"Hurting myself makes me feel better"
Self harm amongst teens is common and dealing with it as a parent can be very hard, but there is help.
Your teenage years are the years that make the least sense to you, you go through troubled phases and you get involved with either the very best people or the worst of the worst.
During those years most; if not all the time, you feel you have the most awful problems in the world and the worst part of it all is that no one understands the way you feel and you simply can relate to no one around you.
You sometimes feel like running away is your only option, because maybe somewhere out there is a person that can make you forget about all that’s bothering you.
Don’t get me wrong, some teens really have issues to deal with, not everyone is lucky to be born into a functional family- some teens are head of their household. Teenagers are bullied daily; if it’s not for the way they look, then its different things like being pressured into sexting in the online world.
That can get stressful when you are a teenager and some teenagers aren’t as strong as others, not everyone can go and blow off some steam at the gym, some relieve their stress in the worst ways possible- self harm.
Some teenagers aren't always strong enough to cope with a lot of stress over a period of time and sometimes for some reason they end up blaming themselves for what they are going through and end up hurting themselves.
Self harm is also a way to forget about the situation at hand, just like some people who go out with friends to escape, that is their escape.
All teens have their own reason why they do it, your job as parent is to find that reason.
Growing up, I had two friends who harmed themselves. They were normal teenagers, they just had some insecurities and issues that they dealt with in a very mind boggling way.
One day I sat down with one of them to speak about why she did it, I was always the kind of friend that liked to get to the bottom of the situation, and I always wanted to know why.
We then spoke and she told me that it’s just the way that she goes about dealing with the troubles that she faces in life, she told me about the troubles and I then made her comfortable with rather talking to me about it instead of hurting herself. She stopped for quite a while and harmed herself much less. I understood then that that was her coping mechanism and all she needed was a different way to express how she felt.
Everyone however is different, it won’t necessarily be easy for the next person to just sit down and talk to a friend about their issues that bother them. That is why there is professional help.
The thing with people who do self harm is that you have to see their good qualities and focus on that. Encourage them daily that they are capable of becoming the successful person they dream of becoming. Tell them often that they are worth way more than what they think they are. Tell them that they mean the world to you and so many other people.
Usually people who self harm have very low self esteems. They mostly don’t like themselves. They feel emotionally neglected. It’s a very personal ordeal; they hate other people seeing that they harm themselves.
When will I know if my teen needs help?
Here are some signs that your child might be self harming themselves.
- Cuts and burns on their forearms, chest and thighs.
- Unexplained bruises on their head, arms and body.
- Scratch and pinch marks on the body.
- Over dosing with tablets. Not enough to be fatal, but just enough to feel numb.
- Keeping themselves fully clothed most of the time even during hot weather.
- Change in their moods; they become more withdrawn and tend to engage less in conversation.
- Eating habits that change dramatically, unexplainable weight loss or gain.
- Misusing of alcohol or drugs.
These acts could also be a cry for help, so when experiencing any of these, the best will be to address the situation and getting professional help.
There is a big community out there willing to help with issues of depression and self harm, here are three Facebook pages that provide help: Self harm and Depression, Self-Harm Support and Self Harm Help (S.H.H).
More sites with help include: Joy Mag, the South African Depression and Anxiety Group
Join the conversation. Follow Parent24 on Facebook and Twitter.
Have you ever dealt with a child struggling with self harm? What did you do to cope?