Start The Talk, Stop The Hurt: Self-injury Awareness Day is March 1

Andrew Levander, clinical director of Destinations For Teens, speaking during a workshop for Las Vegas-area school social workers on Feb. 14.

“Surface wounds — scratches, burns and cuts — can hide deeper inner wounds — depression, despair and suicidal thoughts,” said Andrew Levander, clinical director of Destinations For Teens.

To honor Self-Injury Awareness Day (SIAD) on March 1, fight the hurt, and offer solutions, Destinations for Teens staff will wear ribbons to shed the spotlight on the importance of the day.

“Self-injury is the non-verbal communication that a child is in pain,” Levander said. “It is vital that we see the child in pain, underneath the injuries. Seeing the child begins the healing journey.”

Data suggests non-suicidal self-injury is increasing. In November, The Associated Press cited a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study of emergency room visits that found that attempted suicides, drug overdoses, cutting and other self-injury have risen substantially in U.S., especially for girls, perhaps because of cyberbullying, substance abuse and domestic economic stress.

Researchers analyzed data from 2001-2015 concerning young people ages 10 to 24 who suffered non-fatal self-inflicted injuries and were treated in emergency rooms. Nearly 29,000 girls and about 14,000 boys were treated for self-inflicted injuries. Dr. Mark Olfson, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University is concerned about the rising rates should concern parents, teachers, and pediatricians. “One important reason to focus on reducing self-harm is that it is key risk factor for suicide,” he said.

Andrew Levander, clinical director of Destinations For Teens, speaking during a workshop for Las Vegas-area school social workers on Feb. 14.

On Feb. 1, the Massachusetts website Wicked Local Saugus quoted Families for Depression Awareness co-Executive Director Susan Weinstein saying depression affects people of all races and socioeconomic backgrounds. At least half of all depression cases start by the time someone turns 14.

“It used to be thought that children can’t have depression, that they are just a sad kid and will grow out of it,” Weinstein said. But she told Wicked Local that people must understand that depression is a serious medical condition that may manifest in self-injury. Although cutting is the most widely known form of self-injury, there are at 20 types of non-suicidal self-injury.

It’s unclear why self-injury is increasing. Cornell University researchers Amanda Purington and Janis Whitlock concluded, in the Prevention Researcher in February 2010, that contemporary media may be aiding its’ spread. Self-injury is increasingly depicted as a coping mechanism for people ordinary and exceptional and that although these depictions have reduced the stigma surrounding self-injury, they may also it may also be aiding its normalization.

“We need to pay more attention to our children who are in pain,” Levander said. “These injuries convey a desperation that is most profound and distressed. We need to be talking and learning from one another about how to be most helpful in the lives of children and families who are suffering alone with a behavioral disorder that is highly misunderstood.”

Andrew Levander has championed the cause to best help teens who struggle with self-injurious behavior. He has been a guest on Dr. Phil, Oprah, The John Walsh Show and on local and national TV. He is a contributor to newspapers across the country. For children in need he was the Los Angeles County recipient at the clinical innovation festival for program development.

Serving both California and Nevada, Destinations for Teens is a premier dual diagnosis and primary mental health treatment center serving teens 13-17 affected by substance abuse and/or mental health disorders.

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