Samaritan’s Connected Community Wellness Screen program provides emotional wellness screens to students throughout 10 community school systems.
It is important for parents, schools and youth mentors to be aware that this year’s screenings are showing a prevalence of students engaging in nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) behaviors.
What is NSSI? It is self-inflicted harm to one’s body without the intent of suicide.
While adolescents tend to use NSSI to cope with anger, depression, sadness, anxiety and other mixed emotions, those who self-injure are more likely to have suicidal thoughts and behaviors, according to Lawrence University assistant professor and Wellness Screen collaborator Dr. Lori Hilt*.
NSSI behaviors, common among teens, can be difficult to detect since the act is often secretive and involves body parts which are relatively easy to hide.
Types/Signs of Self-Harm:
- burning, cutting, carving, scratching of oneself
- hitting or pinching oneself, banging on walls and other objects to induce pain
- embedding objects under the skin
- interfering with the healing of wounds
- consistently wearing long sleeves or pants in summer and/or using wrist bands, bandages, coverings
How can you help your teen if you suspect or detect NSSI behaviors?
Not knowing how to broach the subject of NSSI is often what restrains concerned parents, teachers and coaches from probing. However, concern for the teen’s well-being is often what a self-injurer needs most.
What Parents Can Do:
- Seek professional counseling/medical help for your teen if you suspect /detect NSSI behaviors
- Improve communication by being direct, persistent and neutral
- Be willing to listen to the self-injurer, reserving shock, judgment, shame or pity, to encourage teens to use their voice, rather than their body, as a means of self-expression
Teens who engage in NSSI behaviors can, with professional help, learn emotion-reglation skills that can take the place of self-injury, according to Dr. Hilt.
Learn more about NSSI.
*Note: Lawrence University assistant psychology professor Dr. Lori Hilt has evaluated Connected Community Wellness Screen since its inception (2012) in our community. She and her university students analyze the following data and measures: 1) utilization of mental health services, 2) suicide-related behaviors, 3) reported deaths by suicide.