Youth and Mental Health 101
Mental health challenges in youth
What is self-harm?
When people hurt themselves on purpose, it’s considered self-harm or self-injury. Common acts of self-harm include poisoning, such as with painkillers, chemical solvents (e.g., sniffing gasoline) and alcohol.1 Other methods include cutting skin, burning skin, hitting yourself to the point of injury and preventing wounds from healing. Self-injury itself isn’t a mental illness, but it may be a sign that someone needs additional care and support.2
People self-harm for many different reasons:3
Self-harm is not necessarily related to suicidal thoughts. Stressful life events and existing mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety, are the main causes of self-harming thoughts and behaviours.4
How might self-harm affect you?
Sometimes, self-harming behaviours can become habitual and addictive, and escalating or repetitive behaviours can be dangerous. If you self-harm, it’s important to take care of your injuries. If you’re worried about an injury or your self-harm behaviour, talk to your doctor, go to your local hospital or call 911.
People who self-harm often hide the behaviour. They may feel embarrassed or ashamed, and they may avoid talking about it. If you’re worried about a friend or family member, you may find the “Conversation starters” helpful.5
Youth hospitalized for self-harm
1. CIHI, 2015
2. CMHA, 2019
3. CMHA, 2019
4. Hospital for Sick Children, 2016
5. CMHA, 2019
6. CIHI, 2015b