Self Harm and Teens | UMC YoungPeople
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April 2018

Self Harm and Teens

By Sharon Cook

Self Harm is a major issue in the lives of your teens. That is, unfortunately, not news to anyone who cares about and works with this group; however, with all of the resources available, where do you turn? This list is a place to start, but before you engage with these resources, there is one thing to note.

Prior to roughly the year 1998, self-harm was almost exclusively understood as a psychotic behavior. After that, we see a rise of books and resources describing this behavior as a maladaptive coping mechanism. As you look beyond this list for other resources, keep in mind that books written prior to 1998 may not be discussing self-harm as the same behavior intended here.


A Bright Red Scream: Self-Mutilation and the Language of Pain
by Marilee Strong

Written by a journalist, this book is well-researched without getting bogged down in nuanced theories of psychology. As an observer, and not a self-harmer, Strong draws from interviews with medical professionals, adults who work with youth, those who actively self-harm, and others. A good introduction to what is self-harm, and why someone might do it.

The Scarred Soul: Understanding & Ending Self-Inflicted Violence
by Tracy Alderman

An older book that emerged just as self-harm was being noticed and understood as we do today. This was widely affirmed as one of the best self-help resources available. This book primarily addresses those who struggle with chronic, significant self-harm, and may be less appropriate for one who is experimenting or is causing only superficial damage.

When Your Child is Cutting: A Parent’s Guide to Helping Children Overcome Self-Injury
by M. E. McVey-Noble, S Khemlani-Patel, F. Neziroglu

This book declares parents to be the primary audience, although youth workers will find helpful strategies for communicating with youth who self-harm. Also serves as a basic introduction to the what/why questions people ask when first learning about self-harm.

Bodily Harm: The Breakthrough Healing Program for Self-Injurers
by Karen Conterio and Wendy Lader

Written by the founders of S.A.F.E. Alternatives (see website list below), this is an authoritative book for defining self-harm, understanding some of the causes, and promoting treatment. Written in 1999, it reflects older thoughts on cultural impact and treatment.

Helping Teens Who Cut: Using DBT Skills to end Self-Injury
by Michael Hollander

This is the recent (2017) second-edition of a popular book to help parents understand therapeutic treatment of self-harm. The book thoroughly explains and promotes dialectical behavior therapy as a way to treat self-harm. There are other ways to treat self-harm, but they are not explained in this book. Other chapters are more general, and about how to interact with youth who struggle with self-injury.


The Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery

With sections for those who self-harm, parents, friends, youth workers, and therapists, this incredibly comprehensive site has a wealth of information. Good for both beginners and those who have studied or worked with self-harm for years. It also includes many links to other resources, including tools and assessments. Also has videos and interviews.

S.A.F.E. Alternatives (Self Abuse Finally Ends)

With a history stretching to the 1980s, SAFE was one of the first to specialize in self-harm treatment and awareness. They remain a key name among those who work in this field. Their website includes information about treatment, hotlines, and resources. Their resource list is at least a decade old.

Self-Injury Outreach & Support

As a site intentionally about outreach, here you can find fact sheets, personal stories, coping tips for both loved ones and those who self-harm. They also have an extensive resource list, including additional websites and ongoing research.

After 10 years of serving as pastor in local churches, Sharon now works on Conference Staff in Wisconsin. Her primary areas are camps, young people, and Safe Sanctuaries.