How to Help a Teen Who is Cutting

Cutting (or self-injury) is a relief method that some people use in moments of high stress, pressure or anxiety. Individuals will “release” bad feelings by cutting into their own skin with tools or their fingernails. Oftentimes, this is done in secret, and scars and cuts will be concealed by clothing to avoid questioning from friends and family. Have you noticed any irregular behavior in your teen? Do you suspect they may self-harming? This is clearly a sensitive topic, so here are some ways you can help them.

First of all, if you haven’t approached the topic of cutting with your teen before, it’s important to do so carefully. Start by choosing a time when you are feeling calm, rather than acting out of a reaction to your teen’s cutting. Make straight forward statements about what you are observing in a non-judgemental way.

It’s also important to be honest about how you feel—even if you’re simply sharing that you’re unsure of what to do to help your teen. This demonstrates that you want to work together with them, rather than punish or control their actions. Be open to listening to how your teen feels and give them an opportunity to share their thoughts and emotions.

Once you have approached this subject with your teen, it is important to know that this is not something either of can handle on your own. Instead, it is crucial that self injury is taken seriously and it is time to seek professional support and assistance. A mental health professional will offer tips, suggestions and therapy options to help your teen move forward.

After connecting your teen to a mental health professional, there are ways that you can continue to support them. Remember to keep communication open with your teen and remain non-judgemental. This is a process of recovery and your teen might have setbacks, but it’s helpful for them to know that you are there for them.


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You can also help them to establish healthy coping mechanisms. Ideas can include talking to friends and family, practicing relaxation techniques, taking a hot or cold shower, trying art or music therapy or engaging in a physical activity. Whichever option your teen tries, ensure that it’s one they choose and that works best for them. Above all else, remind your teen that you are there to support them and help them to recover.

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