My Son Is Cutting Himself – on Purpose


I wasn’t ready for the news that my son is cutting himself. On purpose.

I was shocked when his middle school counselor called me one Friday. One of his friends told her that my son was cutting himself. He confirmed to her that this was true. He felt stressed about some friendship issues and just all the normal stresses that come along with middle school.

I felt completely blindsided. I didn’t know how to help my kid in this situation.

Cutting is a form of self-harm.

Hurting yourself on purpose is a sign of emotional distress. It generally happens when someone doesn’t have other, healthier coping mechanisms to deal with stress. It occurs more often in teens and young adults than in younger kids, although my son is only twelve. People who have suffered from trauma or who have certain illnesses, such as depression, are more likely to self-harm.

I know that my son struggles to deal with stress.

He gets easily overwhelmed. He has ADHD. I have had many conversations with his teachers about this. I try to encourage my son to talk about his worries instead of bottling them up inside. I try to model healthy coping mechanisms for him. As he grows and matures, I am definitely seeing improvement, but it’s slow going.

If your child is cutting, it’s a sign that they need help.

Cutting is generally a sign that your child is stressed and this is the only way they know how to ease that feeling. The first step is to call your child’s doctor. They will be able to refer you to a psychologist, therapist, or other resources that will help your child learn healthier coping mechanisms.

My son’s anxiety is tied to school, so one of the guidance counselors started checking in with him at least once a week. For many children, it’s easier to open up to adults who aren’t their parents.

Self-harm behaviors such as cutting can also lead to feelings of shame. People feeling anxiety, shame, and depression might start avoiding social situations. I noticed that my son started wearing long-sleeve shirts to cover up his arms instead of his usual short-sleeve t-shirts. Scars from cutting can sometimes be permanent. Shame about the scars can lead to negative feelings which might cause the child to self-harm again, creating a cycle that can be difficult to break. That’s why it is important to enlist help right away.


988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline – People can call or text 988 to talk to a mental health professional.

Vermont Therapists – Psychology Today allows you to search for therapists based on your location and needs.

First Call for Chittenden County – Trained staff answer this line 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They will provide crisis intervention and assessment, and will refer people to the appropriate follow-up care.

Mayo Clinic – A great source for accurate healthcare information.

Vermont-specific mental health resources for children


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