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Self Harm

Serving troubled & at-risk girls.

A 2018 study of over 64,000 teens across the United States found that almost 18% had purposely injured themselves in the past year. One of the most common methods of self-injury is cutting, though there are other methods as well. Self-injury is more common among younger teens and among girls. Some teens might self-injure several times and then stop, but cutting can become a frequent pattern for others.

Why Do Teens Do It


Non-Suicidal Self-Injury (NSSI) is also commonly referred to as self-injury or self-harm. It is important to understand what motivates girls to harm themselves because not all girls do it for the same reason. While some girls self-harm for reasons of coping with difficult feelings or to release tension, others may do it to dissociate themselves with their problems. The physical pain of hurting themselves can feel like a distraction from the emotional pain they’re struggling with. The best way to help her to stop self-injuring is to identify and address the underlying issues. Although girls who self-injure do not intend to die, self-harming does relieve emotional turmoil for short periods of time.

What is Self-Harm?

Self-harm and self-injury are any forms of hurting oneself on purpose. Usually, when people self-harm, they do not do so as a suicide attempt. self-harm is a way to release painful emotions.

Signs of Self-Harm

  • covering up, for example by wearing long sleeves a lot of the time, especially in summer
  • unexplained bruises, cuts, burns or bite-marks on their body
  • blood stains on clothing, or finding tissues with blood in their room
  • becoming withdrawn and spending a lot of time alone in their room
  • avoiding friends and family and being at home
  • feeling down, low self-esteem or blaming themselves for things
  • outbursts of anger, or risky behavior like drinking or taking drugs.

Why do youth self-harm?

  • experiencing depression,  anxiety or eating problems
  • having low self-esteem or feeling like they’re not good enough
  • being bullied or feeling alone
  • experiencing emotional, physical or sexual abuse, or neglect
  • grieving or having problems with family relationships
  • feeling angry, numb or like they don’t have control over their lives.

Effects of Self-Harm

Physical Effects of Self-Harm

  • Permanent scars
  • Uncontrolled bleeding
  • Infection
  • Emotional Effects of Self-Harm
  • Guilt or shame
  • A diminished sense of self, including feeling helpless or worthless
  • Addiction to the behavior

Social Effects of Self-Harm

  • Avoiding friends and loved ones
  • Becoming ostracized from loved ones who may not understand
  • Interpersonal difficulty from lying to others about injuries

What Can Parents Do?

Because self-injury behaviors are increasing among youth, concerned parents should take extra precautions. Here are some things to help keep children safe:

Notice signs. Parents often notice emotional changes in a child before they ever notice physical harm. Changes in a child’s relationships, communication, or school performance can be a sign that the child is experiencing emotional difficulties. Concerned parents can look out for small, parallel, linear cuts on a forearm, upper arm, or leg. Unexplained cuts or scratches might also be a concern, especially if they appear regularly. Those who are self-injuring often try to hide the signs by wearing long-sleeve clothing, so parents should be aware of that.  

Talk with your child. It can be difficult to figure out where to begin if your child is displaying self-injury behaviors. Be careful when you begin this conversation. Remain calm and focus on the fact that you love your child and are concerned about their well-being. Emphasize that you are trying to understand where your child is coming from and are not judging them.

Connect with your child’s primary care provider or therapist. Your child’s primary care provider may be able to help your family develop an action plan. A mental health professional can help your child to talk through what they are experiencing and develop healthy coping skills. 

If you have an emergency situation, please call 911. If there is any information that is not listed or you need help with resources, please call or email us as or (725) 696-7230. We will put you in touch with the right people to help you and your daughter.

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