Now, you might be thinking, “What? The good news of self-injury?” The truth is that while self-injury is an unhealthy coping strategy, there are many hopeful things to know about the treatment and outcomes for people that are self-injuring. We are learning more about self-injury everyday, which allows us to better understand the best ways we can help and support those using self-injury to cope.
Many young people today are using self-injury as a way to manage difficult emotions. They are struggling and with the absence of healthy, reliable coping skills they are turning to self-harm in order to cope. The good news is that even though self-injury has been on the rise for adolescents and young adults in the past 10-15 years, the rates appear to be stabilizing[i]. This is very promising and may be an indicator that we are doing a better job in the field of mental health with target prevention and early interventions to get young people back on track.
More good news is that out of those teens that self-injure, the vast majority will show recovery before adulthood. Typically, teens begin to self-harm between the ages of 12-16 and will stop self-injuring within five years of starting[ii][iii]. This is also shown when you look at prevalence rates for teens and young adults (15-20%) vs. adults (6%)[iv][v]. This highlights the resilience of young people and I believe is evidence that therapy interventions are helping young people learn more about themselves, their emotions and healthy ways to cope.
There are many therapists out there, myself included, that care strongly about their work and are passionate about helping those that are struggling. This is also good news and an essential part of when forming an alliance with young adults, their families and their communities to create a positive impact.
Finally, the great news is that you are reading this, you care and you are trying to get help for yourself or your loved one. That is the most promising news yet.
[i] Muehlenkamp, J. J., Claes, L., Havertape, L., & Plener, P. L. (2012). International prevalence of adolescent non-suicidal self-injury and deliberate self-harm. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, 6(10), 1-9.
[ii] Rodham, K., & Hawton, K. (2009). Epidemiology and phenomenology of nonsuicidal self-injury. In M. K. Nock (Ed.), Understanding nonsuicidal self-injury: Origins, assessment, and treatment (pp. 37-62). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
[iii] Whitlock, J. L., & Eckenrode, J. E. & Silverman, D. (2006). The epidemiology of self -injurious behavior in a college population. Pediatrics, 117, 42.
[iv] Heath NL, Schaub K, Holly S, Nixon MK. In: Self-injury in youth: The essential guide to assessment and intervention. Routledge, editor. New York: Nixon and Heath; 2009. Self-injury today: Review of population and clinical studies in adolescents; pp. 9–27.
[v] Klonsky, E.D., Victor, S.E. & Saffer, B.Y. (2014). Nonsuicidal self-injury: What we know, and what we need to know. Can J Psychiatry. 59(11): 565–568.