Girls are amazing. They’re strong, funny, and thoughtful. They’re innovative and gutsy. They’re loving and adventurous. But beyond all of those wonderful qualities, roughly a quarter of girls today are also hurting themselves. That might sound extreme, but studies show that nationwide, one in four adolescent girls has deliberately harmed herself in the past year. In some regions of the country, rates of self-harm are closer to one in three.
Many of you might be thinking, “not my girl!,” and we hope you’re right. But that doesn’t mean self-harm doesn’t affect your daughter’s world.
“It can be hard to understand why a young person with her whole future ahead of her would purposefully hurt herself,” says Girl Scouts’ developmental psychologist Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald. “Self-harm is too often a response to stress or anxiety that can be used to either distract from feelings or control them.” And in today’s stressful world, the rates of self-harm among girls are high enough that a friend in your girl’s circle may be suffering.
“Even suspecting that a friend, teammate, or classmate is hurting herself could make your girl feel confused, sad, angry, or responsible for fixing things,” Dr. Bastiani Archibald explains. “It’s a complicated issue, and one that young people shouldn’t have to face alone.”
Here are three ways you can be there for your girl and make her more likely to turn to you if she needs extra support.
If you’re concerned that your girl may be engaging in self-harm or think that she may be having trouble coping with a friend who hurts herself, don’t hesitate to reach out to the school’s guidance counselor, a local health professional, or a community leader for help and guidance. Nobody wants to see young people suffering, and you do not have to navigate this on your own.