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Myth Busting Teen Mental Health – Self-Harm

Debunking myths about adolescent mental healthviolence-self-harm

Although society has made some headway in reducing the stigma and misinformation about general mental health issues, the public’s understanding of self-harm remains decades behind. Let’s debunk some common myths about adolescent self-harm.

Myth: ‘Self-harm means cutting right? Only emos and goths do that.’

Self-harm refers to a range of behaviours that are purposely inflicted to cause damage to the body. It can include cutting, but also refers to scratching, picking at wounds, burning, pinching, hitting, head banging, and minor overdosing. Self-harm can also be in the form of excessive risk-taking that is above and beyond typical adolescent risk-taking.

It is a misconception that only ’emos’ and ‘goths’ self-harm. Although self-harm can be part of adolescent subculture experimentation, it is more often a sign that a teenager is experiencing unmanageable distress. Self-harm becomes a way of coping with distress that provides temporary relief from emotional pain.

Myth: ‘Self-harm is all about attention-seeking. If a person was really depressed enough to cut themselves then they would probably just commit suicide.’

Self-harm is not about attention-seeking. It is often a secretive and private behaviour. For a teenager, self-harm is a way of coping with unmanageable distress, and can be a medium to communicate that distress to others. Self-harm should never be dismissed as attention-seeking.

A person who cuts themselves is not necessarily suicidal. Cutting behaviour can be suicidal, non-suicidal, or a mix of both. It is important to remember that suicide risk is not static. A teenager who displays non-suicidal self-harm can become suicidal at another point in time.

Any teen who self-harms should undergo a thorough and comprehensive suicide risk assessment by a registered mental health professional. Their suicide risk should be closely monitored and assessed at regular intervals.

Myth: ‘I can punish my teen so that they stop self-harming. That will solve the problem.’

Punishing a teen for self-harming does not solve the problem. Cutting is a symptom of a deeper issue – unmanageable distress. Stopping the cutting via punishment may actually worsen their distress, especially if the teen lacks healthy and effective coping strategies.

Here are some suggestions for what you can do instead of punishing your teen:

  • Be an active listener
  • Validating their feelings
  • Be emotionally and physically present for them
  • Engage in joint problem solving

Always seek advice from a registered child psychologist if you suspect that your teen may be self-harming.

Written by Leeran Gold, Psychologist in our Forensic Service.

At Promises Healthcare, we are committed to helping you through your journey to recovery. Discover a new life and find renewed hope. If you or someone you know needs mental health support, please contact our clinic for inquiries and consultations.

For after-hours crisis support contact your local mental health service or emergency services.

In Singapore: IMH 24-hour helpline +65 6389 2222, Ambulance 995.

Myth Busting Mental Health – Youth Suicide

Myth Busting Mental Health – Youth Suicide

youth-suicideLet’s take a look at some common mental health myths about youth suicide and set the record straight.

Attempted suicides are just a cry for attention.

A suicide attempt should never be dismissed as ‘just a cry for attention’. A young person is highlighting that their level of internal distress is unmanageable and unbearable. They need help, not judgement. A young person can feel even more isolated and misunderstood if those around them fail to take their actions seriously. Never ignore or minimise suicidal behaviours and seek professional help as soon as possible.

Teens who cut their wrists must be suicidal.

Cutting is a form of self-injury that can either be suicidal or non-suicidal. In both cases, the cutting is a sign that a young person is not managing their internal distress in a healthy way. Any young person who self-injures should undergo a full suicide risk assessment by a registered mental health professional.

If I ask a young person whether they are feeling suicidal, it might put the idea in their head.

This is a particularly dangerous myth as it discourages discussion of the issue at hand. Talking about suicidal feelings will not encourage a young person to commit suicide. When having the conversation try to stay calm and non-confrontational. Remain open and genuine, and remember the overall message – it is ok to talk about feelings, and there is help available. Show that you care and avoid judging the young person. If you are uncomfortable or unsure about having the conversation, get in touch with a mental health professional for some tips and guidance.

Written by Leeran Gold, Psychologist in our Forensic Service.

At Promises Healthcare, we are committed to helping you through your journey to recovery. Discover a new life, away from addiction and find renewed hope. If you or someone you know needs mental health support, please contact us today for inquiries and consultations.

For after-hours crisis support contact your local mental health service or emergency services.

In Singapore: IMH 24-hour helpline +65 6389 2222, Ambulance 995.

Self-Harm Series – Part 3 –

Self -Harm

What can I do to help my teen?
In addition to regular professional mental health support, here are some things you can do to help your teen:
– Show that you care
– Be non-judgmental
– Accept your teen’s feelings
– Suggest distractions
– Learn basic first aid
– Encourage them to communicate their feelings
– Ensure an authoritative balance in your parenting style

Avoid:
– Guilt trips
– Punishing your teen for self-harm

What can the school do to support my teen?
Ask to see your school’s policy on self-harm management. If your school does not have a policy, get in touch with your treating psychologist who can provide the school with resources and psycho-education. Make sure the school counselor sees your teen regularly, and that they are aware of any safety and risk issues.

If you suspect that your teen is self-harming, seek professional help as soon as possible. Contact Promises Healthcare for a confidential enquiry today.

If your teen is in any danger, contact your local ambulance service on 995. You can contact the Institute for Mental Health 24-hour hotline on 6389-2222.

This is part 3, of a series of 3 posts        Click here for Part 1     Click here for Part 2

Written by: Leeran Gold – Psychologist, Forensic Services, Promises Healthcare

Self-Harm Series – Part 2 –

Self-Harm Series – Part 2 –

Self-Harm

How do I know if my teen is self-harming?
Self-harming is usually a very private and secretive behavior. Teens may self-harm on areas of their bodies that are difficult to see. In some cases, teens may self-harm in more obvious areas including their wrists, ankles, arms and legs.
If you notice dressing or bandages, or cuts, bruises, burns and/or marks in these areas, your teen may be self-harming.
Other signs can include withdrawing from friends and family, excessive moodiness, increased irritability and anger outbursts, and changes in appetite and body weight.

Why is my teen self-harming?
Teens may self-harm in order to cope with stress. Self-harm can temporarily numb or relieve their distress, and can be a way of communicating their distress to others. Teens who self-harm often lack healthy coping strategies and feel helpless in managing their distress.

If your teen is self-harming, or you suspect that they are, seek professional help and contact Promises Healthcare for a confidential enquiry as soon as possible.

If your teen is in any danger, you can contact your local ambulance service on 995. You can contact the Institute for Mental Health 24-hour hotline on 6389-2222.

This is part 2, of a series of 3 posts         Click here for Part 1 

Written by: Leeran Gold – Psychologist, Forensic Services, Promises Healthcare

Self-Harm Series – Part 1 –

Self-Harm Series – Part 1 –

self-harm

What is self-harm?
Self-harm is the deliberate self-inflicted destruction of body tissue. It can occur with or without suicidal intentions. A commonly used term is ‘non-suicidal self-injury’ (NSSI), which refers to self-injury that is carried out without suicidal intent.

If my teen self-harms, does that mean they are suicidal?
It does not necessarily mean that your teen is suicidal if they self-harm. However every teen that self-harms should undergo a thorough suicide risk assessment. If your teen is self-harming, it is a sign that they are in distress.

What are self-harming behaviors?
Some self-harming behaviors include; cutting, burning, scratching, pinching, biting and hitting. Teens may also take minor overdoses of easily accessibly medications.

If your teen is self-harming, or you suspect that they are, seek professional help as soon as possible. Please contact Promises Healthcare for a confidential enquiry.

If your teen is in any danger, you can contact your local ambulance service on 995. You can contact the Institute for Mental Health 24-hour hotline on 6389-2222.

This is part 1, of a series of 3 posts

Click here for Part 2 

Written by: Leeran Gold – Psychologist, Forensic Services, Promises Healthcare