Suicide and Self-Harm

Suicide and self-harm are terms that are oftentimes misunderstood. By definition, suicide is the deliberate and voluntary taking of one’s life, whereas self-harm is the intentional and deliberate mutilation or hurting of oneself.

Usually, individuals who are committing acts of self-harm such as: cutting, burning, hitting, pulling hair, carving, biting, or picking of one’s skin are not with the intent to take one’s life, but rather an attempt to deal with overwhelming emotions or to feel emotion when none exists. It is important to recognize that while many individuals who self-mutilate do contemplate suicide, it is generally not a suicidal act.

Warning Signs of Self-Harm

  • Many cuts/burns on the wrists, arms, legs, back, hips, or stomach
  • Wearing baggy or loose clothes with the purpose of hiding or concealing wounds
  • Always making excuses for having cuts, marks or wounds on the body
  • Finding razors, scissors, lighters or knives in unusual places such as the bedroom or dresser drawers
  • Social isolation

Causes of Self-Harm

  • Inability to cope with stressors
  • A way of asking for help
  • An expression of internal pain
  • Self-esteem issues

Warning Sides of Suicide

  • Increased use of alcohol and/or drugs
  • Unnecessary risk-taking and impulsivity
  • Feelings of hopelessness/depression/agitation/anxiousness
  • Exhibiting rage and/or anger
  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
  • Preoccupation with death
  • Social isolation
  • Displaying mood swings
  • Giving things away, such as prized possessions
  • Changing eating or sleeping patterns

Common Causes of Suicide

  • Mental Illness
  • Traumatic Experiences
  • Bullying
  • Personality Disorders
  • Addiction and Substance Use
  • Unemployment
  • Genetics/Family History
  • Terminal Illness
  • Chronic Pain
  • Financial Problems
  • Prescription Drugs

Why do people commit suicide?

Among the most common causes of suicide is that of mental illness. Although there are a variety of treatment options for people with mental illnesses, it can be difficult to find and stick to successful treatment combinations.

Feeling trapped and unable to cope with a particular situation in life tends to lead people to consider suicide. Whether a person has been dealing with a mental illness, faced trauma, or they have been bullied at school, it is the pain and continuous suffering from these experiences that becomes overwhelming. When pain exceeds our abilities to cope, we feel hopeless to change and feel suicidal.

How can I help?

A suicidal person does not always ask for help, but that doesn’t mean help isn’t wanted or needed. People who take their lives don’t want to die, but they just want to stop hurting. Suicide prevention starts with recognizing the warning signs (such as those mentioned above) and taking action. If you think a friend or family member is considering suicide, you might be afraid to bring up the subject. But talking openly about suicidal thoughts and feelings can save a life.

To learn more about how to talk to a friend or loved one about suicide, please click here. (make this a link to How to Help Someone at-risk of suicide)


Mental Health Daily. (2015). 15 Common Causes Of Suicide: Why Do People Kill Themselves? Retrieved from

Psychology Today. (2012). Understanding Suicide and Self-Harm. Retrieved from

Health Guide. (2015). Suicide Prevention. Retrieved from

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