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Self-Harm/Cutting (Nonsuicidal Self-Injury)

For life-threatening injuries, please call 911. 

If the injury was, or may have been, the result of an attempted suicide,

What Is Self-Injury?

Self-injury or self-harm is any form of hurting oneself on purpose, often as a way to deal with painful emotions. The most commonly known type of self-harm is cutting. Other types of self-harm include 

  • scratching,
  • burning,
  • hitting or punching oneself,
  • picking at existing wounds.

Most often, self-harm is done with intent to injure but not kill oneself. Self-harm is dangerous, and both the physical wounds and psychological feelings need to be addressed.

Signs of self-injury or self-harm can include

  • cuts or burn marks on arms, legs, abdomen;
  • finding hidden razors, knives, or other sharp objects;
  • spending long periods of time alone, especially in the bedroom or bathroom;
  • wearing clothing inappropriate for the weather, such as long sleeves or pants in warm weather.

What Should I Do if I Suspect that My Child Is Self-Harming? 

  • If you suspect any injury on your child to be the result of a suicide attempt, call 911 or the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 immediately.
  • Treat any physical injuries as medically necessary.
  • Talk to your child as soon as possible regarding the self-injury.
  • Consult with a medical or mental health professional to determine next steps.
  • Validate your child's feelings, which is different from validating their behavior.
  • Be a respectful listener, speak in a calm tone, and offer your child reassurance.
  • Model healthy ways of managing stress. Practice using positive coping skills together.
  • Don't expect a quick fix. There will be setbacks on the road to recovery, and a slip does not mean that your child is not making progress.
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