Self-harm behavior is a coping mechanism, commonly used by teens to release deep emotional pain and distress. The focus is transferred from emotional to physical pain, and harming oneself is often used to cope with feelings of rage, sadness, self-loathing, emptiness and guilt. Self-harm is an outward expression of inner pain and there is often a connection between self-harm and childhood trauma. It may also indicate other serious mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression or borderline personality disorder.
In our documentary ‘SKIDS’, Mackenzie says “When you’re having a bad day, you’d go to cutting to make you feel better. To distract yourself from your emotional pain, you’d give yourself some physical pain, and it made you feel better.”
Those who self-harm, describe a rush of adrenalin, followed by a deep sense of peace. Unfortunately, the painful feelings return, and so does the urge to hurt yourself. Luckily, there are other ways to feel better without engaging in these harmful behaviors.
Although cutting is the most common form of self-harm, some people punch things or throw themselves against walls or hard objects, hit or bang their heads, burn themselves, stick objects in their skin or intentionally prevent wounds from healing.
Most teens who self-harm, do so in private as there is often a stigma and shame involved with such behaviors. Unfortunately, the associated guilt and secrecy can affect relationships with family and friends and make you feel even more lonely, worthless and trapped. There is a misconception that self-harm is carried out in order to gain attention, but this is false, since self-injury is done in secret and can be a great burden to bare. This behavior stems from experiencing major life traumas or anxiety and depression, and the person should not be seen as “crazy”.
Teens who self-harm, are usually not usually trying to kill themselves – they are often just crying out for love. They often run the risk of causing serious injury to themselves and this behavior can become addictive in the long term, which often leads to more addictive behaviors to numb their emotions - such as turning to drugs, alcohol and ultimately suicide. It is therefore vital for loved ones to recognize the signs & to seek professional help as soon as possible.