Seeing evidence of your child self-harming, or hurting themselves with intention, can be a terrifying experience for a parent. In addition to the fear, you may be unsure of what to do or say, and want desperately to stop the behaviour. This is a common experience for many parents, as the instances of self-harm is the highest during the teen and early adult years. The Ottawa Citizen wrote an article about cases of self harm in 2014, and sadly there are more instances each year. This is a growing issue in Canada, and it needs to be addressed and better understood.
The first thing that is helpful to know is that self-harm is not usually a sign of a desire to commit suicide. Unless there are explicit statements about wanting to commit suicide accompanying the self-harm, its purpose has more to do with coping with negative experiences, using physical pain to break a sense of numbness, or as a way to show others that they are hurting. Once you can see self-harm as a way of coping and communication as opposed to a sign of suicide, it can assist ease both the sense of fear and helplessness.
The good news is that there are many things that you can do as a parent to help your teen develop more positive coping styles. The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario’s fact sheet on self-harm highlights both long-term and short-term items that may be helpful for your teen.
Re-assure your child that you are there for them, and that you love them, no matter what. Even though they may not show it, they will appreciate having your unconditional support.
Instead of dismissing or minimizing their feelings, validate that they are feeling the way they are, even though it may be difficult to see their point of view. As parents it can seem counter-intuitive and scary to accept the negative feelings your teen may be expressing, however, it can often be the most effective way to help them cope and move past them.
Help your teen brainstorm less harmful methods to distract themselves from their negative feelings and thoughts, like listening to music, journalling, sports, or another activity that they enjoy.
My Teen Is Depressed
The teenage years are a time of many changes and where teenagers are expected to make many decisions about their future. At times, this can leave teenagers feeling confused, isolated or even depressed. Teenage depression therapy can help. Depression therapy for Ottawa teenagers can lift the sadness and give you strategies that can help you get into a healthier state of mind throughout your lifetime. The teenage years are a time riddled with identity challenges, conflict with friends and parents, pressure and ongoing changes, and can leave adolescents feeling quite overwhelmed, blue, or even depressed. Depression therapy is a wise first step in dealing with this.
Depression Therapy Can Help
Approximately 18% of children and teenagers struggle with depression, mental illness or substance abuse. Symptoms of depression vary from person to person. However some signs that an adolescent may be depressed include extreme or uncharacteristic mood swings, difficulty concentrating, intensified feelings of low self-esteem, ongoing feelings of exhaustion or an excessive need for sleep, or suicidal thoughts. If you think that you, or a loved one, may be struggling with this, an Ottawa teenage depression therapist might be the best person to talk to.
Talk To An Ottawa Depression Counsellor
Many adolescents (and truth be told – adults!) have ambivalence about talking to a depression counsellor. This is very normal – if you haven’t spoken to a counsellor before it can seem pretty nerve-wracking and unfamiliar! The primary goal of teenage depression counselling is to provide a safe, comfortable and confidential environment to support teenagers in addressing what is bothering him or her. A teen coming to depression counselling can expect the counsellor to encourage them to discuss what their experience of depression has been, explore what might have contributed to these feelings, and will work with them to develop coping strategies for dealing with depression, as well as other life stressors that may have contributed to depression.
Learn To Overcome Depression
What causes people to become depressed varies and as a result each counselling session is different, but have the same goal of meeting the client where they are at and supporting them in working towards the overall goal of feeling better. Although it may initially seem a little scary, teenage depression therapy and counselling can be a great way to deal with depression and learn strategies that can help set a teen up for a healthier state of mind throughout his or her life!
Help your teen identify the triggers of their self-harm & depression, working towards discovering what they might need in order to relieve some of their stressors.
Often patterns can be difficult to change or the above conversations break down without a third party, such as a professional psychotherapist or psychologist. Reaching out for additional support can be helpful as well if there are concerns about suicidal thoughts. A professional can help your teen to open up and communicate their concerns, as well as provide support for you as a parent.
To learn more about Capital Choice Counselling Group’s counsellors who specialize in self-harm and depression, please call 613-425-4257. To learn more about the services we provide for teenagers, click here.