- What is self-injury?
Self-injury means when a person knowingly inflicts pain on themselves.
Self-injury is when a person:
- cuts or scrapes their skin
- burns themselves
- hits themselves, bangs their head against the wall or objects
- stabs or throws themselves against things
- sticks needles, etc. through the skin or into the skin
- prevents wounds from healing, scratches wounds
- swallows objects or poisonous substances
- knowingly and intentionally creates dangerous situations for themselves: dangerous driving, binge eating, drug or alcohol abuse, unsafe sexual contacts
Self-injury can have many causes and explanations. It is often difficult for people who self-injure to find accurate explanations for their behavior. Some say that physical pain relieves mental and emotional pain for a few moments, and self-injury becomes a coping strategy for negative emotions. However, self-injury is also done to punish oneself or to push oneself along, to encourage, to express one's inner tension, but also to show one's pain to others or to hurt others.
Self-injury is quite similar in nature to addictive behavior. When we feel pain, our body starts to produce its own anti-pain hormones of well-being - endorphins. The endorphins, along with the self-injury rationales created in one's head, create a strong, addictive habit. Like addiction, a person understands that their behavior is wrong, but they cannot stop it. Therefore, self-injurious behavior is usually hidden.
Self-injury is not a suicide attempt!
It is important to distinguish self-injury from attempted suicide, as their goals are very different. In the case of the first, it is about causing pain to oneself, not with the goal of leaving life. However, one must be careful - a person who injures themselves may at the same time be thinking about suicide. It is a myth that a self-injuring person is just an "attention seeker," and there is no risk of suicide. It is important to know that self-injurious behavior can be life-threatening and can lead to death.
- How do you help someone who injures themselves?
What to do if someone says they injure themselves?
- Show that you understand what they are saying.
- Express your care. Express concern about injuries.
- Be compassionate and respectful of the person who is talking about self-injury; treat them with respect.
- Make it clear that self-injury can be talked about, and it can be understood.
- If you are worried about injuries, be honest about it, but make it clear that you can cope with your concerns.
- Make it clear that you respect the person who has injured themselves and that you respect their efforts to cope with life, even if it results in self-injury.
- He has done his best at the moment. Express that you understand that it can be very difficult for a person who self-injures to live without self-injury.
- If self-injury has occurred more than once or twice, recommend the person to consult a psychologist or psychiatrist.
If you see someone having intentionally injured themselves:
- Be understanding and supportive of self-injury.
- Trust that they have not done it out of malice or stupidity. They simply couldn't help it.
- Ask about their problems.
- Ask about suicidal thoughts.
- Find out if they have a place to go and a place to be.
- Recommend talking to a trusted adult about this. Recommend seeking help from a psychologist or psychiatrist.
Child Helpline is available at any time and for any concern!
- What are the signs of depression in children of different ages?
The main symptoms of depression are:
- low mood;
- loss of interests and enjoyment of life;
- lack of energy;
- increased feeling of fatigue;
- decreased will to act.
Depression can arise from various causes, but more often, the development of depression is related to relationships in the child's immediate surroundings, family, or school. Depression can affect anyone.
Depression manifests itself somewhat differently in children of different ages:
Infancy and toddlerhood:
- frequent crying;
- change in sleep, eating habits, and activity;
- as a result of prolonged depression, indifference to surroundings and communication develops;
- resistance to diseases decreases;
- disorders of the gastrointestinal tract may occur;
- weight may drop;
- manifestations of mental regression may appear (swaying the head, slouching the body, forgetting acquired behavioral skills).
- increased irritability, capriciousness, stubbornness, moodiness, dissatisfaction;
- passivity, and sadness; the child may become insecure, fearful, and cling to parents;
- various fears arise;
- willingness to communicate decreases;
- loses interest in activities and things that they liked until now;
- difficulty falling asleep, restless sleep, night terrors, or bad dreams;
- headaches and stomachaches;
- loss of appetite and nausea;
- bedwetting (enuresis) and/or pooping in pants (encopresis);
- aggressive or death-related themes may become predominant in the child's games;
- the sense of hopelessness characteristic of a child's depression can manifest as a disregard for one's own safety or self-injurious behavior.
Depression in preschool children can sometimes mask behind behavioral disorders and manifest itself mainly as hyperactivity, increased irritability, or aggressiveness.
Primary school age, junior school age:
- positive stimuli are no longer of interest, joy, or enthusiasm;
- mental effort is tiring, and everything seems boring;
- decreased ability to concentrate causes learning difficulties;
- when comparing the success, intelligence, and abilities of others and oneself, a feeling of inferiority, sadness, and social withdrawal develops due to low self-esteem;
- the child becomes insecure, begins to avoid new tasks, feels insignificant, and takes the blame for everything; the child often experiences their past and current life as meaningless and trivial;
- thoughts related to death and passing away increase;
- in some children, to relieve inner tension and feelings of hopelessness, fantasizing may occur when the child communicates with imaginary friends in their imagination and imagines themselves as successful, ignoring real difficulties;
- sometimes a depressed child can try at any cost to get the attention and approval of peers by breaking the rules or by "buying" friends with sweets, things, and money;
- various physical ailments are often present: restless sleep or daytime sleepiness, changes in appetite, malaise, and fatigue.
- a drop in mood is accompanied by disinterest in previously enjoyed activities;
- difficulty concentrating;
- slowing down mental activity and movements;
- fatigue, drowsiness, and weakness of will;
- the child is unable to be as successful as before;
- difficulties in falling asleep appear shallow sleep or premature awakening, excessive need for sleep;
- appetite may change: excessive sweet tooth, need to eat constantly, loss of appetite;
- diurnal fluctuations in condition - the "hardest time" is usually mid-morning; easily irritable and emotional outbursts;
- impulsive behavior;
- the child's low self-esteem worsens - the child is disappointed in themselves, feels worthless, and takes the blame for everything;
- the child is hopeless about the possibilities of improving the situation;
- boredom and suicidal thoughts may arise. This is a sign of a seemingly inescapable situation for the child.
Since it can be quite difficult for children to describe what is happening to them, depending on their level of development, depression can show itself through physical signs instead: smaller children tend to have stomachaches, and older children tend to have headaches.
If depression can be detected early, it may be possible to treat it more effectively and change the course of the disease so that it does not become chronic.
- Ten tips to support a depressed child or adolescent
1. Knowledge helps an adolescent to be gentler with themselves. Taking care of yourself is the first step towards greater self-confidence, better self-esteem, and, thus also, better coping. Knowledge allows the adolescent to explain to relatives and schoolmates what their problems are and that it is not laziness.
2. Diverting your thoughts can help break the cycle of depression - it's not avoiding problems. Children may feel that they have to think their thoughts through, but there are so many of them that a break from this activity is needed. That's why you need to figure out what a suitable break from thoughts could be - could it be a walk, drawing, or cleaning? Anything that the child comes up with is fine.
3. Creative self-expression. Any creative activity contributes to recovery from depression. It is necessary to remind if and in what way the child has ever felt good while being engaged in a creative activity. This includes everything that the child has done by themselves: drawing, playing music, dancing, doing crafts, and cooking. A dash on paper is a good achievement. A rap song written about bullies gives a lot of strength.
4. Relationships. There are many different types of relationship problems, including breakups, friends moving away, bullying, sexuality and gender issues, tensions in the family and between parents, and a lot more. Issues related to relationships are often multifaceted - it is important for a young person to find a safe person to talk to about relationships.
5. Relaxation exercises. Yoga and various meditation and mindfulness techniques include breathing exercises, muscle stretching and relaxation, and conscious thought management and have been proven to reduce anxiety, improve focus and have a calming effect.
6. Hygiene of the use of smart devices and the computer. When talking about the use of smart devices, it is necessary to notice your own habits and, if necessary, plan how to extend the device-free time of the day.
7. Abstaining from the use of alcohol and narcotic substances. Young people are usually well informed about the effects of substances, and the question is how drinking affects young people in the current situation and why it is wise to avoid it.
8. Sleep. Disturbed sleep rhythm and poor quality of sleep are one of the main problems of depression. The sleep rhythm can be adjusted step by step, and you have to be patient when tuning the body's internal clock. There are also a number of useful sleep-tracking apps that can help you track your sleep rhythm. It is necessary to remember the recommendation of sleep doctors that at least an hour before going to sleep, it is necessary to close all screens, including the phone. Relaxing activities in the evenings, such as taking a shower, relaxation, and breathing exercises, contribute to improving the quality of sleep.
9. Regular and healthy diet. An unstable diet affects blood sugar levels and the general stability of the inner emotional world, concentration, and coping with mood swings, such as anger. By discussing the issue with the child, one can find ways for them to start eating healthier step by step. Sometimes it is also helpful to use smart applications that let you know that you need to drink water, you need to eat.
10. Exercise and physical activity. It is not easy for a child who has lost willpower and interest to be enthused about this topic. You don't need to do anything special. The important thing is to just do something that helps to dissipate the depressed feeling. It is good to discuss whether you can go for a walk, for example, with a family member or friend. Avoid forcing; talking is the first step towards a regular exercise habit.