Non-Suicidal Self-Injury on College Campuses

"For campuses to effectively address complex self-injury cases, students require multiple conversations with mental health staff and, when deemed appropriate by campus mental health professionals, these conversations include parents. Beyond this approach, colleges need a comprehensive plan to improve mental health literacy across campus, which might include:

Helping key responders understand why

One of the most common questions that individuals unfamiliar with NSSI will have is “why?” In light of its prevalence, many students will have encountered it in their peer group, but there are a significant number of adults who have not encountered self-injury in any meaningful way. Because it can be so confusing, it is helpful for staff and peers to understand that for a variety of psychological and physiological reasons, self-injury can help those who use it feel a sense of relief. They especially need to know that despite what it looks like, students use it in an attempt to feel better and not to end their lives.

Responding effectively

Both institutions and individuals need to know how to respond effectively. At the institutional level, this means communicating a clear protocol for triaging NSSI behavior. Both the CAPs-linked response teams and the larger community of faculty and staff need to know how to recognize it and how to respond, ideally in ways that encourage students to use campus support services. To do this, they need to react with compassion."

-Janis Whitlock, Stephen P. Lewis, Imke Baetens, and Penelope Hasking