Explore By Topic: Self-Injury

Self-injury is an unhealthy and potentially risky coping mechanism, but it can offer temporary relief, in the absence of adaptive coping skills, to individuals who engage in it. It’s crucial to refrain from sharing triggering details or providing information that enables or conceals the behaviors.

Need to Know

Self-injury is commonly associated with cutting, but it can also involve poking, scratching, burning, or hitting oneself.

People who self-injure most often use the behavior as a coping mechanism, and treatment usually involves developing a more effective set of coping strategies.

Self-injury is a sign of emotional distress and not a mental illness in itself, but it can be associated with mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and borderline personality disorder.

Almost 20 percent of teenagers say they have self-injured at some point in their lives.

Self-injury isn’t always apparent to others, and individuals who engage in self-harm may take extensive measures to conceal it.

Things to Avoid

Refrain from discussing cutting, burning, or scratching, as well as scars or injuries resulting from those actions, since it may trigger individuals who are in recovery or engaging in self-harm.

Don’t romanticize or glorify self-harm in any way. It’s a serious issue that requires empathy and understanding, not sensationalism.

Refrain from making assumptions about why someone self-harms. The reasons can be complex and personal.

Avoid phrases that connect self-injury behaviors to someone’s identity, such as “he or she is a cutter.”

Avoid providing detailed accounts of self-harm experiences or methods of concealing such behaviors, since those specifics can act as a blueprint for individuals grappling with emotional struggles.

Your Opportunity

Challenge stereotypes surrounding self-injury by emphasizing that individuals of all genders and races can experience struggles with self-harm.

Educate your audience about the misconceptions surrounding self-harm and the importance of seeking help.

Use language like “he or she self-injures” so your followers who are struggling see it as behavior they can move on from.

Share your story with sensitivity. Focus on your journey of healing and the healthier coping strategies that worked for you, rather than fixating on harmful behaviors.

Promote resources and provide links to organizations that offer support and information for people affected by self-harm.


The Jed Foundation →

Visit the JED Mental Health Resource Center to learn more about self-injury and get help for yourself or a friend.

Mental Health is Health →

Find info and resources for coping with traumatic events on Mental Health is Health.

Cornell University →

Access Cornell’s Self-Injury and Recovery Resources.

Dial 988 Hotline →

Dial 988 or text HOME to 741-741 for a free, confidential conversation with a trained counselor 24/7.

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