Self-Harm: Not Necessarily Mental Illness


Research in Sweden indicates that 40% of adolescents had engaged in self-injurious behavior, but that only “a small minority” of them did so on a regular basis. “It is important that school and health professionals … react appropriately and not judge all young people alike,” the author said, adding “For many of these young people, the behavior seems to be fairly mild and often of a temporary nature.”

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Of Further Interest:
Self-Harm In Adolescents May Not Be Linked To Mental Illness
Self-Harm Need Not Always be a Serious Mental Health Issue
Self-harm not always a sign of serious mental health problems

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected].


  1. I remember a kid in school in the 1980s who like to make burn marks on his arm with the top of a bic lighter, a “smiley” he called them. He was kind of bugged out in middle school doing things like that but he was “normal” by the end of highschool. Today and in the last say 15 years he would have been “forever labeled” with something and drugged by psychiatry and spent his youth and mabey his whole life taking pills. Guaranteed.

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  2. Kids do some bizarre things as far as adults are concerned. I spent fifteen years as a high school teacher and I made a point of spending time and talking with the kids whom all the other teachers considered as wierd or “over the top” and when you sat down and talked with them you discovered that they were all good kids going through a lot of things in their personal lives. I saw many of them to go on to very good lives in the community! This isn’t rocket science. Trying to get these kids labeled as supposedly “mentally ill” is just another ploy for making money for the system and for Big Pharma. Who can’t figure this out?????? Listening to people is one of the simplest things you can do but iw one of the most powerful sources for healing; all accomplished without labeling and those damned toxic drugs!

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