Teens And Cutting

Self-Mutilation: Teens and Cutting

Teens today are increasingly participating in cutting behavior which is simply self-inflicting cuts upon oneself. It used to be thought that cutting was something that persons with severe mental illness participated in. Sadly enough, many teens have adopted this behavior through peer influence to alleviate stresses in their lives. They use cutting as a coping mechanism, a type of release.

There are several types of cutters listed below:

1. The Experimental Cutter – kids who simply want to try it out to see how it feels. Usually these kids try it a once or a few times and don’t do it again.
2. The Show-Off Cutter – participate in cutting to gain attention from peers, parents, other adults. Often times a drama queen or seeking out attention from those around him or her.
3. The Shock Cutter – want to cut for shock value. Also trying to get attention, but in a more bold way.
4. The Rebellious Cutter – they cut to get back at others; like adolescents who are mad at their parents cut themselves to hurt their parents.
5. The Self-Punishment Cutter – want to punish themselves due to hating themselves or feeling guilty or ashamed. More serious than the ones previously mentioned, requiring therapy and supervision.
6. The Distraction Cutter – cuts him or herself to distract themselves from other types of pain.
7. The Coping Skill Cutter – this person releases anger or pent up emotions by cutting him or herself. Often used instead of hurting others.
8. Mental Issues and Cutting – those persons who do have serious mental issues may use cutting.

How do we deal with cutters – what can we do to help?

1. Try to build a positive relationship with the person. Let them know you care and are there to help. Try to build trust and understanding. Be a support.
2. Don’t Panic – giving an excess of attention may just fuel the fire.
3. Don’t be afraid to talk about it – don’t pretend like it is just not there if you really think it is happening. Some type of action needs to be taken.
4. Seek counsel – speak to the school counselors or others involved in student psychological issues.
5. In some cases – establish consequences for cutting – this is a fine line and should be used on a case by case basis
6. Connect with the cutter in positive ways and not only just the cutting issue
7. Students may need to be on medication – consulting and providing student with therapy and evaluation
8. Develop a system of accountability – this should involve the cutter, parents, other family members, friends, teachers, counselors whom the student feels comfortable with.
9. Get to the real issue – figure out why the student is cutting – what is going on?
10. Don’t minimize the problem – don’t freak out either, but this is important.
11. Do whatever you have to do to keep your student safe.

The above are tips that we as teachers can use and help guide teachers. Building a team of support for the student is vital. The cutting and self-mutilation issue is a complex issue that doesn’t have one solution, but a multitude of proactive approaches.

Created by: Hillary Mason


Gregston, M., Self-Mutilation: Teens and Cutting. June 5, 2007. Heartlight Ministries .