Monday 5 December 2016

Responding to self-harming teenagers with calm and care

Published 18/09/2015 | 02:30

Children who self-harm are not just ‘looking for attention’
Children who self-harm are not just ‘looking for attention’

I was heartened to read Stella O'Malley's contribution, "Self-harm: how to hear your troubled teen's cry for help" (Irish Independent, September 11). As a clinical child psychologist working with children and families, it is an issue that is far more prevalent than one would imagine and which many parents understandably find very worrying and difficult to understand.

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What is concerning is that when you combine a lack of understanding with a parent's immediate inclination to protect their child from any harm, the response can feel very panicky, which is not helpful to the child and may lead them to retreat further into their secret feelings.

If one is to view "self-harming as a distorted version of self-soothing", then it reminds us that it is a way of coping with the world and lessening emotional pain through the release of the brain's endorphins.

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