Defining Self-Harm: Reminder

    As discussed in Module 1, there are a wide range of terms used to indicate varying types of self-harm.

    We propose the use of the following definition, for the purpose of applying surveillance system inclusion and exclusion criteria:

    “A non-habitual act with non-fatal outcome that the individual, expecting, or taking the risk, to die or to inflict bodily harm, initiated and carried out with the purpose of bringing about wanted changes” (1).

    In accordance with this definition, and considering the fluidity and varying underlying motives, we prefer use of the term ‘self-harm’ for the surveillance system as it is not always possible or appropriate to  determine level of suicidal intent.

    Within this E-learning program, “self-harm” offers a common ground internationally. The concept of self-harm covers a spectrum that ranges in intent and motivation.

    At the global level, terminology should be approached with a certain amount of flexibility. It is recognized that ‘self-harm’ cannot always be translated with the same meaning in other languages and the term “suicide attempt” might be preferred in such instances.

    Based on the definition, operational criteria have been determined, which will help you in deciding whether a case should be included in the surveillance system.