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Health Beat: Coping with cutting

health beat self injuries

DALLAS - "Liz" isn't her real name. She has scars where she used to cut herself with a razor blade, as many as three times a day for seven years.

"I really believe that if I didn't find self-injury I would have killed myself. I probably would have committed suicide, no doubt," Liz said.

At 21, Liz has been in recovery for two years. She learned about self-injury through social media. In middle school, she was bullied, depressed and had no self-esteem. She would lock herself in the bathroom and cut herself with the water running.

"I'd rather feel the pain on my skin than in my heart," Liz explained.

Finally, after trying to kill herself, Liz sought help.

"This seems to be epidemic. It is spreading like wildfire," said Lori Vann, a self-injury counselor.

Vann has treated Liz and 400 other cases of self-injury. She said up to 20 percent of young people may experience it.

"I think to an extent self-injury is still seen as a taboo issue, that many clinicians are not comfortable working with," Vann said.

Signs of self-injury include scars from cuts or burns, fresh cuts, scratches, bruises, wearing long sleeves in hot weather, spending time alone and statements of hopelessness or worthlessness.

"I admire her more than anyone in the world," Liz's mother said.

Part of Liz's resolve to avoid a relapse comes from her supportive family. Her mother knows how hard it is for parents to cope.

"Remember, they don't hate you. They hate themselves, and they need your love more now than ever," said Liz's mother.

Today, Liz has a boyfriend and she's going to college to work in the medical field.

"There is life after recovery and it's awesome and it's worth it. It's all worth it," Liz said.

Help is available, so if you know someone who may be suffering with self-injury, try to get them to recognize they are not alone and to seek professional help, for the emotional issues underlying self-injury.

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