What is Self-Harm?
Self-harm is the intentional destruction of body tissue in the absence of any intent to die. Most often it happens on the arms and takes the form of cutting with some type of sharp object, such as a razor blade, pencil, or pocket knife. It might also include burning the skin or inserting objects under the skin, such as paper clips.
Unfortunately, many teens engage in self-harm
Current statistics show that in 2020-21, 8.8% of Australians aged 16-85 years have self-harmed in their lifetime:
- Females had higher lifetime rates of self-harm than males (11.4% compared with 6.2%)
- Almost one in four (24.7%) females aged 16-34 years had self-harmed in their lifetime
- One in fourteen (7.0%) females aged 16-34 years had self-harmed in the last 12 months.
How can parents respond if they notice signs of cutting?
If they confide in anyone at all, teens who self-harm tend to tell their friends, not their parents or other adults. But parents can break through the secrecy and offer support with a calm, steadfast approach.
The main reason teens usually turn to their friends when revealing this could be due to several things. The main reasons could possibly be that they feel unloved and don’t feel they can trust family, they have been betrayed by an adult in their life prior, or the reason of self-harm is embarrassing. There are many reasons but, that’s exactly why you and your teen need support. We can do wonders in helping you and your child diagnose why they feel the way they do and how to approach life in other (more productive and practical) ways aside from self-harm.
What leads young teens to engage in self-harm and cutting behaviour?
Cutting appears to affect all genders of adolescents mostly, female, But what factors make teens more likely to do it? In addition to experiencing depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues, teens who cut themselves may be more prone to use drugs and/or alcohol.
Kids who engage in self-injury have difficulty tolerating emotional distress and are more likely to try to escape from those feelings. It might be that their pain demands attention, and when they’re really upset, cutting themselves focuses on their physical pain and reduces their psychological pain.
The sense of relief or release after cutting reinforces the behaviour, leading teens to cut themselves again and again. An adult who’s feeling upset may have a drink, go for a run, or engage in yoga to decrease their distress. When they feel better afterwards that behaviour becomes reinforced. We think the same is true with self-injury: if you feel really bad and cut yourself, the feeling goes away.
Key risk factors across childhood associated with self-injury:
What are key signs of cutting in teenagers?
Be alert for
- fresh cuts on a teen’s skin, or evidence that skin has been cut, burned, or had objects placed under it
- obsessive covering of body parts — whether arms or legs — they didn’t tend to cover prior.
Is there a connection between cutting and suicide?
While teens who engage in cutting don’t intend to end their lives that way, their willingness to hurt themselves might indicate a greater risk that they may attempt suicide. The statistics show that more than 50% of children and adolescents who die by suicide have previously self-harmed.
The more you intentionally hurt your body — which takes some amount of courage to do — the more likely you’ll target yourself in the future. We also think there’s a self-hatred component to this — you’ll hurt your body when in distress rather than do something productive like go for a run. There’s a sort of self-criticism that leads people to hurt themselves and ultimately try to kill themselves.
We at Alegna Solutions Psychology Practice want to do our part in helping you and your child, prevent self-harm. If self-harm has already started, booking an appointment with us is essential to address these symptoms as soon as possible. We will assist you to help your teen with these symptoms and work on the return of a happy, healthy, normal teenager.
Why Cutting/Self Harm happens
Understand why some teens engage in self-harm and how families can respond.
The notion that hurting yourself can make you feel better seems like a contradiction. But that’s exactly what drives skin cutting and similar forms of self-harm among adolescents.
If you’re a parent, you may have heard about cutting or be wondering about red flags. Here are the basics on what to know, and how you can respond if you’re concerned about this form of self-harm.
If you and your teenager need help, we will encourage them to talk to you about what they’re experiencing. Knowing that there’s and open ear willing to listen and be non-judgemental can be very reassuring for a teenager. It’s not realistic that we’re going to unroot all risky behaviours that teenagers engage in. But when death is a potential outcome, encourage friends and family not to honour that secrecy and come see us at Alegna Solutions Psychology Practice, to keep your child safe.