Counseling Center

Responding to Self-Harm

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Responding to Self-Injury

  • Recent studies of university students indicate that as many as 15-17% engage in self-injury.
  • The most common forms of self-injury are cuttng, picking, and self-hittng.
  • Self-injury is not generally meant as a suicide attempt, but it is an unhealthy attempt to cope with intense feelings of distress
    and/or feeling disconnected from oneself or reality. The purpose of self-injury is to temporarily decrease feelings of emotional distress and the lethality of the behaviors is low.
  • Self-injury is a clear expression of emotional distress and should be given attention.
  • While it is important to take self-injury seriously, it is also important to remain calm when dealing with someone who selfinjures and avoid dramatic responses.
  • Remember that it will probably take a while for the behavior to change after a self-injuring individual decides to seek help and work on changing the behavior. It is difficult and takes time to change unhealthy, habitual behavior.
  • There are many differences between self injury and suicidal behavior, but they are not unrelated. Individuals who selfinjure frequently or use more severe methods are at an increased risk of suicide.

    Signs of Self-injuring:
    • Unexplained or clustered wounds or scars
    • Fresh cuts, bruises, burns, or other signs of bodily damage
    • Bandages worn frequently
    • Inappropriate clothing for the season (e.g., always wearing long pants or long sleeves in the summer)
    • Constant use of wristbands or other jewelry that covers the wrists or lower arms
    • Possessing unexplained cuttng implements (e.g., razor blades or other equipment)
    • Heightened signs of depression, anxiety, or social withdrawal

What to do if you suspect self‐injury or “cutting”:

  • Let the student know you are concerned and would like to help. Be honest about what you are seeing and why you are concerned. Respond calmly and with “respectful curiosity.” Avoid displaying extreme reactions like shock, pity, or criticism because such reactions will likely limit the opportunity to talk, build trust, and assist in opening the door to recovery.
  • Help the student explore more positive strategies for coping with intense feelings and stress such as talking with a friend, exercising, or participating in therapy.
  • Encourage the student to come to the Counseling Center. Provide them the Counseling Center phone number (216) 687-2277 and location (1836 Euclid Avenue, UN 220). Remind the student that our services are confidential.
  • Sometimes it is useful and necessary to assist the student more directly with making an appointment. In these instances you may offer the use of your phone or call the Counseling Center yourself, while with the student.
  • It may also beneficial to walk the student over to the Counseling Center. This might be helpful for students who are unsure about the location and/or are intimidated by meeting with a counselor.
  • The Counseling Center has walk-in hours from 9am – 5pm Monday—Friday when someone is available to consult with you or to see the student that you’ve referred.
  • There is also an on-line resource as well:

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It's Okay To Ask For Help