National Runaway Safeline


Teens Who Cut Themselves: Anne's Runaway Reality Story
Image courtesy of Lillistyle (Flickr Creative Commons)

One of the most difficult issues that our crisis services center deals with are teens who cut themselves.

Cutting is a form of behavior that is categorized as self-harm. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, self-harm means hurting yourself on purpose. It is a sign of emotional distress. Cutting oneself with a knife or a razor is a coping mechanism that is most often seen among teens and young adults. These are individuals who have experienced trauma.

The self-injury can stimulate a body’s endorphins or pain-killing hormones, and raise the person’s mood. The person is momentarily relieved from their mental anguish. However, the cycle may continue, as the person may feel shame about committing the act, and cut again to cover up the pain.

In our latest Runaway Reality, we share a story of a youth that contacted us in distress.

She eventually reveals that she has been cutting in order to deal with the trauma she is experiencing at home. Our frontline staff used our crisis intervention model to work with the youth to help them create a plan of action that will keep them safe.

Here is Anna’s story.

Anna, age 17, called Monday night. She received our number from a friend who had called about a problem several weeks ago. Anna was shy when she started talking and wasn’t really sure what to say other than there wasn’t anything horribly bad going on, but sometimes she has a hard time dealing with her feelings.

NRS liner, Sam, told Anna that we are here to listen to anything she wants to share and reminded her that we are a confidential hotline. This seemed to make Anna more comfortable.  She started to open up more about some of the issues she is dealing with, including issues with her mom and younger brother.

Anne said her younger brother is constantly getting on her nerves and her mom is always pushing her too hard. She does pretty well in school but feels that her mom is constantly riding her to do better.

Anna said, “I feel like I have to be perfect. I know I put a lot of the pressure on myself, but my mom adds to the pressure and even though we have an ‘ok’ relationship most of the time, my mom constantly criticizes me.”

Sam asked if there is anyone Anna has been able to talk with about her feelings, or anything she does to cope when situations like this arise. At this point, Anna revealed to Sam that she started cutting herself several months ago after she had a fight with her mom.  It has continued, but she usually only cuts after arguments with her mom. Cutting makes her feel better, but she realizes it isn’t good for her in the long run.  She really wants to stop.  The only person she has told is her best friend.

NRS liner, Sam, discussed the option of Anna talking with her mother. Anna felt that she wanted to do that, but also didn’t think she was ready, and definitely didn’t want to tell her mom about the cutting. Sam asked if there were other ways she has tried to cope when these situations occur. Anna said, talking with her friend, writing, and listening to music help her cope, but sometimes when she is feeling really sad and upset, those options didn’t feel like enough.

After talking with Sam for some time, Anna said if she felt like she was really going to cut, she would call her friend and try and talk through it. She would only use cutting as a last resort in helping her cope. Sam let her know that NRS is here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week if she wants to call again.

Anna said it helped just to talk and was happy she was able to open up to someone else about her situation. Anna ended by saying said she was going to try her best not to cut, but also realized it may take some time to figure out better ways to cope with her feelings.

During this call the liner provided solution focused crisis intervention following NRS’ 5 step model:

  • establish rapport
  • explore facts and feelings
  • explore options
  • focus on one issue
  • develop a plan of action

Anna’s focus was to talk out her issues.  We offered her that opportunity and successfully completed the call.

Are you or someone you know having a tough time dealing with their feelings? We can help. Please call us at 1-800-RUNAWAY or visit us at

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