What to Do When a Student Self-Harms – Advice


As educators, we are often the first-line witnesses of our students’ emotional and mental well-being. One challenging issue that may arise in school settings is self-harm. Self-harm refers to a deliberate act of causing physical harm to oneself, usually as a means to cope with emotional distress. In this article, we will discuss the steps educators can take when faced with this difficult situation.

1. Recognize the signs:

The first step in addressing self-harm is recognizing the warning signs. Common indicators may include frequent unexplained injuries, inappropriately dressed for weather (e.g., consistently wearing long sleeves in hot weather), social withdrawal, and sudden changes in behavior or academic performance.

2. Approach with sensitivity:

If you suspect a student is self-harming, approach them in private and express your concern in an empathetic and non-judgmental manner. Use supportive language and avoid blaming or shaming the student. Remember that your role is not to diagnose or treat but rather to offer help.

3. Listen and validate:

When talking with the student, it’s essential to listen attentively and validate their feelings without condoning the self-harming behavior. It can be helpful to reiterate your concern for their well-being and acknowledge their courage in discussing such a personal issue.

4. Encourage professional help:

While it’s essential to provide support as an educator, it’s equally important to direct the student towards professional assistance. Suggest that they speak with a school counselor, mental health professional, or another trusted adult who can help address their distress.

5. Notify relevant parties:

In cases of suspected self-harm, it’s crucial to notify relevant parties such as parents or guardians and school administrators so they can provide additional assistance or resources. Always follow your school’s reporting procedures and maintain confidentiality.

6. Create a safe environment:

Work collaboratively with other school staff members to create an environment that fosters a sense of belonging and safety for all students. Encourage open communication and implement social-emotional learning programs to promote mental well-being and resilience.

7. Monitor progress:

Following your initial intervention, monitor the student’s progress by staying connected and maintaining open lines of communication. Offer continued support as needed and encourage them to engage in positive coping mechanisms.

In conclusion, as an educator, it’s essential to recognize the warning signs of self-harm and take action in a supportive and empathetic manner. By following these steps, you can help students who self-harm find the support they need to overcome their distress, build resilience, and develop healthier coping strategies. Remember that you are not alone in this journey; work closely with other school staff members and mental health professionals on your path to supporting students effectively.

Choose your Reaction!