Understanding and Responding to Students who Self-Mutilate Summary
Self-Mutilation is that causing of intentional physical harm to oneself. The most common way of harming one’s self is cutting. Students that self-harm are misunderstood a common myth about people who self-harm is that they are trying to kill themselves but it is actually the opposite. They are trying to control their pain and emotions. Self-harming is a release from the pain for these students. Faculty and staff should be educated on how to help these students. RSM students need to know that they have people that will help and support them during this time. RSM can be a contagious behavior other students may also start harming themselves if they see others students doing so. Faculty and staff member should keep in mind when educating students on self-mutilation stay away from talking about how people self-harm and why because it can give them ideas.
Self- mutilation is a topic that is difficult for people to deal with and is also a topic that many people do not have enough education about to understand why people engage in these behaviors. Self- mutilation is the causing of intentional physical harm to oneself. People who do self-harm usually do so stealthily. They tend to harm themselves on areas that are easily hidden on their body like on their inner thighs, forearms and torso. The most common form of self-harm is cutting. Others forms of self-harm include burning oneself, scratching, head banging and pinching. One type of self-mutilation is called Repetitive Self- Mutilation Syndrome it is an impulsive behavior equivalent to eating disorders and substance abuse.
Repetitive Self- Mutilation syndrome can being to arise in late childhood or early adolescents which is why it is important that people who work in middle and high schools need to understand how they can help students who self-harm and are educated on the signs that a student is harming themselves. RSM can last for up to 15 to 20 years it also is more prominent in females then in males. Students who self-harm are not doing it because they are suicidal but because it is cathartic for them. Cutting themselves helps release their pain. According to Richard Lieberman as the adolescent cuts or burns herself, the brain secretes endorphins that are natural antidepressants (March 2004). Even though suicide is not their end goal does not mean that it is not a concern. These students are crying out for help. Self-harm can lead to future problems if the student does not receive support. Another aspect of RSM is that it the student does not cut themselves all the time but erratically and usually after stressful and emotional times. During adolescents emotions are at an all-time high. Students that tend to self-harm have a challenging time regulating their emotions and use self-injury as a coping mechanism.
Once a student is identified as a self-mutilator by a staff member the student’s parents should be notified about this behavior. The student should be referred to a clinical mental health professional to help treat them. Treatment for RSM includes CBT along with medication. The school psychologist should work along with the student’s parents and psychologist to create a plan to help support the child. They need to work as a team to create different ways to control and cope with their emotions. Interventions need to be set in place to help students that do self-mutilate get the help that they need and to prevent others from copying. When RSM is identified it is best to stray away from videos on the topic and when educating student to not mention the ways people self-harm and why because it can give students ideas. RSM can be contagious in adolescents who are trying to fit in and find themselves. School should be a safe place for students that self-harm. They need to know that there are people to help that they can turn to in the school. Students should never be demanded to stop because it is something that they cannot control. Staff members should respond to students with support these students already know that their behavior is shameful.
It is important for schools to be educated on RSM and be able to help students get professional help. These students have problems that need to be addressed. Many adolescents suffer from RSM and need to know that they have people they can turn to for help.
Liebrman, R. (2004, March). Understanding and Responding to Students Who Self-Mutilate. Leadership Principal , 10-13.