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J Sch Nurs. 2006 Aug;22(4):193-200.

Self-mutilation in adolescents.

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  • 1West Morris Regional High School District, Chester, NJ, USA.


Self-mutilation is not a new trend or phenomenon in adolescents. Self-mutilation can be divided into three categories: major, stereotypic, and moderate/superficial. Moderate/superficial self-mutilation is the most common type in adolescents and includes cutting, burning, and carving. School nurses are positioned to identify, to assist, and to educate adolescents who are self-mutilating, as well as those who may be at risk. A crucial intervention by school nurses is referral of students who are self-mutilating, because it is a gateway to treatment. Treatment, which includes therapy and medication, may be a difficult and lengthy process. The adolescent who self-mutilates may find the school environment difficult during treatment. School nurses must become educated about adolescent self-mutilation in order to care for those who engage in this behavior. Prevention of self-mutilation should focus on increasing coping mechanisms, facilitating decision-making strategies, encouraging positive relationships, and cultivating self-esteem.

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