Cutting Factsheet (for Schools)
What Teachers Should Know
Cutting is a form of self-injury. Teens and preteens may use a sharp object to purposely mark, cut, or scratch themselves.
People typically cut themselves on their wrists, forearms, thighs, or belly. They might use a razorblade, knife, scissors, a metal tab from a soda can, the end of a paper clip, a nail file, or a pen. Some people burn their skin with the end of a cigarette or lighted match.
Cutting is not a suicide attempt, but people who self-injure are more likely to attempt suicide. But even when suicide is not the goal, cutting can still cause serious injuries.
Cutting can be a sign of emotional distress. Teens cut for many different reasons:
- Most teens who cut are struggling with powerful emotions and cutting gives them a sense of relief.
- Cutting provides a sense of control over other things teens can't control.
- Cutting can start as an impulsive behavior, but it becomes harder to stop the more they do it.
- Some teens who cut are also struggling with other urges, obsessions, or compulsive behaviors.
- People who cut are more likely to have mental health problems, like depression, anxiety, PTSD, or eating disorders.
Students who cut may:
- hide marks on their body and, if the marks are noticed, make excuses for them
- appear depressed, anxious, or overwhelmed, and get angry or upset if confronted about cutting
- be doing poorly in school or seem socially isolated
- miss class time to see therapists or school counselors
- need extra time to complete class assignments and homework
What Teachers Can Do
For many teens and preteens, cutting is a sign that they are dealing with emotional distress or mental illness. While some teens call attention to their cuts, others hide them out of shame. Many teens cut for a long time before anyone else knows.
If you suspect that your student is cutting or doing other self-harm, talk to a school counselor, school psychologist, school nurse, principal, or designated crisis team. Teens who self-injure should be referred to mental health specialists.
You can help your student by:
- providing extra time for class and homework assignments
- being consistent and supportive
- teaching all students healthy ways to deal with stress