Health Check Kids: Self-harm awareness

The estimates are one in five girls and one in seven boys engage in cutting, a form of self-harm. (WJAR)

The estimates are one in five girls and one in seven boys engage in cutting, a form of self-harm.

But you might be surprised to learn it's not a suicide attempt.

"My anxiety was through the roof,” said 18-year-old Alex Eisner of North Attleboro.

Eisner received treatment for that at Bradley Hospital, but there was something else going on that she didn't admit to early on in her treatment.

"I thought they would judge me. I thought I was the only one, I thought I was crazy,” said Eisner.

Eisner was cutting herself, including her arms and legs.

"Anything I could find that was hideable," she said. "Like, the plastic razors my parents had in the house, I would take the disposable one and I would crack it and use those."

Dr. Brady Case, who is the medical director of the pediatric anxiety research clinic at Bradley Hospital, treated Eisner.

"Many kids will describe the sensation of distraction that comes with cutting,” Case said.

"It was like one of those coping mechanisms, in a way, and it was bad but I couldn't think rationally that it wasn't a good thing,” said Eisner.

She got away with it for a few years by hiding her scars. Then, she finally opened up.

First, she told her therapist and then shared the news with her parents.

"As a parent, you want to help them and when something like this happens, you're usually helpless,” said Richard Eisner, Eisner's father said.

Richard said his daughter's experience inspired him to put his feelings into a song.

"Cold steel, breaking skin. Scars say more than words ever can," are some of the lyrics.

"I was playing my piano one day and he just came down and he put his phone down and he was, like, 'Listen to this," Eisner of when she first heard the song. "I listened to it and I bawled my eyes out."

Eisner is now a freshman in animal sciences at U Maine.

“She absolutely loves animals,” Richard said.

It's an exciting time in her life, but her parents were concerned about the transition to college.

"I think getting to know Alex really helped me feel that, as a clinician, I could make an argument which was, I think this kid can handle U Maine, going away, being at a distance and in fact, I think it may protect her because for her it was something she actually wanted,” said Case.

He said that's part of the treatment: focusing on the child's strengths and goals.

For Eisner, it's her love of animals as she plans to become a veterinarian. She admits she still has the urge, at times, to cut.

"It kind of scares me now more because I know if I do it once, it's not going to be just once,” said Eisner.

So, she stays focused. And so do her parents.

"My hope is that it helps some parents who are struggling with this kind of understand, 'OK, I know how you're feeling as a parent and I know how hopeless you are,'" Richard said.

But most importantly, he wants folks to know there is hope.

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