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Post-Pandemic Vigilance

How Classroom Teachers Can Know when Students are Harming Themselves . . . and What Teachers Should Do If They Are

How are students adjusting as they return to live classrooms? The answer is, they are adjusting in different ways, depending on thousands of variables that include life at home and their emotional and social maturity. Some students are simply happy to be back at their desks. Still, others are finding the transition moderately difficult. And then there are other students who are having an extremely difficult time making the transition.

Some of the students in that third group may even engage in self-harming behaviors, including cutting themselves or other destructive patterns. Why do some students fall into these behaviors? And if they do, how can a teacher know?

Let’s explore some of the answers to those questions that are provided by Venée M. Hummel in an article, “Understanding Self-Harming Behaviors and Students: The Basics for Teachers,” she wrote for the Clarity Child Guidance Center blog. Ms. Hummel, LCSW, is a clinical social worker and clinician at the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Centerstone in Clarksville, Tennessee, and an instructor at the Garland School of Social Work at Baylor University.

Why Students Harm Themselves

Ms. Hummel writes that intentionally hurting oneself is a coping mechanism that serves a variety of functions, including:

  • Creating physical pain as a way to feel something when experiencing numbness
  • Distracting from emotions
  • Enacting a form of control when feeling out of control
  • Engaging in self-harm as punishment

Signs that Teachers Can Watch to Identify Students who Are Harming Themselves

Ms. Hummel lists these warning signs:

  • Exhibiting emotional instability and mood swings
  • Experiencing difficulty in relationships
  • Explaining away frequent injuries as accidents
  • Picking, rubbing (to create a skin burn, such as with an eraser), or scratching at themselves
  • Visible scarring, bruises, burns, and other wounds
  • Wearing long-sleeved shirts or long pants, even in hot temperatures or under typical physical education uniforms
  • Withdrawing and isolating

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