When Your Child Is Hurting
One of the most difficult topics to discuss with a parent is their child’s self-harming behavior. Although not widely known, children and young adults present to medical professionals frequently for self-harming behaviors (Puskar, Bernardo, & Grabiak). These behaviors are characterized by a conscious decision to hurt or mutilate oneself, in the absence of suicidal intent.
Generally speaking, self-harm is a result of stressors such as: intimacy problems or peer conflicts, family problems, school problems, mental illness, internal conflict due to sexual orientation or an overall sense of feeling hopeless (Puskar, Bernardo, & Grabiak).
The most common form of self-harm is “cutting”. Cutting is an impulsive act that provides temporary relief to the individual. Some children indicate that they engage in cutting to feel something, even if it is pain. Others indicate it is a way of getting attention, or a way of alleviating symptoms of anger, depression, or anxiety (Puskar, Bernardo, & Grabiak).
Cutting is an addictive behavior and does require mental health intervention. It is important to remember to be empathetic to the individual. Our goal is to support the child and let them know they are important. We must look past the scars and uncover the pain they are struggling to communicate.
If someone you love is engaging in self-harming behavior, it is important to know you are not alone. Help is out there, take the necessary steps of contacting a mental health professional, and remember “look at the individual, not the harm. Look at the person beyond the scars. Scars are not important; the person who did them is important (Puskar, Bernardo, & Grabiak)”
Puskar, K. R., Bernardo, L., & Grabiak, B. R. (n.d.). Self-Cutting Behaviors in Adolescents. Journal of Emerhency Nursing.