What Parents and Teenagers Can Do About Self-Injury
Tips for parents and teens on getting help for dealing with and stopping self-injury.
Parents are encouraged to talk with their children about respecting and valuing their bodies. Parents should also serve as role models for their teenagers by not engaging in acts of self-harm. Some helpful ways for adolescents to avoid hurting themselves include learning to:
- accept reality and find ways to make the present moment more tolerable.
- identify feelings and talk them out rather than acting on them.
- distract themselves from feelings of self-harm (for example, counting to ten, waiting 15 minutes, saying "NO!" or "STOP!," practicing breathing exercises, journaling, drawing, thinking about positive images, using ice and rubber bands)
- stop, think, and evaluate the pros and cons of self-injury.
- soothe themselves in a positive, non-injurious, way.
- practice positive stress management.
- develop better social skills.
Evaluation by a mental health professional may assist in identifying and treating the underlying causes of self-injury. Feelings of wanting to die or kill themselves are reasons for adolescents to seek professional care right away. A child and adolescent psychiatrist can also diagnose and treat the serious psychiatric disorders that may accompany self-injurious behavior.
- The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP)
Last Updated: 24 June 2011
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD