Self-harm is a broad term that encompasses a variety of behaviors that involve the intentional infliction of pain or damage onto one’s own body. Among the more common examples of self-harm are cutting, scratching, or burning one’s skin, punching or hitting one’s head on walls or other hard surfaces, pulling out one’s own hair; intentionally breaking one’s own bones, and drinking caustic, poisonous, or otherwise harmful liquids.
While some teens who engage in self-harm may also experience suicidal ideation, and though many of the behaviors that fall into this category may lead to death, self-harm is not synonymous with suicide. Teens who engage in self-harm are not necessarily attempting to end their own lives. Instead, they may be trying to punish themselves, give physical presence to emotional turmoil, or exert a modicum of control in what feels to them like an out-of-control existence.
Of course, regardless of the intentions of a teen who engages in self-harm, this behavior is clearly dangerous, potentially deadly, and often symptomatic of a mental health disorder. Without effective treatment, a teenager who engages in self-harm is at risk for a myriad of negative effects and outcomes, including but not limited to deteriorating mental health, a host of physical health problems, substance abuse, and pervasive hopelessness.
However, when a teen who has been struggling with self-harm gets appropriate care at an effective program, such as Greenleaf Behavioral Health Hospital, he or she can learn to alleviate or manage symptoms, develop healthier coping skills, and experience significant improvement in quality of life.
At Greenleaf, experienced and compassionate professionals are prepared to provide the comprehensive care that can help adolescents and teens overcome the urge to harm themselves while also addressing the emotional and/or psychological issues that may be at the center of this maladaptive behavior.
Helping a Loved One or Family Member Get Treatment
Discovering that a teenager in your life has been engaging in self-harm can be both confusing and distressing. If you have never encountered this behavior before, you may feel at a loss about how to address this problem. Before you go further, please know two important facts: Your loved one needs professional help, and you can play an essential role in ensuring that he or she gets that help.
First, it will be important for you to determine if your loved one’s behaviors are limited to self-harm, or if he or she is considering or attempting suicide. As daunting as this may sound, you need to speak directly with the teen, and ask him or her if he or she has been thinking about or has ever tried to commit suicide.
When you speak with your loved one, emphasize your compassion and empathy, and do not forget that he or she is in crisis. Do not allow the conversation to devolve into an argument. This is not the time to make accusations, issue ultimatums, or otherwise put yourself in conflict with the person who you are trying to help.
If you determine that the teen is, indeed, in immediate danger of suicide, then you should contact an emergency responder in your area, call 911, or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).
If the teen is not in immediate danger, you should still maintain constant vigilance to protect him or her while you educate yourself about this problem and investigate solutions.
You can get the information you need from a variety of sources. Talk to your family physician or another healthcare provider, contact a local mental health support group, and review websites of reputable public and private organizations. The better you understand what your loved one is experiencing, the better prepared you will be to provide meaningful support.
You should also be collecting information on the types of treatment that have helped other teens who were struggling with similar problems. This is where your relationship with the teen may be most valuable. Your understanding of his or her past and your knowledge of any additional problematic behaviors or worrisome symptoms can help to guide you toward the program that will provide comprehensive treatment services.
Remember that self-harm is not a disorder in and of itself, but rather is often a symptom of a mental health disorder. In order to effectively treat a teen who has been struggling with self-harm, the providers need to offer comprehensive solutions that address all issues that may have contributed to or been impacted by the self-harm.
When you have identified the program that is best prepared to help your loved one, and he or she has entered treatment, be sure to take advantage of any opportunities for family therapy or other support services. Family therapy and education can help you process the impact that this experience has had on you and can teach how to best support your loved one during and after his or her time in treatment.
Why Seek Treatment at Greenleaf Behavioral Health Hospital
Failing to get proper treatment for self-harm can expose a teenager to a variety of immediate and long-term dangers. Depending upon the type or types of self-harm that a teen has been employing, physical ramifications may include broken bones, infections, and organ damage. Adolescents and teenagers who engage in self-harm often to great lengths to hide their behaviors; as a result, they may not get appropriate medical care for problems such as cuts or burns that, if left untreated, can turn into severe health problems.
In addition to enduring potentially grievous physical harm, teens who engage in self-harm are also likely to be struggling with extreme psychological pain. Failing to properly address the psychological aspect of self-harm can lead to a worsening of symptoms, which can prompt more severe self-harm and the development of additional maladaptive behaviors, such as substance abuse. Continued untreated mental illness and substance abuse can, in turn, have a devastating effect on virtually all areas of a teen’s life, including but not limited to undermining his or her ability to perform to expectation at school, establish and maintain healthy interpersonal relationships, and make the necessary developmental progress that will allow him or her to one day achieve a self-sufficient independent adult lifestyle.
However, with proper treatment at a comprehensive program like Greenleaf Behavioral Health Hospital, adolescents and teenagers who have been struggling with self-harm can learn how to overcome this compulsion, and can be empowered to pursue happier, healthier, and more satisfying futures.
Types of Treatment Offered at Greenleaf Behavioral Health Hospital
Located in Valdosta, Georgia, Greenleaf Behavioral Health Hospital is a pioneering provider of world class mental health and substance abuse treatment for individuals of all ages. Since treating its first client, this 73-bed center has offered a supportive and caring environment in which teens, men, and women can come to heal and grow into healthier and more productive beings.
At Greenleaf Behavioral Health Hospital, we understand how difficult adolescence can be when a mental health condition is present. For this reason, we are proud to offer acute inpatient programming for teens between the ages of 12 and 17. When engaged in this invaluable program, young people benefit from compassionate support from our staff and time-tested therapeutic interventions that are proven to help teens successfully manage mental health and substance use concerns. Additionally, each teen is afforded highly personalized care in the form of individualized treatment planning that takes into account each young person’s needs and goals for treatment.
Once the streamlined admissions process is complete, our staff will determine the methods of care that can best address the treatment requirements of the youth. Once done, the teens treated at Greenleaf Behavioral Health Hospital will then experience a blend of the following effective interventions:
Medication management services: Teens who come to Greenleaf for the treatment of self-harm may require pharmaceutical intervention in order to stabilize and more effectively manage their symptoms. When this is the case, our expertly trained psychiatrists will work closely with each teen and his or her parent(s) or legal guardian(s) so that it can be conclusively determined if medication is necessary. These same staff members, along with the other mental health professionals at Greenleaf, are able to monitor the administration and effectiveness of any medication prescribed so that each young person who receives this type of care will experience the most favorable treatment outcomes.
Detoxification services: For some teens, substance use concerns are present at the same time as self-harm. Because of this fact, we are pleased to offer detoxification services so that harmful substances of abuse can be cleared from teens’ bodies in order for them to progress in their healing processes. Detoxification is a closely monitored service, as the health and wellbeing of the adolescents we treat are our top priority.
Individual therapy: Since each teen we treat is a unique person, with varying strengths, needs, and treatment initiatives, we purposefully include individual therapy in the care available to young people needing treatment for self-harm. During individual therapy sessions, teens will be able to meet with a member of our staff so that they can talk about concerns that they may not feel comfortable discussing in a group setting, process their past experiences and how they are doing in treatment, and work to establish goals for the present and future. These sessions are scheduled on an as-needed basis and can be monumentally helpful for the young people entrusted into our care, as they enable teens to receive the individual attention they deserve.
Group therapy: A great deal can be gained when one is able to receive encouragement and support from others who are grappling with similar concerns. At Greenleaf Behavioral Health Hospital, the treatment we offer teens includes daily group therapy sessions so that each young person is able experience peer support, practice coping skills, and process through their feelings and emotions with other teens who may have experienced similar struggles. When a youth comes to us battling the compulsion to engage in self-harm, these sessions can be integral in helping him or her develop the confidence needed to heal and become well again. Among the topics covered in group therapy sessions, the following are those that are commonly featured:
- Addictive behaviors and triggers
- Effectively expressing emotions
- Life skills
- Stress management
- Anger management
- Communication skills
Experiential therapy: At Greenleaf, we recognize the importance of remaining active and creative beings while working towards healing from self-harm. Given this fact, we are proud to offer recreational and creative opportunities to the teens we treat so that they can experience healing on all levels. Depending on each teen’s needs, we facilitate physical fitness activities and creative art projects that are supervised by the dedicated staff members who are providing treatment at our hospital.
Family therapy: We have found that the young people we treat tend to thrive and experience more favorable treatment outcomes when they have positive support from the individuals who are closest to them. For this reason, our adolescent programming includes family therapy sessions with a member of our compassionate staff. As a teen learns to manage the symptoms of self-harm, he or she also learns to rely on the support of loved ones, and family members are given the support and guidance for how they can best help the young person once he or she returns home. Family therapy sessions are also designed to help mend the emotional wounds of the past so that the family unit can move forward as a united front.
Family education: For the parents and legal guardians of teens struggling with self-harm, it may be confusing to know what exactly to do to help someone grappling with this type of mental health concern. For this reason, we offer parents and legal guardians support and guidance in the form of education while their children are in our care. During family education opportunities, our staff will do the following:
- Provide them with the resources needed to help their children thrive long after leaving Greenleaf Behavioral Health Hospital
- Inform those closest to our clients on how to best support their child during and after treatment is complete
- Explain the effects of mental illness on their children’s emotions and behavior
Discharge planning: At Greenleaf, we strive to improve the lives of all we treat and arm them with the confidence and skills needed to be healthier. Each teen who is treated for self-harm benefits from the aforementioned methods of care, and is also afforded with a thorough discharge plan so that he or she can continue to be successful in managing his or her self-harm symptoms. Discharge planning at Greenleaf is an ongoing process that aims to address each teen’s barriers to wellness, and attempts to put resources in place so as to ensure that a life of improved mental health is achieved.
Once a teen has successfully completed our acute inpatient program, he or she may be recommended to participate in a lower level of care so that his or her healing journey can continue. Depending on the recommendations set forth in the youth’s discharge plan, Greenleaf Behavioral Health Hospital offers both a partial hospitalization program (PHP) and intensive outpatient program (IOP). These two outpatient treatment options are designed to help teens who are working to overcome the compulsion to self-harm to slowly transition back into their communities by providing them with the additional services needed to become well again.
As a leading provider of mental health and substance abuse treatment, Greenleaf Behavioral Health Hospital is pleased to offer the high quality care teens need to address, process, and manage such concerns. We firmly believe that we can help your child overcome the urge to engage in self-harm, and we look forward to providing you with the support you need to help this special person in your life. If you would like to learn more about Greenleaf, our treatment methods, how we can help your child, or to begin the process of admissions, feel free to contact us at your convenience.
At Greenleaf Behavioral Health Hospital, we are uniquely prepared to help your teen build the foundation for a healthier future.