I will be the first one to admit that I don’t do anything that involves blood well.
I bring an escort whenever I need blood drawn from the lab just in case I get faint. Even talking about medical issues in a laboratory or hospital setting can get me woozy.
Thank goodness for Dr. Dad. Around our house, my husband usually takes care of cuts, scrapes and other injuries.
So the idea of purposely harming oneself — specifically to draw blood — is not one I can easily fathom, and yet I know it is a fairly common occurrence. My teenage daughters tell me of many instances of self-harm among their schoolmates.
The kids cut themselves, not just because they want to hurt themselves, but more for an emotional release from some inner torment, according to Glen Horlacher, a licensed marriage and family therapist from Mesquite who also works as a counselor for Safe Nest Counseling.
And contrary to many beliefs, self-harm is not a cry for attention nor is it a precursor to suicidal thoughts or actions, he said.
“It’s an attempt to feel better not to escape all feelings,” said Horlacher, guest speaker at last Thursday’s Nevada Community Prevention Coalition meeting in Boulder City.
And, evidence of self-harm is quite often hidden by those doing it. They wear long sleeves and thick bracelets, avoid places such as pools or the beach where their skin would be exposed, and frequently withdraw from social situations and close relationships.
Horlacher’s presentation was part of the coalition’s observance of March’s designation as self-injury, self-harm awareness month. Using information from “Understanding Self-Injury: A Pain Too Deep for Tears” by counselors Lynne Muller and Mary Ann Mathews of Baltimore County Public Schools in Maryland, the presentation was enlightening.
As the prevalence among my daughters’ friends can attest, females are most at risk of self-harm. It often starts when they are teenagers and continues into their 20s and 30s.
Self-harm can be accompanied by other disorders largely suffered by females, such as anorexia and bulimia, as well as obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.
Horlacher said those who self-harm are typically intelligent, well-educated and come from middle and upper-middle class families. They are perfectionists. That’s what contributes to the internal conflict.
“The physical pain is easier to deal with than the emotional pain,” he said.
Since the Nevada Community Prevention Coalition’s mission is to create opportunities for supportive and healthy individuals, families and communities throughout rural Clark County, Horlacher offered a few solutions, as well.
His suggestions included being supportive, acknowledging the effort to cope and difficulty dealing with different emotions, being available and learning more about self-injury.
Most important, he said, don’t dismiss that person’s feelings, make her or him feel ashamed or discourage self-injury. Instead help that person develop better coping skills, perhaps by using expressive arts such as journals, poetry, music or art.
Only a small group attended the March meeting. With such valuable information being presented by coalition, I hope future presentations will attract greater audiences.
More information about the coalition is available at www.nv-cpc.org.