Today’s teens are experiencing an enormous amount of stress. Sadly, an increasing number of teens are beginning to harm themselves as a means of coping.
“One in five teenagers, and one in four Ivy League students, are now self-injuring,” or cutting themselves, often in moments of emotional distress, says Dr. Blaise Aguirre of Harvard Medical School.
I imagine it to be difficult to discover and accept that your loved one is hurting this badly. It is good to offer options to replace a specific habit or behavior. This is how one mother chose to respond. She left a box of Band-Aids with a loving note that read:
WAIT – THINK – Maybe do one of these things instead!!!!
- Draw, or scribble on a big piece of paper
- Take a bath
- Pet Molly or Stella
- Wrap yourself in a warm blanket
- Call a friend
- Hold an ice cube in the crook of your arm
- Exercise vigorously – run, dance, jump rope
- Make some noise
And always know to come and hug me really tight and I promise to hug you back and remind you how you are loved, Mom
Suggested ways to respond to one who engages in self-injury:
- Remain calm and caring
- Accept him or her even if you disagree with the behavior
- Know that this represents a way of dealing with emotional pain
- Listen with compassion
- Avoid panic and overreaction
- Do not show shock or revulsion at what they've done
- Do not use threats in an attempt to stop the behavior
- Do not allow him or her to recount the self injury experience in detail as it may trigger another session
- Do get appropriate help for him or her from a qualified mental health professional
Other forms of self-injury:
- Burning (with lit matches, cigarettes or hot sharp objects like knives)
- Carving words or symbols on the skin
- Breaking bones
- Hitting or punching
- Piercing the skin with sharp objects
- Head banging
- Pulling out hair
- Persistently picking at or interfering with wound healing
Self-injury is not considered a suicide attempt. However, studies show that it may increase the risk of suicide. Please seek professional guidance if you believe that someone close to you is at risk.