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What Is Self-Harm? What Mental Health Help Is Available?

What Is Self-Harm?

What Mental Health Help Is Available?

Nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) involves socially unacceptable, self-inflicted harm to one’s body

without intent to die.1 reports the most common forms of NSSI include:

• Cutting

• Burning

• Interfering with wound healing (picking or re-opening wounds)

• Punching or hitting oneself or other objects

• Inserting objects into the skin

• Purposely bruising or breaking one’s bones

• Certain forms of hair pulling 2

Although, NSSI is not utilized as a means of ending a life, there is a correlation between the two. In a large study, 70% of adolescents who engaged in NSSI had made at least 1 suicide attempt and 55% made multiple suicide attempts.1

How Many Individuals Struggle?

Each year, 1 in 5 females and 1 in 7 males engage in self-injury. 5

90 percent of people who engage in self-harm begin during their teen or pre-adolescent years.5

12-15 year olds are most susceptible to begin self-harming.6

Adolescents have the highest rate of self-injurious behaviors, with about 17% admitting to self-injury at least once in their life.7

College Students. Studies find that about 15% of college students report engaging in self-harm.7

Aside from very young children, adults are the least likely group of people to follow through with self-injury. Only about 5% of adults have self-injured in their lifetime.7

Nearly 50 percent of those who engage in self-injury activities have been sexually abused.5

Females comprise 60 percent of those who engage in self-injurious behavior.5

Approximately two million cases are reported annually in the U.S.5

Myths About Self-Harm

Several myths are obstacles for those seeking support for the thoughts and feelings which push them to turn towards self-harm as a coping mechanism. These myths include:

  • Self-harm is for attention.

  • Self-harm is only serious in cases of deep wounds.

  • Self-harming is about suicide.

If these myths are a barrier to you or someone you know receiving help or support, I encourage you to talk with someone who is skilled. They know the myths are incorrect and want to know the thoughts and feelings which matter most to you or someone you care for.

For a deeper discussion on these myths, please turn to the video below. And for a list of skilled individuals they can talk to, turn to the “Communities Which Offer Support” section.

Myths About Self-Harm - Video Discussion

The Trap of Self-Harm

Several components within self-injury make it possible for someone to get caught in the trap of self-harm. An addictive cycle lies behind a challenging issue. By looking at these factors we can help others find ways to break it.

1. The Action

The action of non-suicidal self-injury offers several short-term “positives.” These can range from feeling a sense of control, the ability to feel after prolonged numbness, an external validation of internal pain, a signal for others to invest, and/or a release of endorphins.

2. The “Reward”

Because a short-term “positive” surfaces—and it is immediate—a learned behavior develops. This “reward” suggests a tool for coping has been found.

3. Guilt & Shame

Often, minutes after an act of self-injury, the “reward” passes—leaving a sense of deeply rooted guilt or shame. This compounds the problem which drove one to choose self-injury as a means of coping.

4. Intensification

Most addictive behaviors require intensification of the behavior in order to reach the same sense of reward. In the case of non-suicidal self-injury—this can prove to be extremely dangerous. Yet, a sense of shame often makes it extremely difficult. Isolation and withdrawal become a typical coping style—distancing one from wholeness.

Breaking The Cycle

If someone you care for is somewhere in the cycle—it is important for us to let them know we do not view them through the lens of shame. Let them know you believe there are legitimate, valid reasons why they chose to act in a behavior which was not healthy. You believe there is a story behind those reasons—and it is important.

Let them know you do not look at them any different because of the scars they carry which are external and internal. Neither one removes their right to belong. And you accept them as they are.

On the next page, we will explore guilt and shame—and discover how freedom is possible.

The Trap Self-Harm - Video Discussion

Apps Which Offer Support

TalkLife offers online support similar to group therapy. Share anonymously or with your name.

Moodpath offers 14 days of check ins, providing an overview of your emotional well-being. Plus 100+ exercises.

Happify includes games and activities which elevate mood and build resilience through CBT, mindfulness and positivity.

What’s Up aids individuals in discovering the cause of feelings and thoughts though guided questioning.

Self-Help For Anxiety Management (SAM) offers an anxiety toolkit which tracks thoughts and behaviors, while also offering tools to combat negativity.

Panic Relief provides coping strategies, exercise, and breathing techniques to help move through a moment of panic.

PTSD Coach provides ways to understand PTSD along with how to find additional help.

BeyondBlue App provides tools to build and implement a safety plan.

Communities Which Offer Support

To Write Love On Her Arms -

  • Offers a search for free or low cost therapy options to connect with a therapist.

7 Cups Of Tea -

  • Offers chat rooms to begin a conversation, plus educational videos and when to seek professional help.

Lifeline Crisis Chat -

  • Offers free, online chatting with trained individuals.

Love Is Respect -

  • Offers education, support and advocacy to those facing complicated dating issues, along with a live chat feature connecting you to trained advocates.

Remedy Live -

  • Offers a faith-based videos on mental health issues along with trained advocates who want to connect.

Anxiety And Depression Association Of America -

  • Provides a listing of support groups, including a search feature to find a group near you.

Heads Up Guys -

  • Provides action points and support specifically for men from men.

OK2 Talk -

  • Offers online support, education, and relatable stories for teens and young adults who battle mental health.

Understanding The Issue Of Self-Harm

“What Is Self-Harm”

Boystown Hospital

  • Provides a short discussion for parents or concerned adults on the topic of self-harm.

Helpguide -

  • Offers insight into self-injury including what it is, why it happens, Tips on overcoming the urge to self-harm, alternatives, professional outlets, and how support members can help.

5 Not Obvious Signs Of Self Harm

Psych2Go’s YouTube Channel

  • Helps to identify warning signs.

Teens and Self-Harm, What Do Parents Need To Know?

Josh Shipp

  • Youth Worker advice and insight for families.

Finding Help For Kids Who Self-Harm - Wendy Lader, PhD

Kids In The House

  • PhD professional insight on how to find help for a young person.

Guilt Versus Shame

When it comes to self-harm, individuals will often take a sense of shame into their identity and believe they are worth less than they are because of another’s words or actions. I am here to tell you there is an important distinction between guilt and shame.

Guilt is the aftermath of an action. It can be healthy—as it lets us know what we did was wrong. Our words, actions, and behaviors have consequences. Guilt helps us to take ownership, learn, and grow. Shame, however, doesn’t offer a solution. It just grips our thoughts & emotions in a vice. In a sense, it presents a false reality. How? It tells us that because of one action we engage in, that our identity is now that action. It lies and mislabels who we really are.

How do we escape the trap of shame? I want to continue this critical conversation in the video below.

For the “Guilt Versus Shame Video Discussion – check it out here:

I Want To Admit...Healing Is Hard

I want to acknowledge it’s hard to know how to find ways to take action. Then, once you do find a path, it is difficult to walk it through to wholeness. Healing is not a one-time event. It is a process. Throughout that process, there will be numerous obstacles. This side of the journey must be acknowledged. Yet, even with the challenge, I believe you have what it takes to make it through.

While healing is hard - it is worth it.

We are rooting for you, not only once you complete your journey, but every step through it.

If you are looking for a guide to help you process your story and walk a journey of wholeness - we would love to partner with you in the Self-Harm Matters - Change Your Narrative Video Mentorship Guide.

Check out a sneak peak here:

If you or someone you care for is in danger of harm, please contact one of the numbers below or check out our [77 resources article]

For Immediate Help:

  • Covenant House- 1800-999-9999

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - 1-800-273-8255

  • Youth Crisis Line – 1800 Hit Home

  • Hopeline 1800-442-5673


For the “What Is It Like To Contact A Hotline?” Video Discussion;

Check it out here:

Answering The Question, "What Self-Harm Help Is Available For Someone I Care For?"

If you are a Care Worker, wondering how to support someone you love even in the middle of their self-harm - you are not alone. There are dedicated teams who have support options available for you.

Resources for Parents

The American Depression And Anxiety Association of America has a screening tool for you to use and share with your child’s doctor. It can be found here:

  • Additionally, the Mayoclinic and CDC have helpful guides which can come along side of you as you find your child the support they might need.

  • Insight And Perspective Direct From Families

A Parent’s Journey

Young Minds

  • Offers insight from parents who have had their children share about their self-harm.

CBS News - One Family’s Story

  • Provides one families story of working through their daughters self-harm habits.

WebMD – One Mother And Daughter’s Story

  • Provides one mother and daughter’s story of working through their her self-harm habits.

Reasons Why I Self-Harmed

BBC Three

Support For Families

The National Alliance On Mental Illness has a directory of support groups for you and your family.

The Society For Adolescent Heath And Medicine has a comprehensive listing of additional support options.

The Depression And Bipolar Alliance Support Alliance offers connection to local chapters.

Family Caregiver Alliance provides a map of network help in your area.

Responding To A Young Person

20 Things People Who Self-Harm Don’t Want To Hear

Bex Louise

  • One young woman’s perspective of why specific responses were more harmful than helpful.

Responding To Self-Harm

Young Minds

  • Actor portrayal of helpful responses to self-harm, from actual stories of those who struggle.

Self-Harm & Mental Health Resources For Ministry Leaders

How To Help Teenagers Dealing With Self-Harm & Suicide

Dr. Jamie Dew. Jamie is the Dean of the College at Southeastern

  • Offers insight into the issue from a faith-based perspective.

Mercy Ministries

  • Offers insight into self-harm, podcast links for greater understanding, and free eBook resources for those seeking to bring light into a challenging situation.

YM Blog – Scary Stuff: Self-Harm – By Kurt Johnson

  • How to best respond to a student who confides about their self-harm and how you can be there for them and their parents.

How Does The Gospel Apply To Self-Injury?

Key Ministries

  • Offers a gospel-centric lens in which to find a young person tangible help along with spiritual guidance.

Four Reasons Kids Cut To Cope

Key Ministries

  • Offers insight into why self-injury happens and what our response as should be.

What To Do When A Student Self-Harms – Podcast

Orange Blogs

Beyond Skin Deep: Responding To Kids Who Cut

Fuller Youth Institute

Self-Harm & Mental Health Resources For Teachers

What to Do When A Student Self-Harms

We Are Teachers

  • The missing manual for understanding and dealing with students who self-injure.

Educators And Self-Injury

  • Offers an eBook which hosts templates for protocol your school board can enact, along with how to communicate with parents.

Cornell Research Program: Developing &

Implementing School Protocol

  • Offers a thorough discussion of why developing protocol for your school is important—along with how to begin.

NASP Center: Understanding And Responding To

Students Who Self-Mutilate

  • Offers insight into what self-injury is, why it happens, the demographics of students

affected, and insight into resources.

ASCD Helping Self-Harming Students

  • Provides insight into top reasons why students turn to self-injury along with intervention recommendations. Student Self-Harm: Awareness & Procedures For Teachers

  • Offers NSSI information and procedures for you and you school system. Members of have access to full article. – 1 Hour Classroom Training

  • Provides teachers and educators a one hour session on self-harm for their students,

including a discussion on myths and facts along with additional tools.

Teachers Pay Teachers

  • Offers a host of resources produced by teachers, for teachers.

We're Changing It

If someone you care for has faced mental health challenges and you are seeking to be a support for them, the We're Changing It mentorship guide is your step-by-step guide to help them know how to process their story.

We believe in your voice of support in their life - and want to walk with you as you guide them.

Check out a sneak peak below:

Or register for a free sneak peek here:



1. Nock MK, Joiner TE, Jr, Gordon KH, et al. Non-suicidal self-injury among adolescents: diagnostic correlates and relation to suicide attempts. Psychiatry Res. 2006;144(1):65-72.

2. Gluck, S. (2012, August 24). Self Injury, Self Harm Statistics and Facts, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, October 23 from

3. DeAngelis, T. (July/August 2015, Vol 46, No. 7.). Who Self Injures? Retrieved October 23, 2019, from

4. 6 Reasons Why People Self-Injure. (n.d.). Retrieved October 23, 2019, from

5. Gluck, S. (2012, August 24). Self Injury, Self Harm Statistics and Facts, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, October 23 from

6. Schreiber, E. (2017, March 30). Self harm is not the only way to cope. Retrieved October 23, 2019, from


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