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What are the warning signs of self-injury in adolescence?


Adolescents who self-injure often go to great lengths to hide their behaviour and injuries from their parents and friends, and may not seek help from the school counsellor or teachers for the behaviour. Therefore, it can be difficult to know if a friend has engaged in self-injury. However, friends and peers can be the first to notice that a friend has engaged in self-injury.





Warning signs which may indicate that a friend has engaged in self-injury include:


  • Frequent or unexplained scars and wounds, such as cuts, burns, scratches, and bruises appear anywhere on the body, such as the arms, torso, and legs. Unexplained bandaging on the body.

  • Frequent wearing of long sleeved/pant clothing at inappropriate times, such as in warm weather, or a reluctance or refusal to participate in activities resulting in skin exposure, such as physical education classes or swimming.

  • Collection of items which could be used to self-injure or to clean wounds after self-injuring (e.g., razor blades, knifes, nail files, broken glass, safety pins, matches, antiseptic, and bandages).

  • Frequent need for privacy and secretive behaviour. Unexplained withdrawal from activities.

  • Changes in mood, including frequent irritability, hostility, and anger, uncontrollable crying, or excessive sadness.

  • Frequent mention of self-injury in creating writing, artwork, journals, internet postings, emails, texts, or in communication with others (including jokes, rumours, and threats).

  • Frequent high risk behaviours, such as train surfing, choking game, dangerous driving and substance abuse, or a frequent disregard for personal safety.


If you recognise any of these warning signs in a friend it is very important that you talk to your friend about your concerns and seek help from a teacher, the school counsellor (if available), the school principal, or a parent on their behalf.


More information about how to respond to friends who self-injure can be found here.


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