While we move from one busy, stimulating time of year to the next, we need to remember that some of our students and their families may be struggling. Increased demands and expectations can be overwhelming and may lead to maladaptive coping mechanisms.
Some American teens are using self injurious behavior, such as cutting or burning, to manage feelings, relieve stress, or cope with anxiety. These teens need treatment for an underlying condition which is resulting in this expression of stress, anger, anxiety, or emotional pain. Their families need assistance also. Please express your concern but do not assign blame to any member of the family. Parents need resources and support, no guilt.
The Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery http://www.selfinjury.bctr.cornell.edu/index.html is a highly recommended resource to be shared with parents. It offers insight and assistance related to self- injury. One of the current feature articles details positive communication strategies. It is a helpful resource to offer support to the family.
When school staff members see students who exhibit signs of self injury, how do we respond? Many times the students are sent to the school nurse. It is appropriate for the injury to be assessed by the nurse first, but there needs to be a pre-determined plan in place to follow, normally including the school’s crisis team. School districts should be prepared to respond to self -injury appropriately.
All nurses use active listening in every encounter with a patient. Learn how to respond with “respectful curiosity.” The Cornell Research Program website has a document describing how to develop and implement this important school protocol. Share this resource with families and with your co-workers. Our students and their families will benefit from all of us increasing our awareness.