I was cleaning out my daughter’s backpack and found a note from her best friend, Lindsey. The note said Lindsey had been reading a lot about cutting online and wanted to try it. I’ve been looking carefully lately whenever Lindsey is over, and don’t see any signs of cutting. Still, I wonder if I should tell her mother?

If Lindsey was your daughter, you would definitely want to know this information. Even though you don’t see any cuts, most cutters deliberately use areas of the body that can’t be seen in order to hide their behavior. Friends are often the first to know what is going on, so before you go to Lindsey’s mom you need to speak to your own daughter about what she may know. Then, don’t waste any time telling Lindsey’s mom about your discovery of the note and anything else you know.

Cutting is on the rise among adolescents, and represents an attempt to cope with overwhelming circumstances. You don’t mention whether Lindsey has been through a crisis recently, but it would be worth investigating further. Even an event that you may not consider earth shattering could derail a teen to the point of self mutilation. Although cutting in not thought to be a suicidal gesture, Lindsey’s safety is a priority here.

Infections can result from cutting with objects that are dirty, and long term scarring can result if the cuts are deep enough. There are strategies to help cutters learn alternative coping skills, from distraction to counseling. Take Lindsay’s behavior seriously and intervene as soon as possible.