Self-harm can be defined as any form of deliberate, self-inflicted harm against one’s own body.

Strategies used for self-harming include three main types of behaviours:

  • self-injury
  • drug and alcohol abuse
  • eating issues

Our own experience in working with young women, as well as readily available research findings and information resources suggest that the primary causal factors of self-harm among young women are:

Abuse and Violence

Being affected by ‘abuse and violence’ can mean a number of different things. It can include the experience of physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, psychological or spiritual abuse or a combination of these, perpetrated directly against one’s own self. Within the context of this Resource we widen the definition to include extreme physical or emotional neglect, and being witness to extreme forms of violence against others. Research findings and other literature that discuss the causal links between abuse and self-harming behaviours are readily available on the internet, in practice journals and in bookshops.

Marginalisation and Oppression

‘Marginalisation and oppression’ are forms of trauma that include abuses of power and violations of the human rights of individuals and communities. The terms refer to all forms of discrimination, and the subsequent implications such as exclusion from aspects of public life (e.g. employment, political participation), targeted abuse, stereotypical community attitudes and prejudices, and a diminished capacity to speak out about such discrimination. In some cases, as in the experience of many refugees in Australia, oppression is marked by the instigation of many of the forms of violent abuse listed above, both within their country of origin and during their experiences within refugee camps and detention centres.

For full information on young women and self harm, please download this document, titled “Working with Young Women who Self-harm: A Resource for Workers”. With permission from the authors, the information provided on this page is a direct quote from “Working with Young Women who Self-harm: A Resource for Workers” (Fernandez & McGuire, 2002). This resource is published by Zig Zag. If you are interested in ordering this resource please click here for more information and how to order it.

Need to talk?

A young woman or someone close to her can ring Zig Zag on 3843 1823 and ask to speak to one of our sexual assault workers.