Self-harming student question

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Peregrin5, Sep 22, 2016.

  1. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Sep 22, 2016

    I had an interaction with a student I had suspected of self-harming. In one respect, I'm glad we had this interaction even though it was tense and slightly confrontational because I think I was able to get across to her that I worry and care about her as a student and for her well-being.

    Anyway what occurred was that this student has been a slight behavior problem (of the defiant/attention-seeking type) in class and I had noticed scars on her arm. I had mentioned that I would have to contact her parents for her behavior in class, but when I sent an email I also took the opportunity to ask her parent (or bring attention to her parent) about her self-harm scars. Part of what she was angry about with me was that I didn't talk to her first before contacting her parent. I apologized to her and said I didn't realize that it would upset her and only wanted to ensure that she was doing okay.

    For future reference, what would you guys do? Talk to the student first or the parent? (before contacting either, I contacted the counselor, but I don't believe that the counselor even took any action)
     
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  3. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    Sep 22, 2016

    I think I would talk to the student first. If I don't know the parents and can't gauge their reaction, I would not want to expose the child to a situation that might possibly be causing the self harm.
     
  4. Tulipteacher

    Tulipteacher Companion

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    Sep 22, 2016

    When I had a similar situation I contacted the guidance counselor. I didn't talk to the student or the parent. I know the counselor did talk to the student.

    I didn't have a good relationship with that student, but if I had I would have talked to the student first, told her i was concerned, and told her I was going to to refer her to guidance. (In fact I followed that exact course of action when a different student mentioned suicide in class.) I wouldn't contact the parents unless I already had been in contact with them and had a good sense of them. Otherwise I'd leave that part to guidance, since I can't offer resources, support, or knowledge the way the counselor can.
     
  5. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    Sep 22, 2016

    I would talk to the student, or if for some reason I'd feel it wouldn't be productive (we don't have a good relationship, the student wouldn't open up, etc) I'd talk to a counselor and have them talk to the student. In that case my name doesn't even need to be mentioned, it can be said that signs were visible, or someone brught it to their attention.
    I wouldn't talk to the parent. you have no idea what is going on at home, and the self harm could get worse. It might not even be self harm, but abuse.
     
  6. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Sep 22, 2016

    I've had some first-hand experience dealing with a student's cutting. I wrote about it for a blog online and will send you the link privately (it includes my real name so I'd prefer to keep it off the forum).
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2016
  7. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Sep 22, 2016

    Counselor.
     
  8. Special-t

    Special-t Enthusiast

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    Sep 22, 2016

    Same situation. I notified the school psychologist and our guidance counselor.
     
  9. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Sep 23, 2016

    DEFINITELY get a counselor involved!
     
  10. Obadiah

    Obadiah Groupie

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    Sep 23, 2016

    I'm concerned that the counselor didn't take any action. My expertise is in elementary, but if I faced that situation, I would have done exactly as you did, inform administration and inform the parents.

    I attended a rather unique workshop years ago. Teachers and other professionals were in one room and we viewed two live counseling sessions via TV cameras. Everyone involved was aware that we were monitoring. (I apologize for the frankness)-- I was surprised to learn that self pricking/cutting is considered the same as excessive masturbation. The actions provide relief from stress. The first counseling session was with a young adult, two local counselors, and the guest counselor. The second session was with a high school girl (who was cutting), her parents, her younger middle school brother, and the other guest counselor. I noticed in the second session, the parents seemed rather controlling in the session. I found the brother's actions normal but interesting, too. In the session his sitting posture was rather cocky; he was wearing a snowcap, popular during that time, and the counselor kind of broke the ice by commenting on his cap. Anyway, it seemed the main obstruction of progress involved the family living in the past. Rather than leaving past mistakes and difficulties behind and progressing through the present into the future, they kept digging up old graves. I almost got the feeling that the parents' attitude was accusatory rather than assistive towards the daughter. Another factor I've learned from reading about similar situations, in fact, I just read about this again yesterday, kids who experience these difficulties are often perceived by others as being weak minded or sometimes less morally grounded, but research indicates otherwise. They are just as normal as anyone else; any kid, under the same circumstances might experience the same difficulties. I don't mean that you, as a teacher, feel this way, but her peers and their parents, especially other kids' parents, might, and such ostracism will only increase the stress.
     
  11. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Sep 23, 2016

    Gotcha. I did not/do not have a great relationship with the student. Not for lack of trying on my part, but she's a tough nut to crack. I genuinely like her, and I think she kind of is warming up to me, but I'm trying to ensure that she doesn't mistake my willingness to give her as much leeway as I have in terms of my classroom procedures and systems as weakness. I'm simply differentiating for her and letting her do things in the way that she has explained work best for her.

    Since I still don't know where I stood with the student I contacted parent (since again, I don't believe counselor actually did anything despite my coming in and personally talking to her--she didn't even write down her name when I spoke to her at length), but I never even stopped to think that the parent might be the source of the cutting.
     
  12. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Sep 23, 2016

    When it comes to self-harm, it is always best to let the student know you are contacting the parent. Sometimes he or she is grateful, sometimes resentful. Either way, that child is ready for a dialogue.
     
    MrsC, MLB711, Caesar753 and 1 other person like this.

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