The butterfly project – Cutting: Part 3


Since my last post on cutting I received many comments.

Some of them were not easy to read for me, increasing my awareness to this difficult issue of self-injury.

Thank you all for sharing your personal stories or general knowledge.

According to “”, approximately one out of every eight people engages in some form of self-injury, it’s most popular among adolescents, and many people are introduced to it through social media and peer groups.

I find this to be amazing!

This post is for all the readers interested in this subject:

I will not dive any deeper into what you can all read in the internet yourselves, however for those of you who are new to this I would like to share with you “the butterfly project”.

I am not sure how or when it started, it may be a personal initiative of a Tumbler blogger, but if anyone has different info I will love to know.

The butterfly project suggests the following, to cope with a strong desire to cut your body:

1. When you feel like you want to cut, take a marker or pen and draw a butterfly on wherever the self-harm occurs.
2. Name the butterfly after a loved one, or someone who really wants you to get better.
3. NO scrubbing the butterfly off.
4. If you cut before the butterfly is gone, it dies. if you don’t cut, it lives.
5. If you have more than one, cutting kills them all.
6. Another person may draw them on you. these butterflies are extra special. take good care of them.
7. Even if you don’t cut, feel free to draw a butterfly anyways, to show your support. If you do this, name it after someone you know that is suffering right now, and tell them. It could help.

This project seems to have crossed countries virally, and in many countries teens are drawing butterflies on their bodies if cutting, or in order to show support in their friends who cut.


I wish you all, and myself, a good job in this parenting duty we have chosen… Good luck!


Filed under Teens & Tweens

75 responses to “The butterfly project – Cutting: Part 3

  1. Its really amazing the way you are posting about this and bringing it to everybodys attention. My friend works as a teacher in a High School and she wasn’t surprised by this at all, yet I find it shocking.
    Yet another things to stress over and watch out for…
    Plus it seems to happen to any child no matter what group they are in 😦
    Brilliant Blog
    Victoria xx

  2. Thanks for stopping by my blog, and also thanks for this post. I am going to suggest it to my eldest daughter who went through a spell of cutting recently. Even though she has stopped, this is a great idea should she ever feel like doing it again. Thanks.

  3. Dagny

    I just loved your blog.

    There was a time- yes I had a bad teenage- I used to cut too. Even after over 25 yrs I have cut marks on my wrists and calves. I honestly though it was only I who did that. I cant tell you how it feels to know that there are others who have done this. I guess I am not alone after all.
    I am so grateful you stopped over at my blog. So VERY grateful. Bless you. May your influence multiply… may you be the light for many as you’ve been one to me tonight.

  4. very attractive creative work specially for children

  5. Cutting is a major issue, but I remember it being a problem in my teens which is quite a while ago now! One of my friends was cutting himself regularly and it was hard to see. I think it must be common in teens because of the sense of frustration at becoming an adult but not having the skills or experience or words to express complicated emotions. Goodness me, I am not looking forward to that time with my eldest-she is already sensitive at 6. Thanks for sharing and thanks for taking the time to take a look at my blog too.

  6. When, I first saw the picture of the butterflies, I though it looked kind of cool. To think they are there to keep a person from hurting themself, well, that takes away from the beauty (sort of beauty at least) of it. Let’s hope and do what we can to make sure more kids are choosing butterflies.
    Btw, my site moved. Here is my new

  7. Thank you for sharing this. A friend’s daughter was a cutter. What a beautiful and visual way to remind them that they are loved and are not alone.

  8. What a lovely way to spread awareness and show support! I feel like painting butterflies on me, on my boys, everywhere.
    I have the feeling self hurting is a very human way to deal with un-explainable and difficult to deal with kind of pain. I remember the day I found out that when you can’t cope with the itching of a insect sting, slapping on it, thus making it hurt, would alleviate the terrible itch for a while and I would feel strangely relieved by that.. ?? I never cut myself but remember banging my head on the wall after hours of senseless arguments with my first serious boyfriend, it was also relieving..
    I found out from conversations with friends (granted, we are all the sensitive kind) that most of us considered suicide at one point in our lives (between the ages of 13 and 16), some had even tried it unsuccessfully.. Scary isn’t it? I’m glad you stopped by my blog and look forward to readying more form you! xx

  9. donofalltrades

    Interesting. Hopefully, parents, teachers and others will recognize this trend and come up with creative ways to engage a child they see with butterflies on their body in order to help that child through whatever it is that makes them want to hurt themselves. Sounds like a more pervasive issue than most of us think. As a police officer, I’ve been on so many calls where kids have cut themselves or taken pills that really would never have killed them, but are certainly a cry for help. It was difficult being a teenager 25 years ago. I imagine it’s even more difficult nowadays.

  10. Self injury is something that occurs to more than just teen girls. I self injure. It is a problem that I deal with every day. It’s a pull between sweet relief for anxiety I can not handle and a desire to release pain. It is wrong. There is help. Self injury can be accomplished just with nails. Finger nails. An insect bite, or scratching until skin breaks, then compulsively reopening the wound for the emotional release. Does it make sense? No. Does it really help? No. But it feels good in the moment. For those that do it, there is a real chemical release that relieves emotional pain. Thank you for post about this.

  11. Joel

    This is the first time I’ve heard of using butterflies like this. I think it’s a wonderful concept. We faced this problem with our daughter and her friends when they were in high school and it was so troubling.
    Thank you also for showing your appreciation for my poem.

  12. Maesha

    Wish there was a -love- button on this article. I think I’m going to cry. Everyone loves a butterfly.

    I suffered largely of debilitating OCD when I was a child. I managed to hide it somehow but life was hell every inch of the way. Consequently, I started ripping out my hair later in life. Sometimes when nothing makes sense and you’re hurting so bad inside there’s something which you can at least control. I had some well directed help along the way. I had some wonderful people in my life. I know not everyone comes out the other side.

    Amanda Palmser does a good job expressing it:

    “When I jab a sharpened object in Choirs of angels seem to sing Hymns of hate in memorandum And you might say it’s self-indulgent And you might say it’s self-destructive But, you see, it’s more productive Than if I were to be happy” — Bad Habit, Amanda Palmer (Dresden Dolls)

  13. Pingback: Are you hurting? Are you hurting yourself? | #MaeSha

  14. What a great idea. I hope this works to change the urges for one to cut.

  15. I’m in love with this! As a former “cutter” (I really don’t like that title, but I’m 3 years clean!) I’ve always looked for solutions to help others, but have failed to find one that really seems like it could work. This strategy gives me hope that there’s a way to help others in that painful journey. I’ll be sure to share it.
    Thank you!

  16. Hi there – thanks for stumbling upon my blog today and “liking” some of my posts. I am not at all crafty, but I am so glad to see a blog addressing adolescent mental health issues. As the parent of two pre-school age girls, I am so anxious about the reality of what it means to be an adolescent young woman (a lot has changed since the 90s when I had my turn)… as this is only 8 years away for my oldest..

  17. I was a cutter. If it would not be for a safety agreement with my treatment team, I still would be. I love the idea of the butterflys. What has worked for me in the past is to draw the cutting out. Esp. if it is to release tension or emotions that are overwheming. Then I have made an agreement with myself to draw a relaxing image to make up for all of the hurt and pain in the one before. I then take the images to therapy. Sometimes it is amazing just how much there is to one of the drawings and I have a reminder, just not on my skin.

  18. Lex

    I work with teenagers, and meet girls who self-harm a lot. I’ve never heard of this, though. Totally going to use it!

  19. A great project – I didn’t know about it, so thank you. If I were still working with cutters I would surely try it. One woman I knew, who had stopped before I met her, is covered from the neck down with scars. She’s gotten to where she can wear short sleeves now, but people stare. She can now tolerate ambulance sirens; they used to be too often coming for her, and their noise was intolerable for years. It’s a tough road and it can take tremendous courage to get serious about recovery.

  20. For anyone who has a child, or knows of a child, who is cutting (or other self-harm like burning, slashing, head-banging, hair-pulling, scratching, etc), I would first advise them to be seen and evaluated for an underlying anxiety disorder. The reason that cutting works is because it WORKS in the brain…it releases dopamine and becomes addictive, therefore people tend to become chronic cutters/self-harmers. It alleviates anxiety (or sometimes ADHD) symptoms and actually helps people focus. It’s the same reason students often seek out marijuana (another usually underlying undiagnosed anxiety disorder) or alcohol (underlying depressive disorder) in their teens.

    While this butterfly is a great example of a coping tool, it may not work for some youth because it doesn’t help release the dopamine or alleviate the anxiety. While traditional anti-anxiety medication can work to help, there are other less invasive things, too, like exercise or (I like it less because it mimics self harm) snapping a rubberband on the arm. Catching cutting early is important, too, so that one doesn’t get too addicted to it. I worked with a college student who didn’t have any places left on her arms/legs to cut because she had been so chronic.

  21. Pingback: The #butterfly project – Cutting: Part 3 – #Parenting And Stuff « johndwmacdonald

  22. Wonderful idea, as someone who’s been there, I wish I had heard of this earlier. it would have helped

  23. This is wonderful! I”ve never heard of this project before, but I will def be sharing it with my friends. Sounds like a simple, yet strong way to help out our friends that our struggling.

  24. That is a helpful coping technique. I am sure there are many who will benefit from this post!

  25. This is a very serious topic and worth discussion. Thank you for sharing the project. I think it’s a great idea!

  26. df

    I’ve known two people close to me who engaged in cutting. This is an amazing idea.

  27. Thanks for posting information and awareness about cutting. Cutting is a form of self-harm, similar to eating disorders, eraser burns, and other forms of self-mutilation. Most cutters have deep emotional needs that need to be addressed, as do other self-harmers. Counseling, behavior modification, and family therapy is all important in helping a teen or young adult over come cutting. As a school counselor and behavioral service provider, I see many cutters in my work, and there are many layers of needs that need to be addressed with these kids. They are hurting.

  28. That is just beautiful – such a creative response to the need to hurt ourselves – to write, in fact to draw, on our skin. This is very good indeed. Thanks

  29. rachelxsarah

    Thank you so much for posting this. I was a cutter myself, and I have friends who were. The hardest part about going through this is when the people you feel you can trust and love the most turn their backs on you. I think this is a beautiful and positive way to help bring this issue to light, and find positive ways of coping with it. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  30. what a beautiful way to spread the message…

  31. This is such a creative idea. I wish I knew about it when I was reaching high school!

  32. Very interesting post – it’s great to see people doing more to create positivity in the world and help others.

    Good post – where did this movement start?

  33. thank you for your post. It is an important subject to shed light one.

  34. This is a great post. I work in Japan, where bullying is rampant and self-harm and even suicide is often the result. I’ll certainly be sharing this post with some of my current and past co-workers, and I hope that in doing so we can help some of the kids that need it most. Thanks for taking on such a difficult, complex, and potentially inflammatory topic! We need more people talking about this kind of thing.

  35. dientdeleon

    I work with teen sexual abuse survivors and this is a wonderful idea for replacing self-injury with self-loving behaviors. Love it! Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  36. This is a cute idea. I like the idea of getting others involved and drawing the butterflies on you 🙂

  37. Reblogged this on Pride in Madness and commented:
    This is a very cute idea 🙂 If you don’t like butterflies pick something else happy!

  38. good post keep posting. i really liked your ideas thanks for posting. lista de email lista de email lista de email lista de email lista de email

  39. Thanks for stopping by my blog. This one is beautiful. Let me contribute something about cutting: like everything else, it is in the mind. I’m not being superficial, I have been there; still am – on and off. Insights won’t cure it, but can help. It’s all about the usual human emotions, in particular anger and shame, and about lack of self controls to divert the impulses, ’cause that’s what they ultimately are: impulses.

    Now, today cutting could be like tattooing: a fashion. From the same place where tattooing came, came cutting as a form of marking the body. There’s an old book reprinted called ‘Modern Primitives’. Hard to look at it for the squeamish, but informational, non the less. So, yes, FB may be contributing to bringing cutting back into fashion. This fashion serves a dual purpose for today’s in-crowd: you actually cut yourself out of anger or whatever, and then use it to show off once the real reason for the cutting disappears.

    I once was a teenager. I draw from those memories how NOT to treat today’s youngsters. Please, please, if you can’t LISTEN to your kids emotions, DON’T EVEN TRY IT. I’m not screaming, just emphasizing. Every time one feels invalidated, there’s a strong feeling of anger and frustration that needs an outlet.

    People, try to go to therapy with your child. You need a mediator.

    Good luck. I know you love your kids and mean good to them.

  40. #1, before more input on Cutting – thanks for stopping by and “leaving a trace that you were there” with a like. That particular article was what I call a rare “blog context” post – primarily because my ADDers were not finding the content and were frustrated. There is a lot of “real content” on a TON of topics, so I hope you will avail yourself of it.

    The Teen Brain is *very* like the ADD brain, simply because the PFC (Pre-frontal Cortex — the part “down for the count” with Executive Functioning Dysregulations) is the last to mature in a human being – not really on board until 18-24. (info on what that means to “executive functioning” on the blog.)

    The work-arounds and info are the same, whether the condition is “temporary” (like teens and brain injuries, including sports) or persists into what we term ADDulthood (as in my case).

    #2 – I have never been a cutter myself, but I have a good friend who was and a therapist colleague who worked closely with her, both of whom have talked to me (with permission). In my friend’s case (and many others), it was a result of something *much* more than any parent’s first instincts about why.

    Google “depersonalization” and “derealization” for more, but at bottom, the cut, the blood, etc. is a “grounding in the body” techinique providing “proof” for those who feel, at times (in some, *most* of the time) like their “personhood” is “dream-like” – not “real.”

    It takes more than that sentence to “grok” it – but love and attention won’t help in these cases, because, by that point anyway, lack of same is not really why they’re doing it — and THEY may not even realize why without help. Only once they do, does the healing work begin.

    It’s a large, mostly hidden community. I had NO idea my very close friend was a cutter (for *many* years & into adulthood) until she stopped, btw – she *always* had a “logical” reason to explain away the *rare* times I saw the wounds.

    I said that to say this: the Butterfly Project is an amazing, positive reframe, and it will certainly alert parents to the problem and the teen’s urge frequency — if the parents understand what the butterflies mean and treat the info with kid gloves — which is essential. But don’t be surprised if, in more cases than you think, you find out there are butterflies AND cutting, even in the very same time window.

    I strongly advise rereading CityWide, Monk-Monk, bluebrightly and the others who urge getting your teen professional help, and taking their advice VERY seriously. It is NOT something you will be able to deal with on your own, once it reaches the point of self harm. (If money is tight, check out low-cost clinics in your area – colleges universities often have them for their [supervised] students, btw)

    MY suggestion would be to attend *some* but nowhere near *all* of the sessions with your teen(s), following their lead on frequency – you need to demonstrate interest but not ownership.

    I’m sure I don’t have to tell you or your readers how jealously teens guard their privacy, and they might not disclose if you are anywhere within earshot (and some will refuse to go if they think Mom or Dad is going to find out what they say).

    You go for YOU (and for a communications mediator) – try your dardest to grant your teen the respect of believing that there are some things *they* must deal with, and that they certainly CAN, with professional help.

    Cutting is not a recent “fad” or “an unusual cry for help” for a great many of these teens, who are trying to find themselves in a manner the rest of us would never imagine, few understand, and fewer still are aware of.

    GREAT post – courageous and important. I will put a Butterfly Project post on my site as well, and will link here and to your first post. I’ll ping you when it goes live.

    Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CMC, SCAC, MCC
    – ADD Coaching Field co-founder –
    (ADDandSoMuchMore and ADDerWorld – dot com!)
    “It takes a village to transform a world!”

  41. Pingback: The Butterfly Project – works for some, not ALL « ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  42. What a beautiful way to show support and bring a new light onto this difficult and complicated subject. Thank you for sharing this.

  43. Thank you for sharing this. The butterfly drawings are a beautiful way to deal with such a sensitive subject. Having dealt with suicide in my family and my own personal thoughts of taking my life, I know how difficult it can be to navigate self-inflicted wounds. You actually inspired me to write my post tonight of when my wife finally took me to seek help. Thank you.

  44. This is a creative re-frame, but I am concerned with the idea of “killing” the butterflies. I would be interested in hearing the thoughts of a therapist/psychologist. It seems like that idea may add more guilt or feelings of failure.

  45. Wow, I started reading this hoping it would be a cute and sweet way to cope with this, but I am sorry to say I am horrified by who ever created this method.

    The death part and naming the butterfly after a loved one is awful! In essence you are telling the child that cutting is killing someone they love. While this might be the case a child dealing with that kind of emotional turmoil doesn’t need the grief and burden of worrying about someone elses’ emotions in regards to their cutting. Negativity isn’t the way to cure this problem.

    Guilt makes the desire to cut heighten, not lessen. This method is just going to lead kids to cut and to keep it secret.

  46. This is a wonderful idea!! Thank you for sharing your struggles and being so honest. You’re touching and helping so many teens and parents. Love your blog 🙂

  47. If only we could all just rid ourselves of the pressures of daily life and focus on nothing but expressing our love to our children, societally. It is so heartbreaking that so many young people feel unloved. They are all so precious. i am going to keep your suggestion in mind just in case I meet someone who needs this…

  48. Some interesting thoughts. Keep up the blogging. Thanks for stopping by my my blog and the like.

  49. That is so touching. I am older and never cut but I have had friends that did, when I was younger. Whoever came up with this idea was special. I bet it works in a lot of cases. Thank you for sharing it.
    ✿ღ✿ღ.¸¸ღ♫*¨`*•..¸ƸӜƷ ✿ღ ✫❀

  50. Wow! This is a beautiful idea! 🙂 I’ve never cut myself but ever since I became a teen (I’m 28 now) I’ve had an issue with picking and I’ve got way too many scars. The Butterfly might work for some parts of me but not for my face, where I pick the most. This is a horrible habit that I’ve struggled with a long time. I think it has to do with OCD or learned behavior because my Dad & his mom both had picking problems. What’s bad is that my Dad (who died in 2009) got staph infection in his legs but he kept reopening his wounds. He had Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome so his skin didn’t heal good. He ended up having his legs amputated. I keep worrying that I’ll get staph (I may have EDS too. It’s genetic). I pray a lot about this. I wish it was as easy to stop as people think it should be. It truly disgusts me and I have to cake on makeup sometimes…unless I’m picking my legs or another place that distracts me from my face. My hubby gets so upset with me. I don’t understand why I started doing this….and why it’s so hard to quit. Okay, sorry for life story. Thank you for stopping by my blog 🙂 God bless!

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