going to run into someone you know and you don’t want them to see it, and it’s too hot for long sleeves, but a drawback, and all cutters know what i’m sayin here, is that we do in some way get attached to our scars, and a tattoo, not only hides them from the world, but from you also, and you wont be able to see them any more if you do that.

    Good luck, i really hope you do well and make a decision that will make you happy.
    (also if the rules state you cannot wear an "undershirt" under you uniform top, you might go to your instructor and ask for a special allowance due to the problem. They might be very understanding.

    E-mail me if ya ever need to

  • Kadri

    Personally, if I was under your guidance, I would feel so much more comfortable knowing I was talking to someone who has been through the same experiences. Sometimes the people I have to see are just so sterile and have admitted their only experience is from other patients and never going through it themselves.

    If you really feel uncomfortable, a cheap white top underneath should work. Personally I wear either the black or white long sleeved tops from Primark (they’re only about £2.50 each) You may even feel comfortable enough to roll them up slightly in the future too. I don’t see why fellow students would scorn you if it’s people that have been in the same situation as yourself you’re meant to be helping…

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