How to support your teen from self-abuse/self-harm

Did you know, self-harm is used as a coping mechanism?

This episode is for all those affected and those who aren’t or never will be. You or your teen daughter may know someone who needs to know this - and education is power - so I urge you to please watch this episode because what you learn here may save a life someday.

Self-harm is a form of coping mechanism, and here are some reasons why teens can be vulnerable to inflict self-harm upon themselves.

  • they have low self-worth / low, and they do it to feel better - to alleviate their inner pain
  • they are being bullied and use it to punish themselves for being unworthy (brought on from being bullied)
  • they are an over-achiever and use it to cope with the stress from their studies/exams
  • they have an introverted personality and are not comfortable expressing themselves verbally, they often feel they would be ridiculed if they shared their truth, they are unsure, they keep their pain within - and their outlet is to inflict pain upon themselves to release the pain within, so that they feel better - even if for a little while. 

Sadly, all of this is a vicious cycle, as the guilt that comes from the self-harm makes them feel worse, and the cycle continues or worsens.


Bullying is a major contributor to self-harm. This topic of ‘mean girls/bullying’ was covered in a previous episode of Tina Talks, you can watch it here.  Where recent studies have shown that 24% of those affected by bullying are having suicidal thoughts, and 23% are actively self-harming.

Sadly these two go hand in hand - as a recent NHS case study report found - that self-harm is a strong risk factor for suicide, and globally suicide is the second most common cause of death before the age of 25 after road traffic incidents!

The NHS also reported - in October 2017 - that there’s a worrying rise in reports of self-harm amongst girls aged 10-19 in the UK - with an increase of 68% of reported cases since 2011. Add to this those that are left unreported; this percentage would be even higher!


Three-quarters of the young people who self-harmed were girls, and many had mental health diagnoses, the most common being depression, with the most common form of self-harm being reported as drug overdoses. The study also found that self-harm incidents increased amongst 13-16-year-olds during their study period (April to July in the UK). You can read more about the NHS findings here.

Here’s a BBC article from October 2017 that backs up this report and speaks on this subject some more. 

Here’s some extremely useful information shared by the NSPCC (a UK based charity that supports children from abuse) on how to spot the signs if your child/teen is self-harming.  

Now, this may all be sounding heavy but please bear in mind that self-harm, like other mental health conditions, can sit within a whole spectrum; where someone can be displaying mild self-harm symptoms all the way up to severe. Some of the other seemingly milder signs of self-harm that can go unnoticed or be hidden from loved ones for longer periods of time include small cuts on the skin/bruises / bald patches of hair / minor burns and eating disorders. 

All is not lost, as support and prevention is key.




If a young person you know is feeling low, anxious or helpless, it’s extremely important that they speak with someone - if they’re having thoughts about self-harming, they can get support from the Samaritans  at any time of the day or night. Call 116 123.

You can also reach out to a UK based charity, which works specifically to support those affected by self-harm here  

Childline has trained counsellors who can help your child/teen to talk about the emotions they may be feeling - and which may be their triggers to self-harm. It's a 24/7 service that can be reached on 0800 1111.


Get involved in the Conversation

As always, ask away if you have any more questions, I try my best to get to as many as I can.