“I don’t even know why I did it. I’m sad some. And I definitely get mad at myself. But it’s just that I’ve heard lots of people talking about it at school. It’s like it’s almost cool to be sad. Why in the world would cutting be trendy?”
These words were actually spoken by a teenage girl to one of our counselors at Daystar recently. And, the sad truth of the matter, it has. Probably close to twelve years ago, I heard my first instance of a teenager cutting. She was severely depressed and had been using a razor to cut marks on the tops of her legs.
Wait, let me back up a little, just in case you’ve never heard of “cutting” in this instance and are thinking “What in the world is she talking about?” Cutting is a form of self-mutilation, which includes other forms such as burning, branding, scratching, and even biting oneself. Princess Diana was actually one of the first celebrities to come forward who had been self-mutilating. That was then.
This is now. Now, there are still definitely kids (and adults) who harm themselves as either a cry for help or a misguided attempt at relief. What I have heard countless kids say to me over the years is “I would rather feel myself hurt physically than hurt emotionally.” And the danger is that there is some truth to that concept. When we are injured, endorphins rush to the site and we actually experience a type of euphoria. So, self-harm, in fact, does make you feel better TEMPORARILY. But then, with any type of addictive behavior, the profound shame follows. And yes, the danger is, because it works, cutting or any type of self-harm can easily become addictive. Or, people (impulsive teenagers especially) can accidentally cut too deep and end up risking their lives.
The problem with cutting as a trend, however, is much as you can imagine. There are websites solely to show people how to self-mutilate. I have spoken with girls who have friends with instagram accounts and twitter accounts to show others their battle wounds. Cutting works in this way, too. It garners the attention and sympathy from friends or even from the opposite sex.
If you suspect that your child is cutting…if they disappear into their bathroom or room for long periods of time…if they’re wearing large bracelets or long sleeves to cover their arms…or if you see marks, it is not a cat scratch. I see kids who tell their parents stories like that all of the time. Your child needs help. If they feel desperate enough for attention that they will go to such extremes, they need help finding self-confidence. If they cut themselves because “everyone else is doing it,” they need help developing their own independent voice. And, because in today’s culture the stakes are so high, your child may truly be hurting deeply and need to talk. In any case, a trained counselor can help. They can get to the root of the problem and help your child find alternative ways to cope with their pain. They can help them regain confidence in who they are and all that they have to offer. A counselor can also help you navigate these tricky waters as you walk alongside your child. Whatever the reason, cutting is a call you need to answer as a parent. There is always hope, and your child can find the confidence to live out of that hope and who God has uniquely, beautifully, amazingly created them to be.