• Stacey Ulry

Teens & Self-Harm: What Signs to Look For?

Throughout my teaching career and now in my role of mental health counselor, I often encounter non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) with my students and clients. I’ve worked with cutters, burners, carvers, pickers, and a whole host of other forms of NSSI.

NSSI is a form of coping with what is going on around or within them, and self-harm makes them feel better when under extreme distress. It may feel like the ONLY thing they have control over, their one outlet to express emotions that need letting out.

But what is the relationship between NSSI & the act of suicide. The word “suicidal” to therapists is a clinical term with specific presentation and historical patterns that we are trained to understand.

When the average person uses the word “suicidal,” it encompasses a wide variety of emotions and experiences like being “sad”, “frustrated”, and many other emotions. In our society, “suicidal” triggers an immediate response, where I am “sad” does not.

This has led to a kind of overuse of the word, stripping it of its unfortunate and powerful original meaning.

On one hand, someone may be using the word to express social isolation or awkwardness and those around them don’t see it as a real issue. On the other side, if someone uses the word “suicidal” in its true intent, it may go overlooked because we don’t use the word as it originally intended.