Dealing With Self-Mutilation

December 03, 2003 1 min read
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  • Always get in touch with a parent while the student is in the room so that each party knows exactly what is being said. That procedure helps protect the student, who is emotionally vulnerable.
  • Don’t simply tell a “cutter” to stop. Doing so dismisses the real issues underlying the behavior. The problem is not that simple, and neither is the answer.
  • Use a “No-Harm Contract” to make students accountable for their actions. It can prevent them from harming themselves in the future.
  • Keep in mind that there is no quick fix. Recovery often involves extended psychotherapy to work on raising self-esteem. Therapeutic medications are also often used to treat underlying depression.
  • Remember that even though those who self-injure are more likely to be adolescent females, the behavior can cross age, class, and gender lines. Celebrities such as the late Princess Diana and the actors Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp have all admitted to injuring themselves.



  • Cut, Patricia McCormick, Scholastic, reprint edition, 2002.
  • The Luckiest Girl in the World, Steven Levenkron, Penguin USA (paperback), 1998.


  • A Bright Red Scream: Self-Mutilation and the Language of Pain, Marilee Strong, Viking Press, 1998.
  • Bodies Under Seige: Self-Mutilation and Body Modification in Culture and Society, Armando R. Favazza, Johns Hopkins University Press; 2nd edition, 1996.
  • Bodily Harm: The Breakthrough Healing Program for Self-Injurers, Karen Conterio and Wendy Lader, Ph.D., with Jennifer Kingston Bloom, Hyperion Press, 1998.
  • Scarred Soul: Understanding and Ending Self-Inflicted Violence, Tracy Alderman, Ph.D., New Harbinger Publications, 1997.


  • “Self-Injury: From Suffering to Solutions,” SAFE (Self-Abuse Finally Ends) Alternatives; (800) 366-8288.

Web Sites

  • Young People and Self-Harm, from the National Children’s Bureau, London:


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