FRIDAY, May 25 (HealthDay News) -- Doctors have long known that some kids suffering severe emotional turmoil find relief in physical pain -- cutting or burning or sticking themselves with pins to achieve a form of release.
But researchers now are questioning whether enough is being done to reach out to these young people and help them before they do themselves irreparable damage.
One study this year found that six of every 10 adolescents who went to an emergency room for treatment after harming themselves were released without receiving a mental health assessment or any follow-up mental health care. The findings were reported in the February issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.
"Most young people who self-harm suffer from some underlying psychological disorder," said Jeffrey Bridge, a researcher with the Center for Innovation in Pediatric Practice at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and the study's lead author. "It's critical to conduct a mental health assessment in addition to the evaluation of their physical health if we're to get to the root of their problems."
Between 8 and 10 percent of all adolescents are believed to engage in some form of self-injurious behavior, Bridge said.
These children cut themselves with sharp edges, burn themselves with matches, stick needles into their skin or under their nails, or perform other acts of self-mutilation.
"I had one little boy that had one whole quarter of his head, he'd pulled out all the hair," said Mary Curran, executive director of Catholic Family Services in Crestwood, Mo., and a psychologist who specializes in self-harming behaviors.
Kids most often hurt themselves like this to deal with emotional problems such as stress or depression.
"It helps them deal with their feelings," Curran said. "It's a distraction for them. It's
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