Self-Harm Climbs Among Young Girls

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Drug overdoses, cutting and other types of self-injury have substantially increased nationwide among girls. That’s according to a new study released today in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Experts in Sioux Falls aren’t surprised by these findings. They say the number of teenagers in counseling continues to rise, and cell phones may be the reason why.

In this day and age, wherever there’s a person, there’s almost always a phone–and on it– access to Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

“So what we have now is a lot more time spent on social media, a lot less time spent actually with others, a lot more opportunity with cyber bullying which has become a big issue,” says Dr. Doug Anderson with Sioux Falls Psychological Services.

“They’re not able to have this concept of ‘words hurt’ and it’s much easier to type something out on social media,” adds Clinical Therapist Ellie Larsen with Stronghold Counseling.

Researchers believe the extra screen time is a big reason why the rate of 10- to 14-year-old girls going to the ER for self-inflicted injuries has nearly tripled since 2009.

“Some people use burning, cutting behaviors are frequent unfortunately and there’s even some peer pressure in that,” says Dr. Anderson.

Dr. Anderson says the issue of self-harm isn’t new, but the severity of it is– putting a person’s body in bigger danger.

“Maybe they’re cutting a little bit deeper, those kinds of things,” he says.

Larsen says this harmful behavior can also be due to a developing brain, since our decision-making skills aren’t fully developed until we’re 25.

“Feelings are feelings; they’re not right or wrong, they just are,” says Larsen. “But, when we’re all scrambled up, we feel like we have to go do something or we feel pressured to.”

Experts say the key is understanding why someone is harming themselves in order to prevent it from happening.

“The self-harm behavior actually functions as a relief to them, and it is a relief to them, unfortunately it’s just not the healthiest way to go at that,” says Dr. Anderson. “We try to do find better ways to do that.”

Larsen says red flags for self-harm include a child or teen becoming withdrawn and secretive. As well as wearing more layers of clothing than normal.

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