I dare you to injure yourself … self-harm among adolescents

Psychiatrist Joe Cassar has said that Mater Dei sees between five and ten cases a week of self-harm: adolescents who harm themselves by inflicting superficial cuts. He said that often, this is a result of bets between teenagers who are in the same group or class. He noted that this type of self-harm reduced drastically when adolescents left secondary school. He urged those with this this problem to seek professional help and not to sweep it under the carpet.

In recent years, professionals in the mental health field have observed an increase in cases of self-Harm, especially among adolescents between thirteen and sixteen, who inflict superficial cuts on their hands or feet.

Psychiatrist Joe Cassar explained that this was most common in girls at secondary school age, who sometimes make bets to this effect.

“I think we see between five and ten cases a week. Obviously sometimes there are repeat cases and often therapy puts a stop to some cases and you can have phases where they stop and start again. I think it is important to understand that whoever has this problem should not sweep it under the carpet. ”

Psychiatrist Cassar insisted that it was up to the professionals to determine whether a case is serious, whether therapy is needed or whether this is the beginning of a more serious problem such as depression.

He said that in the children’s emergency at Mater Dei there were several cases of this kind and most of them did well with therapy because it is usually a transitory phase but also said that certain cases went beyond the superficial.

Dr Cassar explained that many adolescents start to mark themselves because their peers are doing so. Many say they are doing so because the physical pain masks their emotional pain.

“Obviously this is not the case, but when you ask young people why they do it, they tell you that when they are sad, or when they feel empty – empty being the operative word – cutting themselves is a way of filling in that void with something painful.”

Dr Cassar made it clear that any form of self-Harm, even superficial cuts, was cause for concern because you could never say how far a person will go.

“Selfcutting is usually superficial unless they are getting involved in dares and bets which is making them up the ante and end up with stitches, but it still falls within the realm of young people, social media and daring. But then there is self harm which is related to depression “.

Dr Cassar explained that doctors also see another kind of self-Harm with deeper cuts which are made with a view to suicide. He said that they see them mostly in youngsters who are older and here care and treatment is different.

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