If you’re a teacher, a youth pastor, or the parent of teenagers, there’s a new study out that you should pay attention to. According to research published in the Lancet medical journal, one of every 12 American teens engages in self-injury.
The researchers say this behavior, which can manifest itself as cutting, burning or other forms of injury, is often linked to emotions that teens feel are unbearable. These teenagers are more likely to be depressed than their peers, and more apt to be sexually active and abuse alcohol or drugs.
The good news is that kids seem to be safeguarded from self-harm through something called "social scaffolding."
Researcher George Patton says "Young people are going to be most protected from self-harm by good connections, and good involvement with their families …with schools, engagement with their local neighborhood, and good relationships with their peers."
One of the places that teens can make those good connections is at church. Research conducted at the University of North Carolina found that teens who are actively involved in a faith community are much less likely to engage in all types of risky behavior—including self-injury.
In today’s world, getting your teen or pre-teen involved in a healthy, discipleship-oriented youth group is more critical than ever. If you’re a parent, I can’t stress how important it is for you to be well-grounded in your own faith--and to be intentional about passing it on to your kids.
I’m Bill Maier for family-friendly, commercial free, WBCL.