Finding out that someone you love is cutting themselves is very painful, shocking, information to hear. Being armed with information and a game plan can make all the difference in getting your loved one help.
What is cutting? Cutting is when someone purposefully injures themselves, but is not trying to committing suicide. Essentially, cutting is a way to deal with pain. Teens and young adults report they cut in order to cope with or relieve emotional pain, or to “feel something” when all they feel is numb. Marks or cuts are typically kept well hidden so that they can continue this way of coping with their emotions.
64% of those teens are girls. Ross and Heath, 2002
If suspect your teen is cutting here are some warning signs:
- Cut, scratch, or burn marks on arms, legs, abdomen, etc. They can be anywhere on the body, but are usually in places that can be well hidden.
- Finding sharp objects (knives, razors, safety pins/needles, tacks, broken glass) in your child’s room or belongings.
- Your child’s friends are cutting themselves is a reason to be concerned.
- Your teen wears long pants or shirts consistently, even on warm days, as this conceals the evidence.
- Often insists that she be left alone and private when upset or depressed.
Here is what you can do to help your teen:
- Take your child to the hospital if injury is bleeding significantly or requires stitches. Otherwise a call or trip to their pediatrician is a good idea.
- Connect with a mental health professional who is qualified and specifically trained in treating self-injury. Be sure to ask. If they are not experienced with this, they should have no problem referring you to someone who is.
- Listen. Listen. And listen some more. As hard as it is, hear what your child has to say.
- Let your child know you love them, and that you are there for them.
- Participate in your child’s treatment. Often support from family and family counseling are necessary for a successful recovery.