Kids who cut themselves--their YouTube messages may harm---and help
Reporter: Craig Smith
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - If you're a parent, you probably know---maybe you remember from your own adolescence---it can be a time of wild emotions---sometimes so wild they will lead a child to take a blade and cut into themselves.
Now, some mental health experts wonder whether the internet can actually encourage kids to cut.
On You Tube, young people may share their anguish with total strangers in a way they would never share with their parents.
In one of her video's a young woman says, "For me self harm, it expresses emotional pain or feelings that I'm unable to put into words basically and it makes me feel alive."
A younger girl says, "And it was like, all of a sudden blood was like and it was like the happiest, blissful moment of my life and it was but at that moment it was like, this is how it feels to have complete and total control of my life for once."
Dr. Marian Binder is the director of U of A's Counseling and Psychological Services. She says, "Sometimes it can serve the role of a way of communicating their pain or their distress with other people."
Doctor Binder knows there is no one reason young people hurt themselves. She says reasons are as varied as the people themselves but suicide is usually not the goal.
"We're talking primarily about behaviors that are not in and of themselves designed to hurt people to the extent that they die. That's not to say that people who have non-suicidal self injury can not also at some point be suicidal or not commit suicide. But in general the behavior itself, the goal of the behavior itself is the injury itself."
A study in the professional journal "Pediatrics" found social media, especially You Tube can actually create a supportive atmosphere that may encourage kids to cut themselves, even if the young people on You Tube are urging others not to follow their painful path.
On You Tube a young woman says, "It's just like any other addiction and I can't stop."
Another says, "All I remember of my teens years was self injury. Every year is marked by that."
Some videos stress prevention, but still help kids who cut hide their secret.
In her You Tube video, a teenaged girl combines a prevention message, with tips on hiding scars: "We need to know how to stop and we need to know how to hide it because what's done is done, if you've got scars , you've got scars, it's done and you've got to know how to hide them."
Dr. Binder says in the wide world of the internet, people looking for a positive, preventive message on cutting can find it and it will probably be preventive, but if they can also find things on the web that might make them experiment with self injury.
She says, "We know with not necessarily the internet but with the role of just social interaction that there seem to be factors in this kind of behavior in which what researchers might call contagion exists. That is, if people are involved with groups of people or groups of friends who are engaging in the same behavior or seek out people who engage in the same behavior it tends to support the behavior being perpetuated."
So what's a parent to do?
Doctor Binder says because kids may push back against parents, when they see someone who makes them say, "that's person's like me", and that person speaks up against self-injury, it may help break the cycle.
Another woman on You Tube offers this hope for prevention: "It may seem like it's impossible to get out of the cycle but you can get out of the cycle and I encourage you to try. What do you have to lose?"
Signs your child may be self injuring may include:
---Always wearing long sleeves
---Vague explanations of injuries
---Possession of items they could use to hurt themselves, that have no other explanation.
If you believe they're harming themselves, react carefully so they don't withdraw further. Try to make them feel comfortable talking about the things that are bothering them.