Self Harm Information
Self-Harm (or Self Injury) is when an individual deliberately harms one’s own body without the intent of suicide. Self-harm is done to cope by either releasing emotional pain, anger, and frustration or attempting to feel something.
Myth: Individuals who self-harm want to kill themselves.
Fact: Usually, self-harm is used to cope and is not done with the intent of suicide.
Myth: Individuals self-harm as a method of attention seeking.
Fact: Often, individuals who self-harm try to cover up their injuries.
Myth: Self-harm only includes cutting.
Fact: Self-harm can include other deliberate self-harming injuries. Some of the most common are cutting, burning, scratching, and overdosing. Others include embedding objects in the skin or bruising themselves.
Myth: The individual can stop self-harming overnight.
Fact: Self-harm can become a habit and takes a lot of hard work to overcome.
- 17-35% of adolescents have self-harmed at least once and these numbers may be low.
- Self-harm can start at 7 years old or earlier, so this issue impacts our entire school system
- Individuals who self-harm come from healthy and unhealthy family situations. They do not follow a stereotype.
Why do people self-harm?
Rather than attention seeking, someone who self-harms is trying to cope with life stressors. Self-harm is a quick coping mechanism that gives individuals temporary relief from built up tension. On the other hand, some individuals self-harm to break the numbness that can be associated with depression.
What are the warning signs?
- Change in behavior
- Low self-esteem
- Negative affect
- Unhappiness, depression
- Change in or withdrawal from friends
- Drop in academic grades
What are some indications of Self Injury
- Wearing inappropriate clothing (like long sleeves and pants when it is hot outside.
- Bandaged arms.
- Do not want to be physically active or change clothe
- Frequent accidents that lead to physical injury
- Cuts, scratches, or burns that do not appear accidental
What can YOU do?
Some individuals may reach out for help, but many individuals who self-harm do a lot of work to keep their self-harming behavior a secret. Many are discovered by their friends or family. You may be the only one who has noticed, so step in and talk with the student in private. If they deny the issue, they know you are open and available to talk when the student is ready.
You could say, “I've noticed injuries that appear to be self-inflicted, I care about why you might be doing that" or "it appears you have hurt yourself, do you want to talk about it?”
- Remain calm, open, nonjudgmental, and non-punitive.
- Model calm behavior, emotional control, conflict-resolution, and problem solving skills
- Give positive attention
- Listening to what is going through.
- Focus on feelings not behavior of self-harm.
- Practice active listening.
Encourage the student to talk to his/her parent or counsellor. Offer them resources that you know of, like your school’s SFA, counselor, or community resources such as The Crisis Center. Students may instant message or talk on the phone with someone through The Crisis Center if they feel stressed, depressed, or need someone to talk to.
- Follow school protocol on notifying parents.
- Allow the student an opportunity to call their parents themselves.
- This gives the student a sense of power in the situation.
- Be dependable and consistent (in personality, schedules, rewards/consequences, etc)
Take care of YOU! Practice self-care and get the additional support you need while you are working with an individual who is doing self-harm. Do things that you enjoy and that fill you up. Support may come from colleagues, supervisors, or other supports in your life.
- The Crisis Center: https://www.jccrisiscenter.org/
- 24/7 Chat: http://www.iowacrisischat.org/
- Crisis Line: 319-351-0140