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,
call 911 or the Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255),
or text the Crisis Line (741741).
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
- 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 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) 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.