Shedding Light on Cutting and Self-Harm

I have had the opportunity to meet and work with some amazing young people. Youth and adolescents are probably one of, if not my favourite population to work with. While this population has an awesome energy and spirit, it also means having some tough conversations and dealing with some big issues. One issue that has become an epidemic is self –harm or self in-injury. While anyone can self-harm, it is most common during adolescence when healthy coping strategies may not have developed yet. Self-harm refers to anyone who intentionally hurts him or herself without trying to end their life. Self-harm may appear as cutting, burning, hitting, scratching or any other type of behavior that actively hurts the body. For parents who have a child who self-harms this can be one of the scariest and most confusing behaviors to try to understand. Many people think that someone who self-harms is suicidal. While they may have suicidal thoughts, self-harm is not a suicide attempt but rather an attempt to cope with overwhelming thoughts or emotions. An individual may self- harm for a number of reasons, including:

-to cope with anxious or depressed feelings

-to cope with trauma and/or violence

-to cope with grief and loss

-to turn emotional pain into physical pain

-to feel something; some individuals may feel emotionally numb and turn to self-harm to feel

-to cope with the end of a relationship

-to feel an adrenaline rush

If someone is self-harming, it does not mean that they have a mental health issue (though that is something to be considered), but it does mean they need some extra support and care. Many people who self-harm are very secretive about their behavior. They often try to hide it and my try and cover any marks or scars they have by always wearing long sleeves or using makeup. If you are worried someone in your life is self-harming, it is okay to ask about it. Many people feel a lot of relief to be able to talk about self-harm because they are no longer carrying the burden alone. Counselling can be a fantastic support for anyone who is self-harming. Counselling can help process and work through troubling thoughts and feelings and can help the individual to learn healthier coping strategies. If you would like some more information on self-harm, click here. If you or someone in your life is self-harming, please ask for help from a parent, friend, counsellor, teacher or other trusted adult. No one should have to struggle along through this. The kids help phone can also be a great support and first step to asking for help 1-800-668-6868.



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