Why do young people self-harm?When a person decides to self-harm, it's usually because they're finding it difficult to cope with their emotions. If something particularly distressing or traumatic has happened to them in their life, then self-harm is a way to let out their feelings.
But just because your child is self-harming, it doesn't necessarily mean that they've been victim of something terrible you don't know about. Big issues such as sexual abuse, death or illness are all triggers that could lead to a person self-harming but so could feelings of loneliness or problems at school - anything that is difficult to deal with. This can be hard to understand as a parent, particularly if the problem to you seems trivial - but you must remember it's a big deal to them, however it seems to you.
Should it be seen as a suicide attempt?Self-harmers are said to be more likely to try and commit suicide than other people, but this doesn't mean that if your child is self-harming, that's what will happen.
A self-harmer does have problems which are making them distressed and so it's obvious why they could be labelled as a suicide risk, but this doesn't mean the two always go together.
Self-harmers are dealing with their problems in a way that they understand. When you have a bad day or something really gets you down do you cry? Do you go for a run or rant to your best friend or partner? Self-harmers deal with their emotions by hurting themselves, because the pain is easier than thinking about the issue. When you look at it like this, as just an outlet rather than an attempt to ruin their body, the link to suicide seems less likely.
However, when some young people self-harm, they may hurt themselves so much it could result in serious injury. It is possible that suicide is not their intention and they just wanted to feel enough pain to distract them from the root cause, but either way, if you feel that your child is self-harming - to whatever extent, it is really vital that you act immediately.