Sometimes a young person’s distress can be so painful they turn on themselves.
Cutting the skin, burning one’s body with cigarettes or eating dangerous objects can become a destructive coping mechanism to manage painful emotions, an information session at Xavier High School heard on Tuesday.
Self-harm was the topic of a lunch-time program delivered by Albury’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) team.
Parents, staff and students learnt about the psychology of self-harm, risk factors and tools for managing destructive behaviours and how to seek help.
Xavier’s wellbeing practioner Dr Anthony Perrone said the lunchbox sessions were part of the Parents & Kids Together Program designed to connect families and adolescents on issues of importance in a “safe space”.
Dr Perrone said it was vital to bring services like CAMHS to the “coal-face” to meet and talk with the school community about the “sometimes complicated and complex lives of adolescents”.
“It’s about bringing the community into the classroom and creating a social connectedness,” he said.
“It’s also about what i call preventative maintenance – doing things before a crisis happens.”
The session heard that six per cent of adolescents injure themselves each year but self-harm differs to suicide in that the intention is completely different.
“Overwhelmingly self-injury is about self-punishment and managing painful emotions,” said Katy McCarron from CAMHS.
“It is a maladaptive coping style to manage huge distress.”
There are many social, family, biological, situational and psychological factors that can increase the risk of self-harm – physical and sexual abuse, bullying, divorce, peer pressure, isolation and low self-esteem can all be triggers.
The key message from CAMHS to anyone concerned a young person might be self-harming was not to ignore it but to avoid expressing shock or disgust.
“The conversation should not focus on stopping the self-injury but in finding better ways for the person to cope with their distress and talk about the causes,” Ms McCarron said.
“The underlying mental health problem needs to be addressed by a professional.”
- Need help? Call Accessline 1800 800 944, Lifeline 13 11 14, headspace (02) 6055 9555 or eheadspace.
Source – Border Mail