There is no sure way to prevent your loved one's self-injuring behavior. But reducing the risk of self-injury may include strategies that involve both individuals and communities — for example, parents, schools, medical professionals, supervisors, co-workers and coaches:

  • Identify people most at risk and offer help. For instance, those at risk can be taught resilience and healthy coping skills that they can then draw on during periods of distress.
  • Encourage expansion of social networks. Many people who self-injure feel lonely and disconnected. Forming connections to people who don't self-injure can improve relationship and communication skills.
  • Raise awareness. Adults, especially those who work with children, should be educated about the warning signs of self-injury and what to do when they suspect it. Documentaries, multimedia-based educational programs and group discussions are helpful strategies.
  • Promote programs that encourage peers to seek help. Peers tend to be loyal to friends even when they know a friend is in crisis. Programs that encourage youths to reach out to adults may chip away at social norms supporting secrecy.
  • Offer education about media influence. News media, music and other highly visible outlets that feature self-injury may nudge vulnerable children and young adults to experiment. Teaching children critical thinking skills about the influences around them might reduce the harmful impact.
Dec. 06, 2012