I'm a warehouse supervisor (OT poor) and I have a young guy (20) that works for me.This young man is "off" a little. He rarely talks to anyone the first couple of hours and when he does he makes up all kind of crazy stories.He came to work wearing a long sleeve shirt today, he never wears them even when it's really cold. I kept asking him why and he rolls his sleeve up and told me he slashed it(wrist) this weekend(looked invected). He had showed me other cuts he had on him before but said he done it when he was young. I had worked with his aunt before and we (my boss and I) called her. She told me that he thinks that no one likes him.He is hard to get along with but I feel sorry for the kid. I told her he really needed to get some type of help and she said she would get him some...have any of you ever known anyone to cut their self on purpose?
I've done it. It's a very severe form of a coping strategy. Think of someone with a broken finger and setting it. Setting it hurts like hell, but you ultimately do it to not only fix the injury but, and in this case more importantly, take your mind off of the other pain.
If he's struggling with depression or another mental disorder the pain can be so severe that any other type of pain, no matter how severe, actually makes you feel better. Not only because of the endorphins, but it literally helps to feel a different
type of pain.
With that said, even serious cases of self-harm are rarely indicative of suicidal thoughts and, especially, plans. Most often it's a case of someone who has reached the end of the list of "normal" coping strategies and is therefore willing to do extreme things, even cause themselves harm, in order to cope with the pain.
From what you've posted I wouldn't consider him to be a serious threat to himself or others, but he definitely needs to seek professional help. A psychiatrist definitely and if at all possible some kind of therapist. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is also good at dealing with this sort of thing. The most important thing you can do is not come across as judgmental, you're not dealing with a "crazy" person, just someone that needs help. Since you know his aunt I would take that opportunity to really push for her to make sure he gets some kind of help.