You may have seen the signs of a student with self-inflicted marks on their body and feel like it is not your place to get involved. The truth is that as long as those students are in your classroom, it is your responsibility to ensure that your students are in good health both physically and mentally if you plan to continue teaching them. If you notice a student in your class with the signs of self-harming, it is important that you take action before their behavior continues to get worse and could cost their life.
Just like with drinking or doing drugs, teenagers tend to make marks on their skin with a sharp object or burn themselves as a way to let the anger out. They could be cutting for a number of reasons like facing school stress, trouble with your family, or other relationships you are going through. Instead of using a healthy outlet like speaking to someone about their troubles or writing it down in a journal, they instead prefer to take the anger and sadness on themselves. Social media can also play a part in which you can look at the idealized images that your friends post and wish that you can look like them. By cutting themselves, they are punishing their bodies for looking the way they do. It is a quick relief from the emotional distress.
Some teens may feel a brief high in that endorphins are released in the bloodstream from cutting and can feel numbness or pleasure to what they are feeling. A student may feel a disconnect from their parents or feel ignored so they do not believe they will show concern if they hurt themselves. It can also be possible that a student is cutting to try to fit into a group that glorifies self-harm. They can also just feel emotionally dead to the world that they feel like cutting is a reminder to themselves that they exist as well as their reality.
Self-harm is a mental health behavior that should not be ignored. A teenager may not be trying to commit suicide through these actions but death can still be an inadvertent result. A teenager can suffer seriously blood loss if they accidentally hit a vein or artery, serious infections, permanent scarring, or accidental suicide. As an educator, it is important to do your research about recognize the signs of someone who self-harms. Cuts or burns are normally shown on a person’s arms, legs, abdomen, or the bottom of their feet where it is easy to cover up. A student can also be wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts even when the weather is warm to cover up the marks.
School staff should create support groups for students suffering with depression or anxiety so that they can be with other students going through the same things. If they are scared of others finding out they are in this support group, the staff member in charge of the group can let the other students know that this should be an anonymous group. In this support group, students can have the opportunity to learn about how to cope with their own stress and take on leadership roles in school like in student government to increase their self-esteem. Each student can learn about their strengths, mindfulness and meditation techniques, and how to show kindness and compassion to yourself and others. There are a number of healthy outlets for their emotions that educators can teach them such as hitting a pillow if they are angry, doing yoga to release the tension, chatting with a friend if they are sad, snapping a rubber band on your risk to refuse the numbness, and writing a story to gain control over your life.
Teachers, counselors, and community leaders are available on campus to connect to, give you support, or seek advice with. Educators care about their students not just as students in their class but as people too and would not want to see them continue to hurt themselves. A student should never feel afraid to reach out to an educator. Teachers and school nurses should do their duty to be respectful listeners, build trust between themselves and their students, and to be a bridge that can lead a student to a psychologist, social worker, or a counselor. Avoid showing disgust, anxiety, or fear to them if a student opens up to you as you never want to give them a reason to never trust you.
Ask your student why they feel the need to cut themselves, how do their problems and feelings relate to harming themselves, and if they would like to see a social worker. You can even ask them if it is okay if you can sit with the student when they see a social worker or a counselor so that they are not alone. It is important to try to understand the meaning behind a person’s cutting, how this behavior is helpful to them, and how you can play a role in protecting your student from their unhealthy behaviors. If you feel like your student is cutting continuously and that it is not getting better, call that student’s parents immediately or take them to the nearest emergency room if they are bleeding out too much blood. Play an active role in your student’s life as you can be responsible for saving their life.
Located in Tacoma, Washington, Bayview Center’s mission is to offer clinically-driven programs and services to treat a number of substance abuse disorders along with anxiety and depression using cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, trauma therapy, yoga therapy, and more for a successful recovery. For more information, please call us 888 570 7154 at as we are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.