Kids Who Cut Themselves

Normally when you think of people cutting themselves, you think of older teens.  But studies show that it is starting at younger and younger ages.

The studies reveal that cutting among kids ages 10 to 14, especially girls, is dramatically on the rise.

Since 2009, the rate of girls ages 10 to 14 arriving in emergency rooms with self-inflicted injuries has increased by nearly 19% per year.  This surpasses all other ages groups.

Look at the stats regarding annual E.R. visits for self-harm by age...
  • ages 10 to 14 - girls is 18.8% increase and boys is 1% increase
  • ages 15 to 19 - girls is 7.2% increase and boys is .5% increase
  • ages 20 to 24 - girls is 2% increase and boys is .1% increase
What is causing this dramatic increase among younger children?

Mental health experts have suggested things such as...

The sharp increase in smartphone use.  More and more kids are getting smartphones at younger ages which puts them in constant touch with others through social media and apps.  This increases the risk of bullying, abuse, self-esteem issues, etc.  

Increasing academic demands.  Like ever before, kids face the pressure to exceed in school and when they fall short, it can lead to depression, cutting, etc.

Economic stress in families.  Many families faced economic stress as we went through the recession.  Kids can pick up on the stress their parents are feeling and start worrying and acting out as well.

Most of the time, kids engage in cutting as a way of coping with the strong emotions that go along with situations like above.  While cutting is usually not an actual attempt at suicide, it can be very dangerous and can cause severe scarring or disfigurement. 

As children's ministry leaders, we must be aware of the pressures the pre-teens in our ministries are dealing with.  While it is not our job to treat kids professionally (unless you are a doctor or licensed therapist working with the child and his/her parents), it is our role to be involved in kids' lives, know when they are struggling and offer spiritual support.

Every pre-teen in our ministries must be connected to a caring volunteer.  A volunteer who greets them with a smile each week.  A volunteer who knows what is going on in their life.  A volunteer that engages them in meaningful conversation and asks how their week went, what challenges they faced, etc.  A volunteer who they know really cares about them. 
More than ever before, it is critical that kids move out of a row of chairs and into a circle of friends at church.  A circle that is led by an adult that they know cares about them, has their back and walks with them through the ups and downs of growing up in a broken world.
Every pre-teen must have the opportunity to share prayer requests and be prayed for each week.  Kids must have a safe place where they can open up and share their struggles, worries, fears and challenges.  This may even mean letting kids know they can write down a prayer request that they don't fell comfortable sharing out loud. 

We must partner with the parents of the pre-teens in our ministries.  Parenting kids in today's culture is no easy task.  Especially if your child is cutting.  Pray for parents.  Pray with parents.  Encourage parents to find professional help for their child when needed.  Ask how you can best minister to and encourage their child.

If you discover a child is cutting and the parents are not aware of it, you should notify the parents.  Cutting is not something you can keep confidential between you and the child, even if he or she asks you not to tell anyone.  Explain to the child the responsibility you have to help him or her get the help they need.

Kids are being forced to grow up faster than ever because of the world they live in.  They face pressures and struggles that we never faced as children. 

The good news is this.  We can point kids to the hope and peace that can be found in Christ.  He can bear their sorrows and carry their grief.  He can help them discover their true value and worth.

If they can learn these things as children, they can grow up as overcomers rather than stressed out, fragile souls.  They can be marked by the grace, power and love of Jesus rather than by the scars of self-doubt, deception, turmoil, frustration and fear.