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Warning Signs Of Self-Harm On Social Media And In Real Life

In October, social media platform Instagram released a new system for detecting threats of suicide and self-harm on social media. According to, 2 million cases of self-harm are reported each year in the United States. Likely, millions more cases are going unreported. 60% of those who self harm are females and 90% of those who self harm started as a teenager. Annually, 1 in 5 females and 1 in 7 males will self harm.  Self-harming can include cutting, burning, picking (acne, scabs, or skin to the point of bleeding), punching oneself or objects, bruising or breaking one’s own bones, and forms of hair pulling.

Instagram released a new program for recognizing certain keywords and sending an automated message. reports that “users whose posts have been flagged will receive a message from Instagram with support resources. The app’s latest update will also offer  you a list of mental health resources if you search the app for keywords- suicide, depression, self-harm,etc.- that indicate you might need support.” From the article’s image, the message from Instagram comes with a heart and might read: Can we help? If you’re going through a difficult time and would like support, we’d like to help.

Social media and the internet has contributed to self-harmers in a more harmful way by giving them somewhere to discuss their experience. Self-harm, like mental illness, comes with a lot of shame and stigma. Rather than find support online for stopping, they find others who are struggling and encourage one another in their behaviors.

Self-Harm can accompany numerous mental illnesses like eating disorders, anxiety, depression, and substance abuse.

Signs Of Self-Harm In Real Life

Cutting is a common form of self harm. Look for small, linear cuts that go across the forearm from side to side. This method is enough to cause bleeding and pain but not enough to lead to suicide. Cutting marks can be found often on the forearms, legs, and upper arms. In extreme cases, cuts may spell out words for what they are having problems with. For example, someone with an eating disorder might cut lines to spell FAT.

Keep an eye open for unprecedented scratches, bruises, or cuts. If you know your loved one hasn’t been in any physical altercations, keep notice for if these marks remain regular or not. They might have a lot of excuses including animals or suddenly new hobbies and acitivities.

Self-harm can also be predicted by change in mood. If your loved one is experiencing an onset of difficult emotions, self-harm might be the only way they are finding to deal with their pain.

How To Approach A Loved One Who Might Be Self-Harming

If you find your loved one in an act of self-harm, try not to overreact. Be as compassionate and loving as possible so as not to trigger any more shame and guilt. Maintain your composure to your best ability, even if you are afraid. Call a doctor as soon as possible if their injury requires medical attention as well as a psychological professional to get an assessment.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

Harmony Place offers dual diagnosis treatment for mental health disorders as well as substance use disorders. If you believe you or a loved one are in need of treatment due to life-threatening issues, please contact Harmony Place today.