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SnakebyteXX
04-19-2005, 04:11 AM
C.W. Nevius

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Her parents wondered why she was always so cold. Their daughter insisted on wearing a sweatshirt, even on the sunniest of afternoons. It was strange.

Probably another one of those teen fashion things, they figured. That would explain why she pulled the sleeves down over her hand and stuck her thumb through a loop she'd cut in the cuff. Just another offbeat style trend.

But the girl, whose identity was withheld by her counselor for obvious reasons, was a textbook example of a bloody epidemic among American teenage girls.

When these girls are identified, often by concerned friends, their parents are horrified to find their arms slashed with parallel gashes, each 2 to 3 inches long, cut into their flesh with razors or knives.

It's called "cutting,'' the practice of self-injury and self-mutilation, and it is a scary trend among troubled teenage girls. If you have a daughter and this surprises you, it only confirms that you are out of the loop.

"I get a lot of calls from parents who are shocked,'' says Kirsten Beuthin, a marriage and family therapist who practices in Oakland and San Francisco. "But it hasn't shocked me in a long time.''

The number of girls who engage in cutting -- and they are, overwhelmingly, girls -- ranges from as many as 2 million nationwide, to, as one 1986 study by the University of Missouri suggested, 750 of every 100,000 Americans engaging in self-mutilation.

Based upon her 19 years as a therapist and school counselor at King Middle School in Berkeley, Jan Sells has a reply to those statistics.

"I would say the issues we are hearing about are the tip of the iceberg,'' she says. "It has definitely become an epidemic.''

The first reaction, of course, is disbelief.

"Parents have never come across this,'' says Beuthin, who says 70 percent of her patients are teenage girls and 80 percent of them have engaged in cutting. "It was never an issue 30 years ago.''

But the real stunner is who is at risk. It isn't the girls you might think.

"They have everything,'' says Sandra Lessenden, a Walnut Creek family therapist who works with teens in the upscale communities of San Ramon, Danville and Alamo. "They have a brand-new car as soon as they can drive and plenty of pocket money.''

The typical "cutter'' is often a straight-A student and almost always a girl. Beuthin says kids between the ages of 13 and 15 are prime candidates, caught in the "mean girl'' maelstrom of middle school and shaky self-esteem. And in her experience, they are generally from affluent, high-achieving homes.

The breakdown comes when the girl feels she is not measuring up. In an affluent culture where families subtly size each other up based upon which schools their children attend, what cars they drive and where they go to college, it can be devastating for a teenage girl to feel she isn't making the grade.

"There is this sense of 'why can't I just be happy?' '' Beuthin says.

The answer is complicated. Because their expectations and stress are too high. Because two-income families leave so-called latch-key girls alone at home after school. And because the family support system has vanished, along with the family dinner together every night. When frustrated, boys punch a wall or ride off a skateboard ramp; girls sit at home and brood. They are ashamed of their "failure'' and of the razor marks on their bodies.

"Even now girls are socialized to be good and quiet and not speak up for themselves,'' Beuthin says. "If you are cutting, oh my God, you don't want to upset your parents or the community.''

That's why they wear the sweatshirts. Sells says hooking the thumbs through cutouts in the cuffs keeps the sleeves from sliding down, even when they raise their arms.

Now, what you'd like to hear now is that cutting is a no-win game that hurts everyone. But there's a scary secret to the practice, says Beuthin.

"I think it does make them feel better,'' she says. "It is very short-term fix, just like using drugs, but it is the pressure-cooker theory. It has built up to the point, and they are so cut off, detached from their feelings, that this brings them back to themselves.''

If that's the case, I have two questions: My God, what are we doing to our daughters? And how can we stop?


link (http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/04/19/NEVIUS.TMP)

Deeman2
04-19-2005, 12:08 PM
Snake:

I know you only posted this as it is interesting but, Give Me a Break. We have kids dying in war, women being beaten to death by husbands, people are dying of cancer every day and I just find it hard to feel too sorry for someone cutting themselves with a razor blade.

If they were using a chainsaw, I might take them more serious...

I know I am in for a left attact here, but people, this just ain't killing many folks...

Deeman