As a teenager, it’s common for emotions to feel overwhelming. Some teens handle this influx of feelings with seemingly little trouble. Others, however, have difficulty coping with the realities of growing up, and where some teens turn to drugs and alcohol for relief, others choose a different path: cutting themselves. If you are a parent or a friend of a teen who cuts, then it is completely understandable that you should feel confused about the problem and worried about the cutter. Below you will find the most important basic tips for helping a teen with their cutting problem:
Understand the problem.
In order to help, you’re going to have to understand the problem. Cutting is not something to be taken lightly; it’s generally indicative of some serious underlying issues. This doesn’t mean that you should judge the person who cuts because a person who cuts needs your love and support, not your ridicule. Cutters often have trouble coping with their emotions in the ways that most of us find effective, and they use cutting as a way to feel more alive or in control. Understand, though, that just because you are willing to talk about their cutting problem does not mean that they are. Cutting is an addiction, one that many cutters describe as being just as strong as a drug, so it’s possible that they will be reluctant to talk to you at first. Gentle persistence often pays off, however, and if you repeatedly offer to talk, it’s likely that the cutter will eventually take you up on that offer.
Know your limitations.
No matter how much you might want to help, the simple fact is that all cutters need professional help from a therapist or counselor. Cutting is a deep and serious issue, and while you can help a teen who cuts in a number of ways in the short term, it is still vitally important that they seek professional help. In the majority of cases, cutting does not simply disappear on its own and instead requires much attention from an expert. A cutter will often swear their friends to secrecy, but if you know about their problem, it’s important for you to come forward before it’s too late. Inform a parent, counselor, or other adult who knows the cutter so that person can get the help that they need to start living a happier, healthier, and safer life.
Show them that you’re there.
Oftentimes, the best you’ll be able to do for a cutter is to let them know that you are there for them. Sometimes they’ll want to talk, and sometimes they won’t. Keep up your efforts to help them, though, and let them know that you are there to support them no matter what. Offer your help in a gentle, non-judgmental manner, and make it clear that you are concerned about their safety. Explain to them that they deserve to be happy and that you want to help them to that end. It’s also important that you follow through on that promise: If the cutter does eventually come to you for help, you need to follow up on your offer by lending an understanding, listening ear. Your words will be meaningless if you aren’t willing to back them up with kind and helpful actions.