It is so easy to ignore at first when you see it. You may see fresh scars on their arm and think they scratched themselves accidentally. You may see healed scars and think it’s a birthmark. But if only you could see their heart. That is where the true cuts are still fresh and the scars still quite real.
Self-injury is the act of bringing intentional harm to your body without the intent of suicide. The term “Non Suicidal Self-Injury” (NSSI) was coined in an effort to distinguish Suicidal Self-injury. Some of the most common self-injury behaviors include cutting, burning, and scratching. The definition of NSSI is the deliberate harming of one’s body, resulting in tissue damage, without the intent of suicide, and is not culturally sanctioned by the society in which one lives. This may seem counter intuitive but self-injury is rarely about ending life. It is about experiencing it. It is about feeling something in a life that may tell them not to feel anything. It is about expression. It is about moving the pain in their heart to their arm. Suicide would be easy enough. But their cry is not about ending their life, it is about living it. It is not about avoiding the pain they feel in their heart…it is about releasing that pain.
According to the Mayo Clinic, while self-injury may bring a momentary sense of calm and a release of tension, it’s usually followed by guilt and shame and the return of painful emotions. Self-injury may be linked to a variety of mental disorders, such as depression, eating disorders and borderline personality disorder. The statistics are sobering: 14-24 percent of youth and young adults have self-injured at least once. And while self-injury is most often noticed among young women, the rates are almost the same for young men.
It is also a fallacy that cutting and self-injury is a teen issue, however, if you have seen injuries on your child or grandchild, here are some ideas on how to approach the topic.
We live in a world well designed to hide who we really are. We can hide our true identity behind online avatars and social media profiles. We can mask our pain through drugs and alcohol. But we know who we are. Our pain is real. We are designed by God for community and relationship. Help your child feel safe with who they are and expressing their pain.