Times have changed in schools, and with that, so have topics that school counselors need to be comfortable talking about. More students are showing signs and symptoms related to self-injury. This means that professionals within schools have to know the facts behind them and how to reach out to students if they suspect self-injury or if it is reported.
What is Self-Injury?
Self-injury is when an individual purposely harms their own body without suicidal intentions. The person may bang their head, scratch until they are raw, cut their skin to bleed/feel pain, or pull their hair out. Studies shared by SAFE Alternatives (SAFE = Self Injury Finally Ends) indicate that one in five high school and college students participate in self-injury.
Self-injury is a growing problem in schools and will be seen in a variety of students. Individuals from lower and higher income families are affected. Therapists believe that individuals begin the self-injury path as a way to cope with stress from their everyday life. Like addictive substances, the ability to quickly numb yourself from emotional pain with self-injury may be what attracts teens and young adults to this.
It may be difficult to recognize self-injury in students, but the signs are typically there. Does the student have frequent cuts, burns, or other injuries that they are unable to explain? To hide bruises and cuts, many who self-injure will wear long sleeves and pants even when it is summer time and hot. Additionally, many students will have low self-esteem, like to be alone, and have a hard time expressing emotions. The Kahn Institute for Self-Injury has a questionnaire to look at if you suspect non-suicidal self-injury.
Resources for School Counselors
Awareness of this growing issue is needed within schools. Counselors must be trained in how to talk with students, teachers, and families should they suspect or know there self-injury occurring. SAFE Alternatives has a section on their website with information for schools. They provide additional information about self-injury and intervention tips to utilize. One of the first steps you take for a child that is self-injuring is to validate their emotions. In addition to this, SAFE Alternatives has manuals that school districts can purchase for their therapists along with other resources.
Schools and counselors must make sure they are aware of these topics because they are not going to go away any time soon. Plans must be made on how to notify someone within a building if they suspect a student is self-injuring and how to appropriately assist the student. In addition to this, this topic should be presented to students in health classes and explain how they can reach out to adults if they suspect something is happening to a friend.