Self-harm: Why parents should be concerned?

A consultant psychiatrist from Fortis Hospital, Mulund, Dr Parul Tank, shares how parents can identify the signs of self-harm in children. What and how they can do to help their children in these situations

Image Source: Google
Image Source: Google

Self-harm is a cautious behaviour that is non-suicidal in nature however it causes physical harm to one’s body helping relieving emotional distress. Currently, it is the major public health problem, especially amongst children and adolescents.

With suicide being the second most common cause of death, for the age groups up to 25 years worldwide, it is one of the risk factors for subsequent suicide.

Every year, September 10 is observed as World Suicide Prevention Day, the theme for this year is – Working Together to Prevent Suicide. The suicide cases are rising in recent years, along with the number of self-harm cases.

There is a need to minimise these issues and ensure prevention of suicidal thoughts, and to reduce self-harm incidents to ensure better mental health.

Self-harm can b1e in any nature from cutting, burning, bruising, picking, puncturing, embedding, scratching or hitting oneself, among others. Most individuals, who self-injure themselves, have difficulties with emotional expression.

Others, who self-harm themselves, must be struggling, as they may have anxiety, depression, and experience of physical or sexual abuse or other psychological concerns. Therefore, as parents, it is vital to spot it in the early stages to do everything you can to help avoid it.

It is observed that teenage girls and women tend to self-harm themselves more than boys and men. However, it might be represented as a fact, that women seek professional help more than men.

In addition to taking your child to see a mental health expert, there are other ways which through you can help your child reduce the urge to self-harm. Here are some ways through which parents can help their child to eliminate self-harm thoughts from their mind:

Watch out for the signs of depression:

One could not spot emotional signs easily, and it certainly does not mean that the person is harming self. If you observe any of these signs, then there may be a case to worry.

Depression, tearfulness and low enthusiasm

  • Becoming withdrawn and appropriated, for instance, wanting to be alone by locking yourself in the bedroom for long hours.
  • Irregular eating habits, sudden weight gain or loss.
  • Low self-esteem and self-blaming.
  • Drinking or consuming drugs.
  • Family issues can also impact mental health.

Show you understand: No matter what relationship you have with your child, discovering their self-harming will inevitably have a huge emotional effect on you. However, during such situations, it is important to keep yourself calm and make them feel that you’re there with them to help and support.

You must avoid jumping to immediate conclusions or figure out instant solutions, also never show them or give an expression that their self-harming has created a big problem for you.

You must create positivity by saying things such as “I am concerned about you, and I want to try and help you” instead of giving a reaction by saying “Why did you do this to yourself?” this can make things worse.

Discover the triggers: Get to the bottom of what is making your child to self-harm, and find how these triggers could be avoided. If it makes you think that these might be in connection to spending time on the internet, have a look at online safety.

Make your child understand that self-harm can only offer temporary relief. Explain to them that you will help them solving the problems, and hurting themselves is not the only way.

Help them find new ways to cope: Help your child to find new solutions, rather than just making them understand to avoid self-harm. Following are the things you can suggest that can help them partly:

  • Take an ice cube in your hand until it melts.
  • Jot down your negative feelings then tear the paper up.
  • Listen to music.
  • Talk to friends or family.
  • Take a bath or shower.
  • Exercise or walk.
  • Watch your favourite movie or series.
  • Also, take your child to an experienced psychiatrist for better treatment and therapy.