What is Self-Harm?

Self-harm is also referred to as self-injury. Self-harm is defined by deliberately hurting yourself physically. Most times, self-harm isn’t intended as a suicide attempt, but as a coping mechanism young people or adults use to deal with emotional pain that they’re unable to express in another way. People who self-harm typically experience a short period of relief or calm after self-harming, but eventually that feeling gives way to shame and the return of the painful emotions they were unable to get rid of.

Recognizing the Signs of Self-Harm

Recognizing self-harm in others usually includes a combination of physical and emotional observations. Common methods of self-harm include but are not limited to cutting, scratching, burning, self-hitting, piercing the skin, or inserting objects under the skin.

Some individuals may only engage in self-harm a few times when they become upset, while others may engage in self-harm as a long-term, repetitive behavior. The following signs may be indications that a person is engaging in self-harm:

  • Scars that are often in similar patterns
  • Wound marks on the arms, legs, or torso
  • Frequent reporting of accidental injury by the person
  • New cuts, scratches, bruises, or other wounds
  • Wearing long sleeves or pants regardless of the weather
  • Keeping sharp objects on hand
  • Behavioral or emotional instability
  • Trouble in personal relationships
  • Statements that allude to feeling worthless or misunderstood

Get Help

If you or a friend feels the immediate need to self-harm or has been considering self-harm, you can text the Crisis Text Line at 741741 or message them on Facebook Messenger for free, confidential help and information. They can listen and provide emotional support and resources to help you work on solutions.

If you’re not immediately in crisis but have feelings of worthlessness, you can talk to a trusted guardian and your doctor to schedule an appointment. Self-harm is a very treatable, often temporary condition that can be resolved over time with a combination of therapy, emotional support, or medication, depending on your needs. If you are unsure where to start to find help and resources, contact your local Area Education Agency for assistance.

Support for Students & Parents

Learn how to support your friends or your children who self-harm using the following resources:

Support for Educators

Educate yourself on how to better support your students who may be struggling with self-harm using the following resources:

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