1 in 5 females, 1 in 7 males. These are the numbers of children who engage in self-harm ever year. Self-harm in teens is extremely widespread, and while it may seem an absurd problem on the surface – and an easy one to fix – in reality, it runs extremely deep and may be as difficult to cure as an addiction.
There are many reasons for self-harm in teens, ranging from a culture of self-harm to an underdeveloped coping ability that results in the child seeking solace through harming themselves. Although “culture”, such as peer pressure or media influences, sounds strange in conjunction with “self-harm in teens”, it is, in fact, a significant culprit. Common situations include a troubled child befriends someone who already harms themselves – and when the child asks for advice on how to deal with emotions or stress, the friend suggests giving self-harm a try. Similarly, with media portrayals of self-harm, more teens are inclined to give a shot.
Whatever the reason behind it, self-harm in teens is extremely dangerous. With cutting responsible for over 80% of cases of self-harm in teens, the potential physical consequences can include permanent injuries, infection, and blood loss. Moreover, as with any addiction, over time, the same feeling can only be achieved through more extreme self-mutilation, which drives children to experiment with more and more pain. But the physical aspect isn’t even the worst problem: it is the psychology of someone who cuts themselves that can lead to severe issues in the future.
Recognizing Self-Harm in Teens
As a parent, the first step to dealing with the problem is to recognize it. Often, self-harm in teens is a result of repression – that can be instituted by the family. A family that is overly concerned with maintaining the image of perfection, may lead the children to want to express themselves in ways out of the parents’ control. If any display of negative emotions is strictly forbidden, self-harm in teens may be a product of an unstated rebellion.
However, family issues are far from the only reason behind self-harm. Sometimes, self-injury in teens is a sign of a deeper mental health illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or depression. Self-harm in teens can result from self-image issues or as a response to abuse. It starts as a way to try something new; it ends as a fully-blown addiction.
Since self-harm in teens is rarely a cry for attention, it is frequently done in secret and can therefore be very difficult to notice. However, self-harm in teens is frequently marked by certain telltale signs. A child who harms themselves usually has lots of little unexplained injuries – cuts, scratches, or burns (including but not limited to the arms, legs, and chest). They may cover their self-harm habits with clumsiness – usually, there is a perfectly plausible explanation for every scar. Someone who harms themselves may leave blood stains on clothes, towels, or furniture – their belongings may include out-of-place sharp objects. Other signs of self-harm in teens can include wearing long sleeves and jeans regardless of the weather to cover up scars; also, since self-harm takes time, a child may excuse themselves to be alone for extended periods.
Getting Help for Your Teen
If you suspect your child is harming themselves, it is vital to remember not to panic. Although self-injury in teens can seem gruesome, it can be overcome if treated properly. Do not be judgmental; instead, approach your child openly and let them know that you are willing to listen. Be honest about your opinions, but do not act like the problem is the end of the world – in this situation, it is more helpful to open lines of communication rather than push your child.
Simply ordering your child to stop harming themselves or putting up an around-the-clock watch will only do more harm than good – not dealing with the underlying causes of your child’s self-harm will only push them to think of more inventive ways to circumvent your commands. Punishing your child for harming themselves does not help either – keeping a positive attitude and staying supportive is far better.
If your child’s self-harm habits get out of hand, it may be time to consider professional help.
blueFire Wilderness can help
If your teen is struggling with depression and other emotional or behavioral issues, consider blueFire Wilderness. blueFire is a wilderness therapy program for teens ages 11-17.
For more information about blueFire, please call 1 (844) 413-1999 today!