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Raising Mentally Healthy Kids with Michelle Nietert

Oct 26, 2021

Recent studies suggest that 30% of the population will struggle with non-suicidal self-harming behaviors over their lifetime. For teenage girls, the risk is 1 in 4. In this episode with Certified Licensed Professional Counselor Lori Vann, we’re discussing why so many children cope through self-injury, the signs parents can look for if they believe their kids may be harming themselves, and how to approach your child in a way that leads to lasting change.

Key points from our conversation:

💬 It’s important to be proactive in talking to your kids about self-harming behaviors. They start getting exposed to these behaviors as early as elementary school through media, so parents should be keenly aware of what messages they’re receiving through television, movies, and music.

📺 When you notice self-injury references in media, ask your kids what they think the reference is about and what they think about the behavior, but be careful with your tone. Kids are intuitive and may change their answers if they sense you’re anxious.

🔪 Cutting is often considered the main presentation of self-harm, but Lori has identified 28 forms of self-injury. By the time a child has escalated to cutting, it’s likely there have been years of smaller forms of abuse. The escalation occurs when the action is no longer providing the emotional, psychological, and/or physiological release than it did when they first started doing it.

✨ The endorphins released during a self-harming behavior will relieve physical pain as well as emotional pain. Sometimes kids will teach other children to use these behaviors as a method of coping.

🩺 If you find out your child is self-injuring, don’t overreact. Be proactive and calm and seek help from a professional. Self-injury is an addiction and should be treated as such.

🧠 You’re not a bad parent if your child is harming themselves. Kids get influenced in a variety of ways and they’re using it as a coping mechanism because they lack the skills to figure out what’s going on. A primal part of their brain is trying to regulate itself.

🤐 Overreacting to self-injury can actually cause more damage and cause the child to hide the behavior. Model having healthy hard conversations by making sure your emotions are in check before engaging with them and making sure they understand that they are not in trouble. Punishing self-harm exacerbates the issues you’re working to heal.

Resources mentioned:

A Caregiver's Guide to Self-Injury
Cutting: Understanding and Overcoming Self-Mutilation
A Bright Red Scream: Self-Mutilation and the Language of Pain
Stopping the Pain: A Workbook for Teens Who Cut and Self Injure
SAFE program

Lori Vann has been privileged to be called by her professional peers “the Guru” and an “authority” on Non-Suicidal Self-Injury, in addition, to being considered one of the top counselors in the Metroplex when it comes to developing interns into highly ethical and professional counselors who are sought after by counseling centers.  Her 20+ years of counseling experience in a variety of locations from inpatient psychiatric, non-profit, school districts, outpatient clinics to private practice has provided her with a unique, well-rounded perspective that benefits not only her staff, her interns, the licensed counselors she trains during her ethics’ events, but also the community.

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