University of Vermont

Division of Student Affairs
Think. Care. Act.
Health and Safety

Self-Injurious Behavior

Self-injury is the act of deliberately destroying body tissue, at times to change a way of feeling. Self-injury is seen differently by groups and cultures within society.  The causes and severity of self-injury can vary. Some adolescents may self-mutilate to take risks, rebel, reject their parents' values, state their individuality or merely be accepted.  Others, however, may injure themselves out of desperation or anger to seek attention, to show their hopelessness, or because they have suicidal thoughts.  Some forms may include: carving, scratching, branding, marking, picking or pulling skin or hair, burning/abrasions, cutting, biting, head banging, bruising, hitting.

DO

  • When possible, see the student in private.
  • Remain calm and in control of the situation.
  • Take the student seriously and acknowledge.
  • Listen to the student and respond with concern and care.
  • Reassure the student that you will help them get support.
  • Seek support from Counseling & Psychiatry Services (CAPS)

DON’T

  • Minimize the situation or sound shocked by what they tell you.
  • Argue with the student about the potential danger of their behavior.
  • Agree to be bound by confidentiality.

Last modified March 19 2014 10:29 PM