Giving Compass' Take:

•  Dr. Yolanda Evans, an adolescent medicine specialist at Seattle Children’s, discusses the recent increase in non-suicidal injuries in teens and makes suggestions on how parents can help children address their mental health issues. 

• Evans is a proponent of treating mental health like physical health to help young people strengthen their resilience. How can donors help to reduce the stigma associated with mental health injuries and increase access to mental health services? What is the role of educators, medical professionals, and parents to do the same?

•  Read more about removing the stigma of mental health among youth. 

Today, nearly one in five children has a mental, emotional, or behavioral disorder. While some seek relief from their distress using positive coping methods, others may choose methods that are harmful and potentially life-threatening.

Dr. Yolanda Evans, an adolescent medicine specialist at Seattle Children’s, has been seeing a recent increase in teens coming into the clinic with self-injuries done through cutting, burning, pinching and scratching, among others.

“It’s possible that the increase may be partly due to the impact that social media and technology has on the current generation,” Evans said. “Kids might see their peers online engaging in self-harming behavior as a way to cope with their emotions, influencing them to replicate that type of behavior.”

However, while many believe that people who injure themselves always do so with the intent of suicide, Evans says that is a common misconception.

To help us better understand nonsuicidial self-injury, Evans explains what it is, how parents and caregivers can help their child or teen who may be self-injuring and suggests positive coping methods they can use.

In a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, researchers conducted an analysis of the Center of Disease Control’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System data to assess the prevalence of, and factors associated with, nonsuicidal self-injury.

Resilience, which is an individual’s positive adaptation to the experience of adversity, is also an important concept that can help kids and teens manage their mental health.

With recent studies showing that nearly half of the 7.7 million children in the U.S. with mental health disorders are left untreated and the significant increase in youth suicide in recent years, Evans believes it is more crucial than ever that mental health is seen in the same way as physical health.

Read the full article about nonsuicidal self-injury by Anna Altavas at Seattle Children's Hospital.