Thoughts of Deliberate Self-Harm and Help-Seeking

February 14, 2014

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark Research

A study of U.S. children in grades 6-10 found that depressed youth (both those who are also thinking about deliberate self-harm, and those without such thoughts) most frequently turn to friends and parents for help. However, depressed youth with thoughts of self-harm are significantly more likely to seek help from friends (70 percent) and less likely to seek help from parents (54 percent) than are depressed youth who do not have thoughts of deliberate self-harm (58 percent of whom seek help from friends and 73 percent of whom seek help from parents).

Depressed youth with thoughts of deliberate self-harm are also more likely to turn to school officials, health professionals, or school counselors for help than depressed youth without thoughts of deliberate self-harm, although these sources are less often used overall. The authors suggest that these findings imply that it is important to educate peers and professionals about how to respond to depressed youth with thoughts of deliberate self-harm.

This study used data from the Health Behavior of School-Aged Children Study. The researchers defined deliberate self-harm as behaviors including “cutting, burning, scratching, and overdose.” Youth ranged in age from 10 to 17, with the majority between the ages of 12 and 15.

Goodwin, R. D., Mocarski, M., Marusic, A., & Beautrais, A. (2013). Thoughts of self-harm and help-seeking behavior among youth in the community. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior 43(3), 305–312.