The month of March is dedicated to bringing awareness to the condition that many suffer from every day; self-injury. Self-injury, or self-harm, is the result of unbearable emotional pain. Self-harm is not considered an attempt to end one’s life but can unintentionally cause it and makes someone 3.4 times more likely to attempt suicide in the future. Many are unaware that self-injury is more common in adolescents ages 10-19 with 17% having purposefully inflicted pain on themselves at least once. Studies also show that chronic mental illness disorders drastically increase the probability of self-harm in even younger children ages 5-10.
Educating yourself on the risk factors, causes and effects of self-injury could quite literally save someone’s life. As a parent, you need to talk with your child about the severity of self-harm and alternative coping strategies if they ever experience these types of thoughts or trauma. Ultimately, you want to have a relationship with your child that is founded on open and honest communication so that they feel safe coming to you when they feel like their world is falling apart. It is helpful to be informed on the types of support and recovery resources available if you ever find yourself in a situation when your child is considering or actively seeking out ways to harm themselves.
When it comes to self-injury, it is not dependent on demographics like age, gender, socio-economic status or race. However, certain factors in one’s life can put them at a higher risk. For example, individuals with a history of abuse whether that be physical, emotional or sexual, are at a greater risk for taking this trauma and turning it into a form of self-harm. If they struggle with expressing their emotions or lack a social support system, self-harm may feel like their only option.
Being a victim of bullying or a part of the LGBTQ+ community could also put your child at higher risk for inflicting pain on themself if they feel as if they do not fit in. As I mentioned earlier, mental health disorders like OCD, eating disorders, anxiety and depression can also make someone more likely to hurt themselves when they do not feel worthy. Understanding common risk factors can help you take preventative measures if you or a loved one fall under one of these categories.
Some of the most common forms of self-harm include cutting, burning, branding, bone-breaking, scab picking, head-banging, bruising, beating, hair-pulling and the consumption of dangerous substances. When one is actively self-injuring, they are likely going to try to hide it due to the obvious scaring and physical signs. They will become conscious of any evidence of self-harm by wearing clothing that covers these injuries. This is why it is so important to consistently talk with your child about their mental state, especially if they are at a higher risk for developing self-harming thoughts. Position yourself as a non-judgmental support system that will do everything in your power to help them heal. Telling your parents you have experienced trauma that they were otherwise unaware of or admitting that you have begun to self-harm is a very scary thing. The best thing you can do is create a safe space for them to come to you whenever they need this type of support.
Catching early signs that your child may be contemplating or actively self-harming can be crucial in getting involved and finding them help. Cyber Dive understands how accessible the internet is for children and how often they turn to it for answers. By monitoring your child’s social media accounts you will be able to see what kind of searches they are making on Google, YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat. This way, you will know if your child is searching for ways to self-harm and deal with their emotional trauma. Our “Alerts” feature has been engineered to identify self-harm and suicidal language so that you are notified if they are talking about it in their private messages. Ultimately, our platform wants to give you all of the necessary information so that you can have conversations about these things with your child when it becomes an issue.
Processing and coping with our emotional trauma is a necessary part of life. For obvious reasons, self-harm is never the answer. When recovering from self-injury, you ultimately want your child to avoid any contemplation of suicide. As a parent, this worry of possibly losing your child will be all consuming. Remember to seek support for yourself as you help your child through their healing journey.
There are many self-injury recovery resources available that can be tailored to one’s experiences and pain points. If a mental health disorder is involved, medical professionals can address the disorder and self-harming behavior with medication and treatment. Psychotherapy can also be an effective treatment plan to learn healthier coping skills and emotion management. If mental health disorders are not involved, there are also specific medications that can counteract self-injury behavior.
Outside of professional help, there are some at-home remedies you can do with your child to help with their recovery. This can include re-evaluating their daily routine or implementing a self-care practice. Now more than ever you need to prioritize their mental health in any way possible. Being there for your child during their self-healing and recovery journey will provide them with the unconditional love and support that they so desperately need. It will be a long road, but you can only hope that your child will come out stronger for it and your relationship will be closer than ever before.
If you or someone you know is self-injuring and in need of immediate medical assistance call 911. If self-injuring is leading to suicidal thoughts call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). For 24/7 crisis counseling and support text HOME to 741741.