New Study Reveals More Self-Injury on Campus
> 6/5/2006 3:21:29 PM

A new study published by Princeton and Cornell Universities reveals disturbing trends in the number of related incidents on college campuses. Precise statistical analysis may be impossible due to the anti-social nature of self-injury, but its presence in the public consciousness appears to be growing, and it is certainly more widespread than most of us would like to believe.

While many adopt a critical view of self-injury as a desperate cry for attention and confuse it with attempted suicide, the act of inflicting lighter injuries on oneself may in fact serve as a private suicide preventative. Many injure themselves to self-medicate, with the act itself providing a small respite from overwhelmingly negative emotions and self-images. "Cutters," as they are sometimes called, may be too ashamed of their habits to mention them publicly, especially when confronted by parents or counselors who come off as condescending or dismissive.

Causes of these behaviors are numerous and complimentary, according to previous Cornell documents:

In clinical populations, self-injury is strongly linked to childhood abuse, especially childhood sexual abuse. In addition, there is evidence that earlier, more severe abuse and abuse by a family member may lead to greater dissociation and thus greater self-injury. Self-injury is also linked to eating disorders, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, borderline personality disorder, depression, and anxiety disorders.

Opinions vary on gender distribution of the phenomenon; some claim that self-injury is seven times as common among female students while others conclude that females are only slightly more likely to injure themselves. The fact remains that, whatever their social groupings, precise numbers, or pre-existing conditions, many students on American college campuses continue to hurt themselves, and those responsible for their health need to make special efforts to research, recognize and treat the problem, as it can be very difficult to diagnose when concerned parties don't know which symptoms to look for. Sites like Secret Shame and SAFE (Self Abuse Finally Ends) may offer some measure of comfort, but both school faculty and mental health professionals should respond without judgment in counseling those who suffer from this condition.

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