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03-21 Self-injury Awareness Month: Survey finds high prevalence of self-harm among teens and young adults, shares tips to help people cope

Self-injury Awareness Month: Survey finds high prevalence of self-harm among teens and young adults, shares tips to help people cope

A recent survey commissioned by three United Kingdom-based charities – SelfharmUK, YoungMinds and The Mix – investigated the prevalence of self-inflicted injury among 1,009 British teens and young adults aged 16 to 25. The results, released on March 1, 2018, suggested that 36 percent respondents had intentionally harmed themselves at some point in their lifetime. Moreover, nearly 75 percent respondents either currently knew, or had previously known, someone who had self-harmed, while 13 percent knew someone who was harming themselves at that point of time.

The survey also asked the respondents to identify individuals whose help could be taken by young people who were self-harming. The most common response was friends (68 percent), followed by counselors (66 percent), doctors (61 percent), parents (53 percent) and teachers (43 percent). Merely 9 percent respondents were “very confident” about knowing how to react if somebody informed them about their self-harming behavior. Others reported being fairly confident (41 percent), not very confident (36 percent) and not at all confident (7 percent).

Non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) is a form of coping with negative emotions like anger, depression and mixed emotional states. Quite often, youngsters with self-harming behaviors are judged by others and regarded as attention-seekers. To help in ending the stigma associated with self-injury, March is observed as Self-injury Awareness Month in the United States. This period also offers the chance to encourage people to discuss the problem openly and make them aware about healthier ways of coping with their emotional distress.

Important role of peer support in recovery

Chris Martin, CEO of The Mix, expressed shock at the high prevalence of self-injury among the younger population. “What is clear from this survey is that peer support can potentially play a huge role in helping young people recover,” he said. Martin further mentioned that more needed to be done to increase awareness among youngsters about the various options for help available to them when they inflicted self-injury. It was also important to let them know about the role played by peer groups in aiding recovery.

Chris Curtis, CEO of Youthscape, a UK-based youth work organization, was also shocked at the survey’s findings, but hoped that they would “act as a wake-up call” to highlight the gravity of the situation. According to him, the results indicated that teens who were not self-harming were well-placed to help their peers who were self-harming. It was important to increase awareness about the issue, reduce associated prejudices and prepare youngsters to support their affected friends.

Tips for helping self-harming children/friends

Parents with self-harming children can face a hard time dealing with their offspring’s behavior. However, it is vital for parents to talk to the youngsters and try to ascertain the underlying negative emotions. Recovery from emotional distress is a time-consuming process, and individuals who inflict self-injury to manage these emotions need sufficient time and support to adapt to new coping mechanisms. Parents must listen attentively without being judgmental, and without trying to enforce corrective action after every discussion.

Children should not be made to adhere to demands or stipulations – doing so will further alienate them. Friends can help their self-harming peers by being good listeners and not judging them. They can encourage their affected friends and direct them toward the nearest mental health support services. More importantly, friends should not panic after becoming aware that their peers are inflicting self-injury. They should support their friends throughout the duration of their recovery.

Treatment for teen self-injury

Estimates vary regarding the prevalence of self-injury among American youth. Previous research suggested alarmingly high NSSI rates of 13-23 percent among community adolescents. Youngsters who intentionally harmed themselves had a 30-time higher likelihood of completing suicide compared to those not self-harming themselves. Effective treatments for self-injury are available to help people regain control of their emotions. Based on the diagnosis, different types of psychotherapy may be recommended, including psychodynamic therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT).

Sovereign Health of Rancho San Diego understands the plight of teens with self-harming behaviors. If your teen is showing signs of injury, call our 24/7 helpline or chat online to know more about our teen self-injury treatment. Our experts will help you know more about our evidence-based treatments for self-injury disorder.

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