By: Mariam Elbedeiwy
Have you ever seen someone with a lot of cutting marks on their wrists, or arms? Maybe you went to the beach with a friend and saw cutting marks on their thighs or abdomen? Did you wonder why they would do that? Were you confused? Did it seem abnormal? Cutting has become more prevalent in the United States. A source states that “In the U.S., it’s estimated that one in every 200 girls between 13 and 19 years old, or one-half of one percent, cut themselves regularly. Those who cut make up about 70 percent of teen girls who self-injure”.
It is very hard for friends and family to react to this act. What to say and what to do can become a very sensitive topic. What makes it even harder is that these teenagers have the tendency to keep everything pent up. A lot of websites help define and break down what to do and how to react. One website explains it as the following, “For most, cutting is an attempt to interrupt strong emotions and pressures that seem impossible to tolerate. It can be related to broader emotional issues that need attention. Most of the time, cutting is not a suicide attempt”. With that being said, it is best not to react with fear or anger, but with understanding. Here are some examples for parents and friends of how to deal with cutters:
- Let your teen know you’ll be there to listen when feelings are painful or troubles seem too hard to bear.
- Help your teen create a plan for what to do instead of cutting when pressures get strong.
- Encourage your teen to talk about everyday experiences and put feelings, needs, disappointments, successes, and opinions into words.
- Be there to listen, comfort, and help your teen think of solutions to problems and offer support when troubles arise.
- Spend time together doing something fun, relaxing, or just hanging out. You might take a walk, go for a drive, share a snack, or run some errands.
- Focus on positives. While it helps to talk about troubles, avoid dwelling on them. Make sure what’s good about life gets airtime, too.
At the end of the day it could be very harmful for an individual to cut, so professional help should be acquired. “Therapy can allow teens to tell their stories, put their difficult experiences into words, and learn skills to deal with stresses that are part of life. Therapy also can help identify any underlying mental health condition that needs evaluation and treatment. For many teens, cutting is a clue to depression or bipolar (mood) problems, unresolved grief, compulsive behaviors, or struggles with perfectionism”.