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Self-Harm Need Not Always be a Serious Mental Health Issue

Update Date: Nov 04, 2012 04:34 AM EST

Psychologist Jonas Bjärehed concludes in his study, that in order not to over-interpret the behavior in teenagers, one needs knowledge.  Bjärehed recently presented his thesis at Lund University in Sweden.

For the study, Jonas Bjärehed and his supervisor Lars Gunnar Lund surveyed 1,000 young people and found that four out of 10 young people had at least once hurt themselves intentionally.

When the researchers broke down the data further, they found that it is only a small minority of youngsters who self-harm on a regular basis. This can be compared to self-harm in adults with mental health issues.  

"It is important that school and health professionals know how to deal with young people who self-harm. They need to react appropriately and not judge all young people alike," Bjärehed says. "For many of these young people, the behavior seems to be fairly mild and often of a temporary nature. It may be viewed as a matter of experimentation or problems that are not of a serious nature."

When Bjärehed began his research six years ago, there was little knowledge of self-harm among professionals who encountered youngsters who hurt themselves. However, the situation seems to have improved nowadays.

He says that although not all youngsters who self-harm suffer from mental illness, there is a tendency of the behavior repeating itself and turning into a vicious circle. Self-harm causes mental health to deteriorate, Medical Xpress reported.

"Nowadays, we are grappling with the fact that many signs of stress and mental illness appear to be increasing in our society, especially among young people, without us really understanding why. The fact that many young people suffer mental health problems during a time in their lives when they are in the process of becoming adults and developing the skills they need to contribute to society has become a serious public health problem. An important challenge is to understand this trend and the signs of mental illness that we are seeing in young people, in order to be able to take the necessary measures to prevent it or provide help," Bjärehed said.

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