The first cut is the deepest
Do you know a child who cuts themselves? Self injury is more common than you think.
"I hurt myself because I hurt" is the anonymous explanation on a self-injury (SI) help site. The poetic line, "The scars on her heart she carved on her skin" follows on another.
It seems that children who injure themselves do it to either take the pain away or because it makes them feel something different. Some say it helps to focus the hurt others say it just helps them to feel something other than numb. But while the first cut seems to provide an outlet for emotional pain, the next is the beginning of an overwhelming addiction that can't easily be stopped. Who cuts?
There is no age group. There is no predominant culture or race. And although some research suggests more girls than boys self-injure, it could affect anyone from your own child to the 16 year old
next door to the famous
– any one can self-injure. What do they do?
Self injurers don't just cut. They burn themselves, bite themselves and may pick at wounds or scars to keep them open or 'fresh'. Sometimes, SI addicts don't eat so they can hurt their bodies by starving it. Some cutters carve words into themselves like hate
.Why they do it?
SI can result from a variety of different emotions or circumstances. Some children feel unheard, unaccepted, and feel like Atlas; holding the world on their shoulders. Others feel they need a way to shut the world out. A number of circumstances including childhood abuse and growing up in a chaotic home life could lead to feelings of rejection, loneliness, rage and morose depression. These feelings could lead to cutting as a coping mechanism.
It's hard to understand the addiction since even the addicts don't understand it themselves. Commenting on a video
on YouTube which encourages children not to cut, a user, Yofiddy, says, "i started cutting when i was 11, i'm 16 now, still do it and probably won't stop, i hate it but its my release."How do I help cutters?
Be there to listen and to comfort – DO NOT judge or scream and threaten.
Offer to take them for counselling but don't force them to go.
Do not take away their SI tools or study them or remove their privacy. Cutting has become a coping mechanism and they will feel violated and even more alone once that has been taken away.
Be aware of what literature and films your child sees – some literature and images can be a trigger for cutters to injure themselves. Resources that may be helpful to look at include:
What do you think of cutting as a coping mechanism?
- Mom, I cut myself: Expert advice from Parenting expert Anne Cawood
- The book A Bright Red Scream can help parents and friends understand more about Self-injury (although it can be a trigger for those already cutting).
- This "advice to parents" video made by a cutter and endorsed by other cutters who have seen it may help to choose a plan of action.
- Find a downloadable fact sheet at firstsigns.org that has tips and advice for parents/guardians, friends, health workers and teachers on how to deal with SI sufferers.