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Self-Harm

Self-harm, wrist bandaged asking for help

Self-harm, also known as self-injury or self-mutilation, is intentional, direct injury to your body and includes:

  • Cutting
  • Scratching
  • Burning
  • Carving words or symbols into the skin
  • Hitting or punching oneself (including banging one’s head or other body parts against another surface)
  • Piercing the skin with sharp objects such as hairpins
  • Pulling out hair
  • Picking at existing wounds

Although the self-inflicted injury may result in life-threatening damage, it is not considered to be suicidal behavior but a coping mechanism to deal with very strong feelings. These painful feelings may grow more intense if a person continues to use self-harm to release their emotions. Young people who self-harm may experience shame and guilt which can lead to that person hurting themselves again; the behavior can become a dangerous cycle.

  • Did you know almost 1 in 4 female high school students and 1 in 10 male high school students engage in self-harm?[1]
  • 90% of people who engage in self-harm begin in their teen or pre-adolescent years.[2] 

Most self-harm in secret and on places of the body that may not be seen by others. These students generally do not tell others and rarely seek the help of an adult. If the student chooses to tell anyone, it would most likely be a friend or peer.

Here are warning signs you can watch for to help a friend.

  • Scars
  • Fresh cuts, burns, scratches, or bruises
  • Having sharp objects on hand
  • Regularly locking himself or herself in the bedroom or bathroom after a bad day
  • Wearing long sleeves or long pants, even in hot weather
  • Difficulties with interpersonal relationships
  • Saying that they feel helpless, hopeless, or worthless

If a friend tells you they are hurting themselves or you witness someone hurting themselves, you might feel confused or scared. But telling you may be a cry for help. Try and stay calm and focus on ways you can support your friend or classmate. You can help by telling an adult or reporting to OK2SAY.

If you are using self-harm as a release for your emotions, know that you deserve help and can get it by talking with a parent or other trusted adult including a counselor, therapist nurse, or doctor. Or you can always file a tip yourself with OK2SAY.

With this help, you can learn healthier ways to manage your feelings including distraction, stress management techniques, and thinking of alternative ways to release your emotions. You may even find that joining a social activity or sports group can be beneficial.

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