Understanding more about a young person’s self-injury

The more you are able to gain insight into the nature and extent of a young person’s self-injury, the better you will be able to support them. Be curious.  Be open to hearing the young person's story about the function and impact of self-injury rather than jumping to conclusions about it.  What meaning does it have for them and how has it affected their relationships, idea of themselves and participation in activities?


  • What usually happens immediately prior to self-injury?
  • What are you usually thinking or feeling right before you self-injure?
  • Is substance use involved?


  • What time of day do you self-injure?
  • In what environment do you self-injure?


  • What is your method?
  • Where on your body?
  • How long do you self-injure for?


  • What feelings/thoughts do have while you self-injure?
  • What do you like/dislike about your behaviour?


  • What is the impact of your self-injury on the people in your life and yourself?

Also consider how long between the trigger, thought and behaviour and any changes to this process and experience over time.  Identifying things that may have increased the frequency, severity or method is important.

Common triggers of self-injury

  • Conflict with family, friends, relationships
  • Physical health problems
  • Problems at school or work
  • Bullying
  • Substance use
  • Rejection/Loneliness

Some triggers can be obvious and easily identified whilst others can be difficult to pinpoint.  If the young person finds it difficult to identify their own emotions have a look at this list to help them explore.

By helping a young person ‘step back’ and learn more about their behaviour allows them to do so with less judgement and more curiosity.  This will not only help the young person feel validated but also ensure that any strategies you explore around alternatives to self-injury are relevant to the young person.

Check out the Functional Analysis template download at the bottom of this page for a guide to understand the young person's self-injury.

Further Resources