Psychological medicine

Self-harm. Intervening early can save a life



© grummanaa5/ model used for illustrative purposes only
© grummanaa5/ model used for illustrative purposes only


Non-lethal self-harming is a common problem in young people in Australia and an important risk factor for subsequent suicide. Effective intervention represents one of the best opportunities for suicide prevention worldwide. The GP, with their knowledge of the family and personal background of the patient, is in an ideal position to intervene early.

Article Extract

Self-harm is an important public health problem, and a powerful risk factor for suicide. Self-harm – also referred to as self-injury – is defined as the direct, intentional injuring of body tissue that is done without suicidal intentions.1 It refers to a range of behaviours and does not itself constitute a mental disorder or illness. The most common methods of self-harm among young people are cutting and deliberately overdosing. Other methods include burning (with cigarettes), hitting or scratching body parts, hanging, binge eating or starvation, or deliberate and repeated exposure to dangerous situations.