Student Consultation Team

Self-Injury

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Self-injury is defined as any damage intentionally caused to one's own body.  This behavior is also referred to as self-harm or self-mutilation.  Like substance abuse, self-injurious behavior can be linked to no single cause.  It is observed in all cultures and socioeconomic levels and is observed in both females and males.  It does occur, however, more often among females and people who have a history of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.  Even though there is always the possibility that a self-inflicted injury could be fatal, self-injury is not considered to represent a suicide attempt.  Self-injury usually occurs when people feel overwhelmed by their emotions and are desperate to find relief from intense feelings, pressure, or anxiety.  Self-injurious behavior often leaves scars resulting from permanent tissue damage.  Common methods of injuring oneself include (but are not limited to) the following behaviors:

  • cutting
  • burning (or "branding" with hot objects)
  • picking at skin or re-opening wounds
  • hair-pulling (trichotillomania)
  • head-banging
  • hitting (with a hammer or other objects)
  • bone-breaking via a number of methods

Helpful Actions

  • Speak honestly to the student about your concerns and describe specifically what you have observed that makes you suspect they have been engaging in self-injury.
  • Speak honestly to the student about your concerns and describe specifically what you have observed that makes you suspect they have been engaging in self-injury.
  • If the student is hesitant to make an appointment for her/himself, offer to call for them, and/or consult with a counselor in Student Health Services.

Unhelpful Actions

  • Responding with shock, horror, or disgust to the self-injurious behavior.
  • Ignoring the behavior and the possibility of serious physical damage.
  • Becoming overly involved with the student beyond your level of expertise.

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