Teenagers are at times so deeply troubled that they turn to self-harm and this is not a new phenomenon, according to executive member of the Psychological Society of South Africa and private clinical psychologist Rafiq Lockhat.
Lockhat, who sees a lot of teenagers who cut themselves, explained that there are broadly two reasons why people cut themselves. "One is to cut to release what they are feeling and the other is to cut to feel something," he said.
"They feeling so much emotional pain that they are trying to release it through cutting. So the physical pain in some way for them releases all the emotional turmoil inside."
Shocking teen cuttings in SA
While ER24 revealed to Health24 that children as young as 10 years are cutting themselves, Lockhat pointed out that children even younger are self-harming.
He warned that this is problematic because it is an unhealthy way of expressing oneself.
"Once an eight-year-old starts to cut, it becomes entrenched in the brain as a coping mechanism for stress."
They will then start using this, said Lockhart, as a preferred method of expressing their anger, disgust, shame or sadness.
What parents should do
Lockhat noted that parents should urgently seek psychological help if they find out that their child is self-harming.
"They have got to see a clinical psychologist. Parents can't fix this. They need professional help."
He explained that parents don't always get things right with their children, pointing out that they face phenomenal challenges in rearing children.
"It is very hard to be empathic when you are stressed as a parent; and you are already feeling helpless to help your child." Lockhat said at this point parents often become angry and then start saying foolish things, which often makes matters worst.
The Zayn Malik craze
Lockhat also expressed concern over the call for distraught fans of singer Zayn Malik to cut them after he quit the popular boy band One Direction.
He cautioned against this form of self-harm, saying once it is entrenched as a form of expression, it will likely set a precedent. "Cutting for Zayne Malik could set the standard for what to do the next time some celebrity does something and then teenagers will unite around it."
Lockhat explained to Health24 why he thinks teenagers are so fascinated by celebrities. "For teenagers who are grappling with normal mundane stuff like school, parents and siblings, a celebrity's life suddenly becomes fantastic.
"Every single aspect of these celebrities' lives becomes critically important to these teenagers because it is so vastly different to their 'boring' lives. So they kind of absorb themselves into the person's life as a way out of their own drab life."
Lockhat also shared some advice for parents, saying they should carefully consider how they deal with their child's emotions.
Image: Sad teen from Shutterstock