NEW CANAAN, Conn. (WTNH)–Self-harm is a topic that not a lot of people really want to talk about. It impacts mostly teens and young adults but can continue as they move into adulthood.
They harm themselves not to intentionally kill themselves. They do it to relieve emotional pain by feeling physical pain.
19-year-old Keri was depressed and anxious.
“I was just stressed out and I didn’t know how to cope with anything and I felt very isolated,” she said.
So she started to do self-harm. “I was cutting and even before that – substance abuse.”
“Most common form of self harm is cutting, using a razor or a pencil sharpener, some sharp object,” explains licensed clinical Social Worker Tracey Masella at Silver Hill Hospital in New Canaan.
Most common among adolescents and young people like Keri, with little or no coping skills.
Tracey says, “They are using it to get relief from intense emotional pain.”
“It would numb my feelings and it was something I thought I deserved it,” says Keri.
The key is to release the emotional pain through options like holding ice cubes.
“We use the ice cubes or ice packs to lower our emotional temperature,” says Tracey.
“It’s definitely a good distraction,” says Keri, “So it’s making me think about how cold my hands are.”
Walking her dog is another distraction from harming herself.
“I’ll go out and take him to the park and it’s just like me and him. Leave my phone in the car and just like be present there. And just be in nature and that makes me feel that much more connected,” she said.
Talking to other teens about what she is going through, is also part of Keri’s healing process. “When I was first getting better, it was helpful to hear other people my age talking about it because there is such a stigma against it.”
Keri still has rough days but now has a healthy arsenal to fight back.
Tracey asks, “So what’s your emotional temperature now? It was about a 10 when you walked in here.”
Keri answers, “It’s definitely down to like a six.”
Warning signs that someone is harming themselves include — fresh cuts and scratches, scars, burns, cuts re-appearing in the same place, mood changes and social withdrawal.
Tracey recommends getting professional help for people like Keri as soon as possible. It then comes down to building trust the options will be effective.
For more information, visit www.silverhillhospital.org or call 1-866-542-4455.