Perhaps one of the most daunting realities in the realm of adolescent mental illness and life-controlling issues is struggles with self-harm. Not only is it tragic to even contemplate a child intentionally injuring themself, but it can feel wholly debilitating when we realize that it is something intervention on its own may not solve.
According to the article Nonsuicidal Self-Injury: What We Know, and What We Need to Know, “NSSI [nonsuicidal self-injury] is most common among adolescents and young adults. Lifetime rates in these populations are about 15% to 20%, and onset typically occurs around age 13 or 14. In contrast, about six percent of adults report a history of NSSI.” One of the most important factors regarding NSSI is that struggles with self-harm are rarely isolated incidents.
Self-harm can be viewed in a few different ways, and it should be noted that each of these views must be acknowledged in context to the individual. Perhaps the most common view of self-harm is addressing it as “a cry for help.” This is especially true for adolescent self-harm. In these cases, self-harm is being utilized as a last resort for communication. When individuals cannot communicate their struggles verbally, their underlying issues may influence these types of damaging behaviors.
Getting to the Underlying Issues of Self-Harm
Self-harm is often a surface-level result of underlying emotional issues. When these emotional issues are not addressed, it can cause individuals to act out in otherwise unhealthy and dangerous ways.
Now, oftentimes struggles with self-harm are associated with issues of trauma. When trauma is not addressed in a timely fashion. it can manifest over time as mental illness. For example, unaddressed trauma can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depressive disorders, and personality disorders, to name a few.
Also, it is important to remember that mental illness and life-controlling issues are chronic diseases. It may help to think of them like other biological diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, or cancer for example. Without professional intervention, these issues are not going to resolve on their own. Issues of mental health often act the same way.
Addressing Your Daughter’s Struggles With Self-Harm
When it comes to addressing struggles with self-harm, it can be very useful to know what to look out for. The following are just a few of the warning signs to look out for if you suspect that your daughter may be engaging in self-harm:
- Having bruises, cuts, and/or burns on their body that cannot otherwise be explained
- Not wanting to show their body in front of others; for example, not wanting to change clothes after in a locker room
- Other, lesser suspected signs of self-harm such as hair-pulling and nail peeling
- Fully covering up their bodies, even when the weather is hot
- Showing changes in sleep patterns, such as insomnia or sleeping too much
- Changes in eating behaviors, such as purposely skipping meals or under-eating
- Expressing suicidal ideation
It is important to note that addressing self-harm can vary from person to person, especially if an individual is already struggling with a mental health disorder. For example, individuals who do not understand that their mental health issues are related to self-harming behaviors may initially minimize them. On the other hand, those with a diagnosed mental illness may be aware of their potential for relapse and, in turn, be better equipped to communicate their concerns.
Struggles With Self-Harm: Avoiding Relapse
Perhaps the best way to help your daughter avoid a relapse of self-harm is to keep an open line of communication and stay vigilant regarding their behaviors. It is also important to maintain an ongoing connection to a recovery plan.
For example, some individuals who struggle with self-harm may engage in therapy to continue their healing. This may involve participation in individual and/or group therapy. The issue is that, after a while, there is a tendency to feel like therapy is no longer necessary. This often happens once the individual begins to experience improvements in their emotional and mental well-being. However, this is a contradiction, as they likely feel better as a result of therapy. This is when a parent or caretaker can step in, point out the paradox, and keep their daughter on the right track.
Now, if a self-harm relapse happens, it is important to reach back out for professional help right away. Just because you have experienced dealing with self-harm before does not make it any less dangerous the second time around. Self-harm is never a “wait and see” symptom of mental illness.
The Recovery Mission at Clearview Girls Academy
Here at Clearview Girls Academy, we understand the serious nature of self-harm. For this reason, we are very careful about the number of students struggling with self-harm that we can admit to our center each semester.
Now, this does not mean we cannot provide support in other ways. If we cannot help at our recovery center, then we will do our best to direct you to where your daughter can get the help that best fits her needs. Our primary purpose is recovery, and our maxim is informing recovery by any means necessary.
Discovering that a child is engaging in self-harm can be highly alarming. This is especially true for their parents. However, for parents, it is important to get past that alarm and get proactive, because getting professional help ASAP is critical. Getting to the underlying issues that lead to the behaviors of self-harm is just the beginning of the journey. Starting to address those issues is where the real recovery can begin. If your daughter is engaging in self-harm or you feel she may be susceptible to committing self-harm, please do not wait to get help. For more information on self-harm and how to best address it, please reach out to Clearview Girls Academy today at (888) 796-5484.