More and more adolescents are self-injuring themselves at an alarming new rate according to a new study from researchers in Canada. Nancy Naeve Brown asked a counselor with Avera McKennan about why kids cut themselves and what we as parents can do to help.
It's now estimated that between 14 and 24% of teens and young adolescents are self-injuring or cutting themselves with razor blades, scissors, even knives. Avera McKennan Outpatient Behavioral Counselor Sara Bennetts says there is no way for family members of cutters to understand why they hurt themselves. She says we just have to understand that it makes a lot of sense to them.
Bennetts says, "More often than not it's an expression of I can't deal with this, I can't deal with the stress that's going on, I can't deal with the emotions I'm having, I can't deal with life, I've been in a situation that's uncomfortable or abusive those types of things. It's an effort to process emotions and deal with something."
Bennetts says watch for changes in behavior, you know your children better than anyone. Watch for isolation, depression and a change in the clothes they're wearing, especially if they start wearing long sleeve shirts and pants in the summer when they weren't last summer.
Bennetts says, "The first thing we have to assess is this an attempt to die or an attempt to live. We have to rule out suicide that's the primary piece. When I say attempt to live, I mean are they using it as a tool to deal with emotions trying their best effort to deal with these emotions and this is the best thing they've come up with. That says to me they've tried other avenues and this is what they've landed on."
Since kids in that middle school age-range often have no coping skills it's easier for them deal with physical pain because they understand that over the mental anguish they are bogged down with. Once they find they get relief from cutting it turns into an addictive vicious cycle. Bennetts says to break the cycle and stop the scarring start by getting them help.