Students Self-Harm Rises in College Students

Sydney Thompson 

Staff Writer

WARNING: The following content deals with self-harm, thus making it unsuitable for some audiences. Viewer discretion is advised.

College students have a problem with self-harm. Addressed in the recent “It Matters” program, a UNCG online course required for all incoming students, there is a survey asking for information about this phenomenon anonymously from students. 

Self harm in the psychology and mental health communities as “non-suicidal self-injury” (NSSI). According to a 2011 article in The Journal of American College Health, NSSI is characterized by deliberate self-inflicted harm that isn’t intended to be suicidal. 

People who self-harm may or may not participate in the following behaviors: carving or cutting their skin, burning themselves, banging or punching objects or themselves, embedding objects under their skin, or engaging in other behaviors that are intended to cause themselves pain. They are usually not meant to end lives. 

Whitlock, the head of the study in the 2011 article, made the distinction between NSSI, tattoos and piercings, stating that the latter two are cultural indicators of self-expression and do not have the same mental mindset that is involved with NSSI. 

The most frequent sites of self-injury according to the NSSI are the hands, wrists, stomach and thighs. NSSI can occur anywhere on the body, but the results can be serious. 

According to Whitlock’s study, 1/3 of students reporting NSSI in 2 college studies had hurt themselves so badly that they believed they should have been seen by a medical professional. Only 5% of that third sought that medical treatment. 

That is not the only danger to come from NSSI. According to psychologist Jennifer Muehlenkamp, PhD, of the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire and colleagues, college students who self-harmed and did not have suicidal thoughts at the beginning of her 3-year study were 3.4 times more likely to have attempted suicide if they continued to self-harm than those who did not. 

Muehlenkamp also found that 15% of all college students self-harmed in her research of 52 different studies on the subject. 

Psychology Today advises that families and friends of sufferers, as well as sufferers themselves know that while the wounds and harm may be superficial, it is a sign that something is very wrong and the person is in great distress. Self-mutilation is considered a very serious behavior that should be reported and aid should be given to the sufferer. 

While sufferers of NSSI may not intend to kill themselves, accidents can occur during their self-harm, resulting in accidental suicide. 

They also advise that if anyone is self-harming or knows someone that is self-harming use one of the following resources: 

• Cornell University Research Center on Self-Injury 

• Self Injury Foundation: This foundation promotes awareness for those who self-injure and works to provide funding for research, advocacy, and support for those who self-injure and their families. 

• 1-800-334-HELP 

• Adolescent Self Injury Foundation: An organization that works to raise awareness about adolescent self- injury and provides education, prevention tips, and 

resources for self-injurious adolescents and their families. 

• National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) 

• National Self-Injury Helpline: 1-800-DONT-CUT (366-8288) 

• 24-hour Crisis Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK 

The UNCG counseling office also has their own services to help those who have problems with self-harm. Their services are free with the payments and fees college students are already making. They are located in the Anna M. Grove building on campus. 



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