Headspace's clinical manager Vikki Ryall sees there is a role for schools to share what they have already learnt works, to start early with classroom lessons on emotions, distress, communication and problem solving, to strengthen links with mental health services and to inspire a "whole of community response".
Parents should also be educated so they refrain from critical and fearful reactions, which evidence has indicated can drive the problem underground and trigger an increase in severity.
But in order to support school responses, Ms Ryall admits much more research needs to be conducted on contagion and more partnerships formed with social media groups.
WA psychiatrist Julia Charkey-Papp said in regards to her overall workload in adolescent mental health, cases were increasing in number and severity.
This had fuelled her decision to aid the private hospital Perth Clinic in establishing an "exciting and unique" specialist mental health program for teenagers and young adults - consisting of specialised nurses, psychologists, a trainee registrar and family therapists - that would help fill a "huge gap" in WA.
Princess Margaret Hospital also has an Acute Community Intervention Team of doctors, nurses, psychologists and social workers that follows up young patients who turn up at the emergency department.
"Self-harm is something patients do when they are stressed and not feeling in control," Dr Charkey-Papp said.
"We work on giving them skills to cope with the stress in better ways.
"I explain to the parents that the behaviour is a way of communicating distress, when more mature ways of emotive communication have not yet been developed.
"We then try and work with the parents on an approach that does not reinforce the behaviour but does not punish the person or utilise services excessively either. It is contagious because adolescents are group-based beings who copy each other. There are those who have seen school friends cut and burn themselves and then they copycat. They end up perpetuating something that others are using as a way of expression."
The teenager who copies might be at a less mature stage of development, with peer pressure more prominent, Dr Charkey-Papp said.
"They may initially be acting out of solidarity or empathy but they, too, may be vulnerable and fragile and that might be why they keep on doing it," she said.
In a way it was like drugs, Dr Charkey-Papp said. Some could dabble and not get addicted, while others were hooked from the start and "craved it". Still, there were those who would never do it, it was just too "alien" to them.
Ms Ryall said some teenagers might find themselves stuck in an unhelpful pattern which might result in an escalation in the "frequency or lethality of self-harm".
"In understanding self-harm, mental health professionals ask a lot of questions about intention and experience and length of time and how it developed and how the young person understands it," she said.Treatment could be effective and it was good to intervene early before it became firmly entrenched as a maladaptive coping habit.
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