Rochita Mukherjee

( Faculty)


Self-harming is a growing trend among adolescents— which gives rise to many queries among parents.Self-injurious acts may be slashing wrist with sharp objects like a paper clip, pen or other sharp objects on the skin, face, neck, but most cuts are made on arms, wrist and legs. Teens often hurt themselves as they may have heard from others that it gives a good feeling, seen their friends doing it or has seen such act on television. One study of Canadian youth found that almost 2 out of every 10 youth aged 14-21 had hurt themselves at one time or another.

Self-injury behaviours usually start between 13 and 15 years of age, and are most common in teenagers and young adults. So, the question arises is why do teens hurt themselves? The most common reason is…

•   Releasing of emotions, communicating pain to others.

•   Getting relief from painful and distressing events.

•  Dealing with feeling of numbness.

The pain releases endorphins that help in the catharsis of pent up emotions. It is seen that teens exercising such acts are loners, lack of open communication within family, seeking attention from parents or sometimes among friends. Cutting on the arms and wrist are most common as it is easier to make excuses for marks on these parts of the body, like ‘I had an accident in the kitchen’, ‘I fell down on the dire road’, to hide their injury, they often wear clothing like long shirt and trousers.Hence what are the roles of parents in handling such kind of behaviours among teens? Parents are shaken at such self-mutilating behaviour of their child and consequently give reactive expressions while approaching them.

Parenting tips in dealing with the child

•             Communication, must be open and one to one so that the child feels free to disclose his/her feelings.

•           Don’t be judgemental. Bowman says parents should use ‘what’ and ‘how’ questions like “ What makes you want to hurt yourself”.

•             Proactive way of  dealing with child.

•             Do not insult them for their feelings.

•             Seek help from a counsellor to identify how to deal with such behaviours or how to talk about it.


Tips for Teens

•             Never feel you are alone, feel you are the best and are loved and cared by everyone.

•             Call a friend.

•             Writing in a diary.

•             Don’t stay alone.

•             Listen to music.

•             Talk with friends and family members and ask for support.


In self-harming behaviour, parents need to be vigilant about the change in communication pattern, withdrawal tendencies, eating and sleeping patterns in their kids, which may give rise to many questions like low self-esteem, abuse and also may be associated with a variety of Psychiatric disorders like depression, anxiety, eating disorder etc. It is important to remember that those children who self-harm should be helped not reprimanded, and individuals with mental health problems who self-harm, should be taken to a therapist or doctor for early intervention.


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