Self-injury, sometimes called self-harm, is any deliberate, non-suicidal behavior that inflicts physical injury to your body. Self-injury by itself isn't suicidal behavior. Self-injury is an attempt at instant relief from an emotional pain. Self-injury includes actions like cutting, burning, pulling hair out in clumps, breaking bones, scratching, bruising, and drinking something harmful. Self-injury is a coping mechanism used to give the person a feeling that they have control of a situation.
Ninety percent of self-harm starts in adolescence.
An estimated two million Americans purposefully cut or burn themselves.
- Don’t get angry or disgusted. Negativity alienates the person, and giving ultimatums only pushes the person further away from you.
- Don’t deny the problem. It's not a fad, social statement or a phase he/she will grow out of.
- Don’t hide sharp objects. If the person wants to self-injure, he/she will find a way.
- Don’t judge the severity of the injury as an indicator of the level of emotional pain. Someone with scratches may have deeper emotional pain than someone with deep cuts.
- Don’t assume the person is okay once in treatment. Recovery from self-injury can take months, maybe even years.
- Stay calm. Freaking out won't solve anything. It will just close all lines of communication.
- Be supportive and non-judgmental. Ask "Why are you doing this to yourself?"
- Take the problem seriously. It's not about attention-seeking or a growing pain.
- Seek treatment. With their permission, accompany the person to the doctor or counselor.
- Find the triggers. Focus on the underlying problems.
- Trust the person. Self-injury is just a small part of the person.