Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Adolescent Self-Injury

Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Adolescent Self-Injury

Article excerpt

Priming the Pump...

Self-injury among teens is not simply a matter oi drama nor is it a "phase." Tt is purposeful self-injury- cutting oneself deeply enough to bleed. While younger teen girls - including latinas - are inore apt to cut themselves, older teens and boys do, too. Cutting might appear a IkI or something a teen will do to be accepted, but it must be taken seriously

For those in higher education, adolescents who cut often become young adults who cut - and that affects the person's ability to cope and succeed in college. The risks for Latinas facing other barriers towards higher education arc even higher, but intervention can make the difference for someone who otherwise would drop out of school.

Self-injuring Latina teens report they cut themselves to relieve pentup emotional pain - a self-induced emotional bloodletting of sorts. Whether it is peer pressure, familial criticism, romantic worries, loneliness, a deep sense of emptiness or fear of the future, a Latina might cut when she can't tolerate emotional discomfort. Some teens proclaim they hurt themselves because they- arc not good enough for anything. Selfinjury; then, becomes punishment for inadequacy. The relief from cutting can provide a Qeeung sense of control, but the self-loathing that follows quickly erases that effect.

Cutters are usually not attempting suicide, but if it becomes frequent and the cuts are deep enough, the teen can die. Adolescents often report a euphoric rush upon cutting, and it can become an addictive-like compulsion. When you juxtapose the "good feeling" from cutting with problems the Latina still faces when that feeling dissipates, chances for continued cutEing increase. Other risky behaviors Like binge drinking, drug use, bulimia and anorexia are common for cutters in continuous pain. Cutters often suffer depression, bipolar or obsessive-compulsive disorder, too, for many Latinas, die protective factors of close family ties can help shield them from ongoing self-injury. For other Latinas, though, familial over-involvement worsens the pressure and shame.

Adolescents cut within easy reach - arms, legs and their torso - but they also conceal the injuries with clothing. Cutting is often disclosed to closest friends, so it is critical that adults observe closely, listen more and say less in order to be available to the Latina in need. …

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