Self-Harm: 5 Things Parents and Teachers Need To Know

What is Self-Harm?
Non-suicidal self injury, is self-inflected, deliberate harm done to the physical body with no specific intent to complete suicide. The injury is typically not socially acceptable and is not religious in nature. Meaning not piercing or tattoos. It can be seen as skin “picking”, scratching or cutting and in some instances ingesting substances.

What are the signs?
Many children will begin wearing long sleeves or pants to cover scars. Withdrawal from normal activities those which typically require injured areas to be seen, such as gym or sports can also be seen. In general, self-injurious behaviors will accompany an increase in depression or anxiety symptoms.

How is this treated?
While there are no specific evidence based treatments for self-injury, treatment for the depression or anxiety that accompanies the behavior combined with training on more appropriate coping skills can be very helpful.

What can I do?
First, don’t overreact. While it can be incredibly unnerving to see your child or student injured, in most instances the physical wounds will heal with time. The emotional needs can begin to be met by offering support, first with notifying parents or if it’s your child, your primary care doctor. Be prepared to hear somethings that may be hard for you and be open to listening. Chronic injurious behaviors do often require therapeutic interventions, that may include some changes on your end, but there is absolutely hope that the behaviors can be stopped.

Can this be prevented?
Since there’s no clear cause of these behaviors in most children, there aren’t definitive prevention strategies. However, teaching emotional awareness and regulation skills as well as encouraging the use of healthy self-care and stress reduction strategies can be effective in preventing overwhelming emotions that are often linked with these behaviors.

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