What is Deliberate Self Harm?
Teenage self harming – is a deliberate, non-life threatening injury inflicted by a young person (generally during teen years – though it can occur before or after this time) on their own body. It is not usually an indication of the intention to end their own lives.
There are a number of different ways young people self-harm from cutting the skin of arms or legs and/or deliberate overdoses of both prescription and over-the-counter medications not designed to be fatal. Other behaviours such as burning or picking the skin or pulling out hair can also be termed ‘self-injury’.
Self-harm is different from suicidal behaviour however some teens who self-harm can also become suicidal.
Why do people do it?
When young people self-harm they are trying to deal with overwhelming and intense emotions. The act of self-harm can become quite compulsive and can leave the person feeling sense of guilt, depression, shame and self-hatred.
Some people feel that self-harm is “attention seeking” – this is not accurate and it is often a way for the young person to let others know that they are not coping.
How many young people engage in self-harming behaviours?
Research suggests that 5-6% of the general population of young people deliberately self-injure each year in Australia.
Warning signs that your child might be self-harming
- Unexplained wounds or scars from cuts, bruises, or burns, usually on the wrists, arms, thighs, or chest
- Blood stains on clothing, towels, or bedding; blood-soaked tissues
- Sharp objects or cutting instruments, such as razors, knives, needles, glass shards, or bottle caps, in the person’s belongings
- Covering up – insisting on wearing long sleeves or long pants, even in hot weather
Parents and family member’s common reactions to self-harm
- Worry and concern
What can parents do?
- Get help to deal with your own feelings
- Learn about the problem – there are many reliable resources online
- Try not to judge as it may make things worse
- Offer support if you can and try to avoid ultimatums as they are unhelpful
- Encourage your child to communicate with you about how they are feeling
- DON’T IGNORE the behaviour
- Seek professional help
In the first instance you can speak with your Doctor who will be able to refer you to a professional who works with young people who self-harm. You may also need professional help in coping with how you are feeling about what is happening.
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Until next time …