WARNING SIGNS: Warwick parents are being urged to be on the lookout for cutting and other self-harming methods.
WARNING SIGNS: Warwick parents are being urged to be on the lookout for cutting and other self-harming methods. Thinkstock

Cutting out the pain: rise in self harm in Warwick

IT IS hard to imagine the sight of blood dripping from your forearm or thigh as therapeutic but that is the reality for some teens.

They can resort to mutilating their bodies with razors or scissors, burning or poisoning themselves, scratching or picking their skin, pulling their hair out, hitting themselves and punching walls.

Self-harming is done not with the goal of taking their lives but seeking a temporary reprieve from internal pain.

Headspace manager Sophia McLucas said there were many forms of self-harming.

"We have seen a slight increase recently and I think there are many layered reasons why," she said.

"There are many different ways people self-harm but the most common form we see is cutting arms, legs, stomachs - it can be anywhere really.

"We have had some people say just seeing the blood calms them.

"Other forms we see are burning themselves and 'frosties', which is using aerosol deodorant to hurt themselves."

Mrs McLucas said although "cutting" and other self-harm was sometimes associated with a mental health disorder, that was not always the case.

"Sometimes it is difficult to express how they are feeling in words and this is one way to get the pain on the outside; by physically hurting themselves," she said.

"I think a lot of time people think they are doing it for attention but they will wear long sleeves or cover the part of the body so you can't see it. A lot of it goes unnoticed - it isn't something people are proud of and they try to hide it."

Although cutting can be confronting and frightening, Mrs McLucas said those affected were not out to take their lives.

"It isn't necessarily a precursor to suicide but a parent should definitely take some course of action if they notice self-harming," she said.

"As for general mental health, we advise parents to look for changes in behaviour - eating, sleeping and social interaction - and if they aren't talking to you about it," she said.

"The bottom line is always keeping people safe and if you are concerned, raise it with them. If they don't want to open up, go to a parent, teacher or someone else.

"Don't just leave it - it isn't something you can just forget about. If you can't keep them safe, find someone who can."

Parents urged to reach out for help

AN INFORMATION evening on self-harming held in Warwick last week attracted a crowd of about 80 community members, highlighting a real need in the community.

Warwick State High School chaplain Marie Brennan said the sessions were about giving parents and carers the tools to deal with teenagers who were self-harming.

"Warwick is really lucky because there are so many resources for teenagers with Condamine Assist, headspace and GPs but there isn't so much help for the parents," she said.

"We just wanted to make sure parents seek help if they feel they can't cope.

"As parents we usually say 'we will be fine', as long as our children are OK and we forget about ourselves."

Mrs Brennan said she was prompted to seek information and training on the issue when faced with the parent of a teenager who was self-harming.

"I spoke to a parent who was crying and distressed, asking 'what do I say to her? How do I help?' she said.

Mental health social worker Kathy Payne, who operates through both Condamine Assist and headspace, said there was some good news for parents.

Mrs Payne said although it was distressing for parents to learn their child was self-harming, it could be beaten.

"Seek help because there is always hope and it isn't something that has to go on forever. It doesn't have to always be their way of coping," she said.

Mrs Payne urges parents to engage in therapy and counselling to determine the function of cutting and what triggers episodes.

"One of the messages for parents on that it 'often takes a village' and not to do it in isolation," she said.

"In our culture we try to do everything ourselves but there are schools, coaches, church connections and any of those things are really great support."

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