Self-mutilation, not just in the movies

Story by Danielle Worthalter, Staff Writer

Self-harm is defined as hurting oneself to relieve emotional pain or distress without aiming for suicide. Most often, self-harm is a way to compensate for the emotional destruction on the inside by destroying pieces of oneself on the outside.

Self-injury presents itself in many different ways from burning oneself to ingesting toxic substances. It is a way that individuals mutilate or harm themselves in order to feel better about an issue currently affecting their life. It is formally recognized as NSSI, or Non-Suicidal Self-Injury, meaning that someone chooses to self-mutilate themselves as a coping mechanism, rather than an attempt at suicide.

According to Cornell University, although self-harm is not more prevalent in one gender, the act of self-mutilation is different between genders. Females tend to cut themselves where males tend to punch and burn themselves. People of all ages use self-harm and more adolescents self-mutilate every day. The Delta Medical Center states that 15% of adolescents reportedly have dealt with self-harm and the issue is most often seen in middle and high school students.

As self-harm is on the rise, the issue becomes more prevalent in differing societies. Ms. Gelb and Ms. Clarke, guidance counselors at Boca High, stated that most of the issues that come to the attention of staff members are related to self-mutilation, but there are still very few cases reported among Boca High’s students. However, if one were to look close enough they’d be able to see a large group of people struggling.

Self-harm is not a disorder or mental illness, but rather a way to cope with one’s issues. Non-Suicidal Self-Injury is a serious issue that points to emotional distress in addition to other serious disorders. Self-mutilation often co-occurs with depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and eating disorders. Self-injury often leads to further self-mutilation and feelings of depression, which creates a cycle that is hard to get oneself out of. Many individuals feel that by inducing physical pain on oneself, they are able to be momentarily distracted from their emotions. Others self-mutilate out of anger, and to be able to re-grasp control in an instance where all control seems to be lost. Ms. Clarke expressed that students may mutilate out of anxiety, inner struggles, and not feeling part of the in-crowd. Self-harm is a complicated issue with no defining cause that people manipulate in many different ways unique to themselves. Other professionals like Robin Perry, a local substance abuse and mental health therapist, explains that self-mutilation may arise from unresolved issues of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse and feelings of guilt or shame.

High school is a difficult place for everyone, and those struggling most result often find self-mutilation as a solace. Those who are struggling, should find consolation in friends, family, and guidance counselors who are there to help them. Self-mutilation should not be looked past; it is important to find help where it is needed. The National Institute for Mental Health has created Safe Place, an online site where struggling individuals can text and interact with real life professionals. There is always somewhere else to go, that isn’t the blade.

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