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Teen self-harm on the rise

Self harm on the rise among teens
Published: May. 9, 2022 at 9:48 PM CDT
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ODESSA, Texas (KOSA) - Self-harm among teenagers has risen for almost two decades.

That is because the modern teen has a lot on their plate both in and out of the classroom.

“Our students are, I would say, struggling a lot more mentally and emotionally,” said Nicole Ramon, Midland ISD Director of Guidance and Counseling.

The modern student is living in a world vastly different than previous generations.

“I think the experiences our kids are having to go through are things we as adults have never experienced,” she said.

It’s apparent to experts like Nicole Ramon, who heads Midland ISD’s guidance and counseling office.

“In the past, I think health was something we didn’t necessarily target,” Ramon said. “We kind of swept it under the rug.”

One might call it a “stigma”, but that stigma is crumbling.

It’s allowing Ramon and MISD to notice a pattern.

“The trends we are seeing are self-harm at the beginning of the school year and the end of the school year,” Ramon said. “That’s when our numbers tend to rise.”

The CDC says up to 30% of teenage girls and 10% of teenage boys admit to having engaged in self-harm, representing a significant increase over the past decade.

In fact, the medical journal, JAMA, reports self-harm has more than doubled in girls ages 10 to 14 between 2001 and 2015.

Now, MISD partners with outside providers like Centers for Children and Families to help teens get counseling, talk to an adult, or find a healthier outlet for stress and anxiety.

“You know, that could be something as simple as journaling,” Ramon said.

In the case of Camden Hoeffner, it’s crocheting.

“I crochet, and I teach my clients how to crochet as a coping skill,” said Hoeffner, a Licensed Counselor with Affinity Counseling. “It’s very repetitive, and repetitive anticipatory actions can help regulate your nervous system.”

Hoeffner is on the front lines of the teen self-harm trend in her job.

“They’re in some sort of emotional pain that they don’t know how to deal with,” Hoeffner said. “Or some sort of overwhelming feeling that they don’t have an outlet for. Think of it as a cat backed into a corner.”

It can also overwhelm parents.

“It is something to address, “ Hoeffner said, “It is not something to completely lose your mind about.”

Hoeffner says the natural reaction from parents is to jump to a worst-case scenario.

“Most parents associate it with suicide,” Hoeffner said. “They want to die. And that just doesn’t bear out.”

That’s not just one counselor’s opinion.

“They’re trying to shift their pain onto,” Karishma Sarfani, a therapist with ‘Centers’, said. " Something they can control. Not necessarily end their life.”

Parents often feel helpless. But the most straightforward solution might be – being there.

“In a world where we have cell phones and TVs and constant distraction,” Hoeffner said. “99% of the time, my teenagers just want undivided adult attention.”

One central question about teen self-harm is, “What signals should I be looking out for?”

The three people interviewed for this story all had the same answers.

Watch out for signs like long sleeves in hot weather, a sudden disassociation from friends, or spending more time than usual alone in their room.

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