Recently, we came across a high school newspaper article on teen cutting and self-injury written by Addie, a high school senior in Missouri. Addie wrote about how the topic is rarely discussed in school. We followed up with Addie and asked her to share her perspectives on self-injury.
We believe that this article can open up a dialogue on self-injury with your colleagues and students. Feel free to share it with anyone that might want or need to learn about this largely underground phenomenon.
CyberBully Hotline: Why do you think that cutting and self-injury behaviors are not discussed more often in school?
Addie: I don't think self-injury is discussed in school because it's a shameful topic. It's also relatively new, and administrators don't know how to handle it. The stereotypes that surround self-injury (i.e. that only a certain "group", like “goth,” “emo” or alternative kids do it), make it virtually impossible to discuss as well. As every kid learns, anyone can be a drug addict or be addicted to alcohol, and yet we're taught that only this specific group does self-injury, and because these kids are looked down upon, it's not okay to discuss it in a peer group. And if it's not discussed in a peer group, I think there's much less of a chance of it being discussed between peers and administration.
CBH: What information have you heard from school administrators, counselors, or teachers about cutting? Do you feel like more or less information about cutting should be given to students by school leaders?
Addie: To be honest, I've never had the subject of self-injury brought up to me in class, either in my health class or in another class. I think more information about self-injury needs to be brought up, both in health classes and in other classes. Every year I've gone to a drug or alcohol assembly, or I've had people come to my classes to discuss those topics with the class. We've never had someone do that on self-injury, a topic I think that needs to be discussed.
CBH: Do you feel like the adults in your life (at school and otherwise) understand cutting and self-injury behaviors?
Addie: I think that self-injury is difficult for anyone who hasn’t been there to understand. Struggles with drugs or alcohol are well-documented and so common that they almost seem natural. With so much information, it's a lot easier for adults to understand, either because they know someone who has done it, have done it themselves, or have just read the massive gigabytes of information on the subject. Self-injury, because it's so shameful and secretive, is a lot harder to understand, because people think, "Why would someone hurt themselves to make themselves feel better?" Cutting isn't a way to cause MORE pain; it's a way to release the pain. People cut or injure themselves because they feel there's so much emotional pain that there has to be some kind of physical pain to go with it.
CBH: Does it seem to you that students who are struggling with cutting (or other problems) feel comfortable seeking help?
Addie: I don't think kids are comfortable opening up about cutting, much like they aren't comfortable about opening up about an eating disorder or an addiction. It's hard to admit that you have a problem and need help.
CBH: In your article, you mentioned that some kids joke around about cutting and those who cut. Why do you think this happens?
Addie: Because cutting has connotations that kids who do it are of a certain "group," they get made fun of. For example, kids will call known cutters "emo kids" and make fun of them, saying, "Oh, you probably want to commit suicide, but you’re too much of a chicken." It also goes back to that idea of, "Why would someone hurt themselves to make themselves feel better?"
CBH: Based on what you hear from friends and classmates, do you feel like cutting is a widespread activity that many of your classmates engage in? Do you personally know of people who cut or self-injure?
Addie: I think cutting is a lot more common than people think. Unfortunately, it's a lot harder to talk about. I personally know three people who have opened up to me about cutting.
CBH: As you have progressed through school, do you feel that the problem of cutting and self-injury behaviors has gone up, stayed the same, or gone down?
Addie: I think cutting is becoming more common in schools, because it's looked at as less dangerous. Kids are under so much pressure, from parents, colleges, extracurriculars, and from each other. Sure, you could have a drink or have a hit of pot, but what if that escalates? Again, we've all been told about the dangers of drug and alcohol, but no one talks about self-injury and just how destructive that can be.
The CyberBully Hotline is designed to help students struggling with any concern, including cutting and self-injury, to come forward and get help. Learn more about the CyberBully Hotline here.