RYM 011: What To Do When A Student Self-Harms

What do you do when a student tells you they’re harming themselves? And why is self-harm an important topic to discuss in your ministry? Self-harm can be a difficult subject to navigate with students, but it’s not impossible. On this week’s episode, join ministry leaders for a conversation with licensed associate professional counselor, Kayla Lin, as they unpack what to do when a student admits to self-harm and how to approach the subject of self-harm in your ministry environment.

How to listen: iTunes | Google Play | Stitcher | SoundCloud



What is self-harm? (1:45)

Self-harm is used as a coping strategy when students don’t know how to handle intense emotions they are experiencing. (2:00)

Students can self-harm as a coping mechanism, a way to process grief, and a method of communicating that they are experiencing pain. (3:30)

Eating disorders can be a form of self-harm. (6:00)

Self-harm is an issue among both males and females. (8:00)

Students who self-harm can be impulsive in other areas of their lives. (12:30)

Are we doing students a disservice if we talk about self-harm from the stage? (14:50)

When we talk about self-harm from the stage, we are communicating that we can talk about it and that there is hope. (15:30)

Why is self-harm such a hard subject to talk about? (16:00)

The reason behind why they are self-harming is always different. (16:30)

How do you react to a student who tells you they are self-harming? (17:00)

Before reacting or asking more questions, affirm them for their courage in telling you. Say, “Thank you for telling me. I am so proud of you.” (18:30)

Once a student tells you they are self-harming, that information cannot just stay with you. Your next step is to involve parents and seek professional help. (19:00)

As a ministry leader, pay attention to the local school system and when students are learning about self-harm, suicide, and depression in health class. (21:00)

When you involve parents, school counselors, and other professionals after a student admits to harming themselves, you are communicating to the student you care about them. (22:00)

The onramp to self-harm is when emotions begin to intensify. (26:20)

You don’t necessarily need to give a specific self-harm talk in order to talk about the issue. (26:45)

Before we talk about self-harm from the stage, we need to have a process for how we will handle when a student admits to self-harm. (28:30)

Be sure to educate yourself about the topic of self-harm before you talk to students, parents, and small group leaders about it. (31:30)

Do not put pressure on yourself or your small group leaders in the role of being a professional counselor. (32:00)

There is a huge difference between what we are responsible with and what we are responsible for. (32:15)

Make sure your small group leaders are ready to lead students in conversation about self-harm before talking about it from stage. (32:30)

Even if your particular students are not self-harming, there is a high chance that their friends are. (34:30)

Helping students understand their role when their friends are self-harming is extremely beneficial to their own mental health. (34:30)




CJ is the Managing Editor for XP3 High School and Social Media Strategist for XP3’s blog and social media platforms. CJ has been leading small groups for middle school and high school students at North Point Community Church for the past 10 years. He also placed 5th in his 8th grade class fun run. CJ and his wife, Teri, live in Alpharetta, GA.



Kayla Lin is a Licensed Associate Professional Counselor in the state of Georgia and a National Certified Counselor (NCC), a credential awarded by the National Board for Certified Counselors. She earned a Master of Education in Professional Counseling from the University of Georgia. Kayla specializes in helping clients who are suffering with trauma, depression, suicidal ideation, anxiety, identity, grief/loss, and self-worth. Outside of counseling, Kayla enjoys hiking/backpacking, riding horses, baking home goods, and spending time with her friends, family, and her two dogs.



Crystal currently leads the XP3 High School initiative at Orange. Before that, she spent 10 years as a high school teacher and student ministry leader, doing everything from leading small groups to speaking to curriculum design. Crystal and her husband, Tom, live in Alpharetta, GA with an ill-tempered chihuahua named Javier.



Ashley Bohinc serves as the Director of Middle School Strategy at Orange, co-host of The Think Orange Podcast, and co-author of The Art of Group Talk. She’s worked with students in public education, athletic, and ministry settings since 2005. Ashley is most passionate about resourcing the local church, communicating onstage, developing leaders, working with students, and engaging in world missions. Additionally, she’s the USA Director of Carry 117. In her downtime, you’ll find her watching Friends, cheering on the Cleveland Cavaliers, traveling, reading, or on one of her Fairytale Friday Adventures.

Did you enjoy this episode? Help us spread the word!

If you enjoyed this episode, we would love for you to rate or review the podcast on iTunes. Your rating and review help us make this podcast better, and help get the podcast in front of other youth leaders and listeners. Thank you for listening!

Orange Conference 2018