Self-harm in children and teens: Overview

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A child or teen may turn to self-harm as a way to relieve emotional pain. Find out about the main causes and coping methods.

Key points

  • Self-harm can include cutting, burning or hitting oneself to relieve emotional pain. Not everyone who self-harms has thoughts of suicide.
  • Stressful life events and existing mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety, are the main causes of self-harming​ thoughts and behaviour.
  • If you learn that your child is harming themselves, talk to them about any stressful events and their impact on them.
  • Someone who engages in self-harm may benefit from safer coping strategies such as using ice cubes or icepacks on the skin, flicking an elastic band on the wrist or doing high intensity exercise.
Last updated: February 10th 2016