Friday, March 27, 2015

Extreme Teen Binge Drinking

Friday, March 27, 2015

Before long students at my school will be getting ready for spring break, and soon after, they will attend prom. Since spring is the season for increased celebrations, the use of alcohol by the majority of teens is inevitable. Next month, schools can share important information about alcohol use with teens and parents before the parties begin.  Although you may be tied up with registration, testing, and preparing for your honor's program, think about taking some time to educate your students and parents.

So, What's the Problem With Teen Drinking?

The National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence reports some pretty interesting facts about teen drinking.  Not a big surprise to school counselors, but alcohol is the number one drug choice by teens out of all drugs. Annually, 5,000 teens die from alcohol related injuries including:  motor vehicle crashes, homicide, and suicides.  In addition, alcohol has a major impact in risky sexual behaviors, unprotected sex, unplanned pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases.

Alcohol Facts
  • Teens who start drinking before the age of 15 are five times more likely to be dependent on alcohol than those who started drinking at the age of 21.  Delaying consumption of alcohol can make a significant impact on alcohol dependence.
  • Out of teens surveyed in 2006, 7.2 million reported binge drinking and 2.4 million reported being heavy drinkers. Binge drinking (National Institute of Alcohol and Addition) is defined by drinking five or more drinks in a two hour period. In the blog post, Kids Don't Need to Practice Drinking for College, the author tackles the belief by parents that kids have to practice drinking for college.  Binge drinking does not start in college; however, it intensifies when parental boundaries are removed.
  • When teens drink, they tend to consume alcohol more intensely than adults. For example, teens will consume at least four to five drinks at one time (whoa!) compared to adults who tend to consume four to five within 2 hours when binge drinking.
  • Although teen drinking has decreased in recent years, binge drinking has increased among adolescents. In fact, teens are engaging in extreme binging or drinking up to ten or more drinks in a row. 
  •  Alcohol can cause alterations to the brain structure and function which may have effects into adulthood. An ABC News Report on Girl Binge Drinking describes the dangers of binge drinking on the female brain. Researchers found that girls who drink alcohol have more chances of experiencing brain damage than male teens.
  • Students who abuse alcohol have more mental and physical health problems than non-abusing teens.
  • Drinking too fast can cause blackouts.  There are many myths about blackouts among teens that they need to be aware of before they attend parties or celebrations.
  • Alcohol consumption can result in alcohol poisoning which can lead to death.
Extreme Binging

Unfortunately, many teens are going to consume alcohol.  I hate it, but it is a reality.  Drinking alcohol is one thing, but now, teens are taking consumption to a whole new level.  The goal of these binging methods is to get drunk and do it quickly.  Although binge drinking is bad enough, teens are now engaging in extreme binge drinking.  As a school counselor, I may not be able to stop teens from drinking; however, I can educate them on the dangers of binge drinking.

There are lots of ways teens can experience quick intoxication.  Below is a list of some pretty disturbing trends among teens that adults should know:

  • Eyeball shot - According to researchers, this is the most extreme method of intoxication. As the alcohol is poured into the eye, the delicate tissue soaks up the alcohol and causes a quick drunk. 
Eyeball Shot...OUCH!!
  • Snorting - Alcohol snorted through a straw has an intense impact and works so fast that there is an immediate change in behavior (i.e. falling on the floor).
         BBC: Warning Over Vodka Snorting Fad
  • Slimming - Teens who want to avoid the smell of alcohol have begun inserting alcohol soaked tampons in their vaginal or rectal areas. Because the alcohol is inserted into the body, the effects are much faster.
  • Smoking alcohol - This trend uses dry ice, alcohol, and a straw.  The alcohol is poured over the ice and becomes a vapor which is then inhaled through a straw. By inhaling the alcohol, it is absorbed quickly and causing rapid intoxication.
Alcohol Smoking
  • Butt Chugging -  Mimicking the stunt from the MTV show, Jackass, many high school and college students try it this at home and parties.  A funnel is attached to a long plastic tube to control the flow of the beer to the rectum. The danger with funneling alcohol is that the lower intestine does not have an enzyme to break down alcohol so when it reaches the liver it is highly toxic to the body.
          CNN: Alcohol Enemas

  • Pre-drinking - Students will begin drinking at home before going out so that they don't have to spend as much money getting the intended buzz. Next, the students will buy cheap alcohol and down it quickly before reaching their destination.
  • Rummy bears - Gummy bears or worms are soaked in alcohol overnight infusing the candy with a punch.  Students, as young as middle school, can get intoxicated right under their teachers' nose.
Gummy bears expand with alcohol
  • Jello shots - Because gelatin masks the smell of alcohol, jello shots have become popular among teens as a way to become intoxicated. 
          Kids Drink in the Darnest Ways...Or Do They?
  • Hand Sanitizer - Since hand sanitizer is 65% alcohol and easily accessible to students, it has become a popular trend among students. Teens drink the sanitizer to get intoxicated.
  • Alcoholic cupcakes - Cupcakes can be infused with vodka or beer.  These desserts are becoming popular in restaurants and give students ideas of how to sneak in alcohol.
  • Alcoholic whipped topping - This sweet treat, known as whipahol, can be purchased for $10 and contains 18% grain alcohol or the equivalent of drinking five drinks.  Since the topping does not taste like alcohol, it can be consumed by a younger audience.
CNN: Alcoholic Whipped Cream Another Binge Drink in a Can
ABC News: 20/20
Smoking Alcohol: The Dangerous Way People are Getting Drunk
Ways to Get Drunk Without Actually Drinking

What are Some Practical Ways to Educate Students?

Again, I have limited influence when teens are already drinking, but I can educate them about the practical dangers of binging and what do when they are faced with a possible situation. Below are some strategies/information you may want to share with your students.

1. How do you know if you are becoming a problem drinker?  Give kids the link to the alcohol self test to find out if they are binge drinkers.
    Alcohol Self Test for Teens - Teens have a question about their consumption?  Have them take this self test to find out if their consumption is abusive.
2. How does alcohol impact the body?  Here is information to show the virtual impacts of alcohol on the body and brain.
          Alcohol and the body - Show teens virtually how alcohol impacts the body and brain.

3. Educate students on a blackout and how they can identify a friend who may be experiencing one at a party or on the beach.

          Blackouts - Dr. Donal Sweeney says that blackouts are unpredictable, can occur in first  
          time drinkers, may last for hours, and takes little alcohol to occur.  In fact, a person
          experiencing an alcoholic blackout may seem normal (walking, talking, or standing).
         The problem, according to Dr. Sweeney, is that alcohol prevents the formation of memories
          and leaves the person "unconscious". Also, Dr. Sweeney found in his research that females are
          most susceptible to blackouts.

Blackout Quiz

          How do you know if a person is experiencing a blackout?  There is a simple test you can give to
          find out...
  • First, ask the person to tell you three simple words and have him or her repeat them. 
  • Next, distract the person by talking about something else for five minutes. 
  • Last, ask the person the same words again.  If he or she cannot remember, the person may be experiencing a blackout.
4. Share the BAC (Blood Alcohol Calculator) to show them their alcoholic limit.

          Blood Alcohol Calculator - Inform students who their blood alcohol level is determined by
          their physiology and gender.

5. Show students what drinks contain the most and least amount of alcohol.

         Cocktail Calculator - Before consuming a drink, calculate how much alcohol is in that drink.

6. Talk to students about the dangers of alcohol poisoning and what to do if they suspect someone is experiencing it.

        What is alcohol poisoning? Alcohol poisoning occurs when high levels of alcohol suppress the
         respiratory and nervous system so the body tries to rid itself of those toxins.

Signs of alcohol poisoning include:
  • Mental confusion, stupor, or coma.
  • Vomiting
  • Slow or irregular breathing
  • Low body temperature

If the student suspects someone has alcohol poisoning, he or she should act immediately and not wait until the signs appear.  There are five steps one may follow:
1.  Don't assume the person is asleep and try to wake him or her up by calling out his/her name, pulling his/her ear or cheek, or pinching the arm.
2.  Turn the person on his/her side to prevent asphyxiation from vomiting.
3.  Check out the skin color and temperature of the person.  If they appear blue, pale,  clammy, or cold, call 911 immediately!!
4.  If the person's breathing is irregular or slow (less than 10 breaths a minute), call 911!
5.  Even if the person is not showing any distinct signs, don't guess and call 911.
Source: Blackouts and Alcohol Poisoning

7. Don't be afraid to call 911!  Although not every state has this law on its books, many states will not arrest underage minors for calling emergency services if they have a friend who is facing a medical emergency.  

States That Allow for Emergency Services to Assist Underage Minors Without Legal Action

8. If a student decides he or she does not want to drink, but will be in a high pressured situation then they to practice refusal. Below are two tools you can use to help students build up their confidence to resist the temptation to drink.

             Build Drink Refusal Skills  - Help students build their ability to refuse alcohol due to peer

Learn How to Say When
Drink Refusal Skill Tool
Script Your No Worksheet

9, Educate yourself as a professional about alcohol so you are up to date on the latest information!

           Power of Drinking Toolkit for Educators

10. Educate your parents about how to help their students celebrate graduation  and summer party safely.

           Power of Youth Toolkit

11. Educate parents and students about the myths of changing the drinking age to 18 in your state.

          Support 21

Feel free to add your ideas about educating teens about alcohol!! 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

April Awareness for School Counselors

Thursday, March 19, 2015

April is the first full month of spring which brings the opportunity to educate students about alcohol use, prom safety, distracted driving, stress, and even sexual health issues.  Below is a list of awareness campaigns and several resources school counselors can use to educate their students.

Alcohol Awareness Month

Theme: "For the Health of It: Early Education on Alcoholism and Addiction"

The purpose of Alcohol Awareness Month is to increase public understanding and help communities focus on alcohol related issues. Researchers at the National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence report that teen alcohol use is very dangerous to the student and community. Teen alcoholism is directly related to automobile accidents, violence, suicide, unsafe sex, and behavior problems at home and the school. Since the adolescent brain is not fully developed, teens may not be aware of the consequences of drinking during a celebration, party, in a car, or other social functions.  Preventing drinking at a young age is imperative to reducing alcoholism and future substance abuse.

Find resources to use with your school, parents, and students to increase awareness!


Organizer's Guide
Facts About Underage Drinking
Healthy Place: Teen Alcohol Statistics

For Mental Health Professionals:

Toolkit: Connection Between Trauma and Substance Abuse

For Parents:

Talk to Your Grads About Alcohol Use
Organizing a Safe & Sober Event

For Students:

Self Test for Teens
Drinking Too Much Too Fast Can Kill You
Above the Influence
Teen Health Information on Drugs & Alcohol
Alcohol Energy Drinks

How to Choose a Designated Driver:
  • Call a cab.
  • Contact a local safe ride program like SafeRide America.
  • Request a ride from Uber or another car service.
  • Use public transportation.
  • Call your parent or another trusted adult.
  • Stay put until someone can pick you up or stay with a friend.

Global Youth Service Day

Global Youth Service Day is the only day of service designated for youth. 

Global Youth Service Day

Global Service Ideas Include

  • Host a bake sale to help hungry kids or set up a lemonade stand to help children with cancer.
  • Collect food for a local food bank.
  • Order trees to plant in your community.
  • Organize a trash mob to pick up litter on streets and highways.  See the video below from Baltimore for ideas.

  • National  Distracted Driving Awareness Month
    Traffic Safety Calendar
    Understanding the Distracted Brain

    Distracted Driving Poster
    Calls Kill Poster
    Consequences Can Be Deadly Poster

    Fact Sheets:
    Habit Worth Breaking
    Hands Free Myth

    Brains On Technology

    National Safety Council Videos

    Safe Prom and Graduation Awareness

    SADD Prom/Graduation Activities

    Some Ideas Before Prom Night...

    • Have elementary students write notes to high school students reminding them not to drink and drive on prom night.

    • Have flower shops hang a sign in their window asking students to stay sober.

    Safe Prom Events

    Safe and Sober Prom
    Post Prom
    After Prom

    Safety Tips for the CDC

    Sexual Assault Awareness Month

    National Sexual Violence Resource Center
    Sexual Assault Awareness Toolkit
    Safer Campus
    What is Campus Sexual Violence?
    Becoming an Agent of Social Change-Youth Guide
    Stopping Harassment at School
    What is Healthy Sexuality and Consent?
    Preventing Acquaintance Rape-Guide for Teens
    Surviving Acquaintance Rape

    Circle of 6 Phone App - Although developed for college students, think about adapting the Circle of 6 App for your high school students.  Great idea for teens to have before Spring Break and/or prom.  The phone app allows a teen to text your friends in the case of emergency and asks them to come and get him or her.

    Circle of 6 Instructions

    Healthy Relationship Toolkit

    STD Education and Awareness Month

    Sexually transmitted diseases can impact anyone, but takes a heavy toll on teens.  Teens under the age of 25 need to be tested at least twice a year.

    Most common STDs for Teens:


    STD Awareness Event Guide

    It's Your Life: STD Testing

    Centers for Disease Control -Information regarding sexually transmitted diseases.

    Girls Health - Straight talk about STDs.

    Stress Awareness Month

    Stress Facts
    Stress Awareness Poster
    Stress Awareness Poster
    Email Blast
    Stress Tips
    Mayo Clinic: Stress Tips
    Coping in Hard Times For Youth
    Seasonal Affective Disorder

    Striking Out Stress Lesson Plan

    Day of Silence

    The Day of Silence (DOS) is a student led event to stand against bullying and harassment for LQBTQ students in schools.  The first event was held at the University in VA in 1996.

    Facts About the Day of Silence
    Day of Silence Poster
    Day of Silence Ideas
    DOS Pledge
    Tips When Facing Opposition from Administration
    Speaking Cards

    Sunday, March 15, 2015

    Job Tips For the High School Counselor

    Sunday, March 15, 2015
    The race is on to find a school counseling job. This is the time of year that I get dozens of inquiries from teachers who want to move over into the counseling field, from students who are graduating in the spring, and from counselors in other schools who want to know if I am aware of any job openings. With all the requests for information and job tips, I decided to write a post for those in the market for the BEST JOB IN THE WORLD!!!

    My Journey into School Counseling

    Before becoming a school counselor, I was a high school history teacher.  In fact when I interviewed for my first teaching job, I think I had the quickest interview in the world. The reason for such a quick interview was because I knew the high school principal really well (hint: he was my principal when I was a student). In reality, I truly never had an official interview nor did I have to write a resume or conduct the traditional job search.  However, after nine years in the classroom, I decided to leave my position for the world of school counseling. What I thought would be an easy transition was not so simple!!

    My search for a school counseling position was a four year process.  After failing to find a job in my school or neighboring schools, I decided to widen my search. I combed school websites, I talked to my professors, I talked to any school counselor I could find, and I even visited schools leaving my resume'.  I could find nothing!! It was time to back up and rethink my plan to find a school counseling job.

    Feeling discouraged, my dear grandmother decided to give me a piece of advice. She told me that if I wanted to get a counseling job that first I had to get my foot in the door. Now, being a twenty something year old Gen Xer, I did not want to hear that I would have to work my way into the position. However, at this point, what other alternative did I have!? So, my journey continued...

    I got my foot in the door!
    My next step was to fill out as many applications as possible no matter what level, what school, or what area.  I really wanted a high school counseling position, but I knew that I was probably not going to get that coveted position.  Finally, I received two calls (yes)!!  One call was from a high school in the suburbs and the other from a rural elementary school.  Ahead of my interviews, I sent my resume to the principals, bought a brand new business suit, and researched the school districts. The interviews came and went with me waiting for a call.  I found myself hoping that the high school principal would call and tell me that he had a job waiting for me; however, a letter arrived in the mail from that principal thanking me for my interview (you know what that means). Was this going to be another dead end?  Then, several weeks later, the principal from the elementary school called and offered me a job, but there was one catch.  The position would be a part time elementary school counselor and part time middle school in-school suspension coordinator...say what????  So, I decided, based on my grandmother's advice to take the position at the elementary school to get some much needed experience.  The following year I was able to interview again with the high school and I got the job!

    Thinking about my own job hunting experience, I decided to ask to former interns and co-workers about their job search to see if there are similarities in our situations.

    Former Intern #1 (Job search- 4 years and counting)

    One of my former interns told me that finding a counseling position has not been easy. Although she does not have a counseling position at this time, she is now working in the school that she wants to be a school counselor.  When I asked her what helped her get into the school that she wants to work, she told me that  forming relationships with school staff by volunteering and accepting a non-counseling position helped her get closer to her goal of becoming a school counselor.

    Former Intern #2 (Job search - 2 years)

    Her advice to me is to get your foot in the door by accepting any available position.  Before becoming an elementary counselor, she worked as a clerical assistant.

    Co-worker #1  (Job search - 6 years)

    One of my co-workers informed me that she had been searching for a job in school counseling without any luck.  Not able to get a school counseling position, she decided to become certified to teach Spanish until she could ascertain a position.  I am glad to report that she just got offered a school counseling position in a middle school!!

    Co-worker #2  (Job search - 3 years)

    My co-worker is currently a special education teacher who has been great about helping  in the counseling office as much as possible. Her theory, and a good one, is that we will be familiar with her work which she believes will help her become a frontrunner if we have an open position in our department.

    Co-worker #3 and current counselor in our school (Job search - 2 years)

    He gave me a good tip when he told me that having the ability to coach a sport is a big plus when applying for any job in education.

    Present intern (Currently in graduate school)

    My present intern and I spoke about her impending job search.  I asked her what advice she has been given by her professors when looking for a job.  Here is what she told me:

    1.  Visit job fairs and share your resume'.
    2.  Create a portfolio of lesson plans and be prepared to teach one at the interview (I looked at her strangely about teaching a lesson).
    3.  Be prepared for the interview.

    In addition to speaking to co-workers and interns, I also included some great tips from some of the hottest school counseling blogs on the web.  Here are some of their suggestions when looking for a school counseling position. 

    Danielle Schultz, author of the School Counseling Blog, has a great post from 2010 about finding a school counseling job for graduate students:

    1.  Make connections!!!
    2.  Always have a business card on hand.  Danielle uses Vistaprint which I love as well!  They have a great price when ordering large numbers of business cards.  I order all my department's business cards from here each year.
    3.  Do your homework and learn about the district and school you want to work in.  Danielle suggests going to National Center for Education Statistics for that information.
    4.  Ask questions in your interview. Here are some sample questions:
    • "What is the major role/responsibilities of the school counselor?"
    • "What do you believe is the most important skill that a school counselor should possess?"
    • "What is the greatest need facing your school?"
    5. Advocate for yourself-Danielle believes you can do this when the interviewer asks you if there is anything you would like to add at this time. 
    6. Send a thank you note after every interview!!

    Rebecca Lallier, author of School Counseling By Heart, gives school counseling job seekers 13 tips when looking for a position.  Some of the ones that I thought were really helpful include:

    1.  Make a compelling argument of why you want to move if the position is far away from your present location.
    2.  If you are interviewed by a committee or an administrator, don't rely on using ASCA centered lingo as they may be unfamiliar with ASCA!
    3. If you are applying in a state that has adopted Common Core, make sure you are knowledgeable about Common Core and how counselors can address them through lessons and classroom visits.  See Rebecca's article regarding the Schools Counselors Meet the Common Core.  Also, here is a video from Dr. Russ Sabella explaining Common Core.
    4. When submitting references, get a reference from a classroom teacher, administrator, or colleague who has seen you teach in the classroom.
    5.  Before interviewing, find out what counseling model is present in that school. If no model exists or it is a model they wish to change, show the school personnel how you can contribute to their program.
    6.  Show the interviewer that you are a life long learner and always looking to bring new skills to the table.

    Heather Thomas, author of The Helpful Counselor, wrote a blog post on landing a counseling position.  Some of her tips include:

    1.  Be open to alternative placements when interviewing for a position.
    2.  Volunteer!
    3.  Make your resume stand out from others.
    4.  Be prepared for your interview by making enough copies for everyone of your resume'/portfolio.
    5.  Dress professionally!!

    Andrea Burston, author of JYJ Counselor Blog, gave some great information on her blog for graduate students.  Some great tips include:

    1.  Updating your resume'.
    2.  Networking with other counselors at your state's school counselor conference and on sources like ASCA Scene

    Dr. Russ Sabella has a great school counseling newsletter and he has a post with possible interview questions for school counselors.  Need some practice?  Take a look and see if you can formulate an answer to these questions.

    Interview Questions for School Counselors

    Here are some interview questions for administrators by ASCA.

    ASCA School Counseling Interview Questions

    Tracy Jackson, author of the Extraordinary School Counselor, wrote a great blog about interviews that she has a part of that have gone horribly wrong.  It is a good idea to read this post to make sure you don't make these same mistakes.  Some that stand out are...

    1.  Don't say that you don't know how to use technology.  Talk about what technology you can use!
    Don't have a bad interview!
    2.  Be familiar with the term closing the gap and give an example of an activity.
    3.  RTI-if you don't know what these three letters mean then you need to learn about them!


    As I was conducting my research for this blog, I ran across some pretty good  examples of portfolios from current school counselors that I thought I would share. 

    What is a portfolio?
    Be aware of what is included in a professional portfolio.

    Examples of Portfolios:

    Elizabeth Cranford
    Tracy L. Jackson, Ph.D
    Stephanie Long
    Richard D. Pavia
    Jeffrey Ream

    Need Resume Assistance?

    Tracy Jackson offers resume tips for school counseling graduates who are looking for a job.  Check out her post!!

    Sunday, March 8, 2015

    Youth Violence Chat: Cyber Bullying

    Sunday, March 8, 2015

    First coined by Canadian educator Bill Belsey in 2000, the term cyber bullying has become part of our vocabulary in schools. According to the Anti-Defamation League, cyber bullying is the "intentional and repeated mistreatment of others through the use of technology, such as computers, cell phones and other electronic devices". 

    Want to know more about this form of youth violence?  Please join the Association for Conflict Resolution Education, Research and Training Section for a Twitter Chat during Youth Violence Awareness Week.

    When: March 25th
    Time: 8:30 PM EST
    Sponsor: Education, Research, and Training Section of the Association for Conflict Resolution
    Hosts: Cynthia Morton, ERT Chair
               Karen DeVoogd, Past ERT Chair
    Hashtag: #ERTchat

     Twitter Chat Smore

    Sunday, March 1, 2015

    Self Injury Resources for the Clueless School Counselor

    Sunday, March 1, 2015

    During my time as a school counselor, I have been surprised at how many school counselors are uncomfortable with the topic of self harm.  In fact, I must admit that I have not always been confident in working with students who injure themselves. What made the difference in my level of confidence?  Training, training, and more training!  

    One of my first experiences with a self harming student was a young girl who disclosed that she was having issues at home.  Although she never disclosed it, I believe she was inappropriately touched by her stepfather.  One day, we were talking and she pulled up her sleeve and I saw a bright red row of cuts on her arm.  I don't think she was aware of what she had done and my eyes instantly focused on the cuts.  Fortunately, she was open to getting help, but at first I was really nervous about addressing the issue.

    Of course, cutting is not the only method of self harm.  One of the most extreme types of self harming behaviors that I have encountered was a freshman who banged her head on the table when she was angry.  Her behavior was so out of control that we had to call her mother every time she lost control.

    Girls are not the only ones who self harm, but boys also exhibit self harming behaviors in not so obvious ways.  I have seen boys burn themselves with erasers, hit their fist into the wall, and one diabetic student withheld insulin when he was experiencing depression. 

    So my point is that self harming behaviors are not unusual or only behaviors experienced by girls.  Let's go into more details about self harm, self mutilation, or self injury.

    What is self injury?

    What is the difference between self harm and self injury? Self harm is an "umbrella term" that includes a number of behaviors that cause harm or damage.  Researchers believe that self injury is used to relieve stress and feel relief.  Self harm includes behaviors like drug use, eating disorders, and at-risk behaviors. The onset of self injury in students is between the ages of 11-15 and if left untreated can continue into adulthood. 

    According to Lifesigns, self injury is a coping mechanism where the person harms their body to deal with their emotional pain or to stop the numbness by feeling physical pain. See the diagram below showing different methods of self harm.

    Self Harming Map

    The Science Behind Self Injury

    People who self injure are not just "weird" people who don't know how to deal with life.  Apparently, there is actually a science behind their chosen method to deal with stress and frustration.  Most people choose to exercise, talk to a friend, listen to music, or play a video game to escape their problems; however, self injurers cope by cutting, burning, or hitting themselves.  Because many teens who self injure have experienced trauma, the hippocampus which is part of the limbic system is impacted. The limbic system, which is responsible for emotions, releases neurotransmitters to produce endorphins responsible for the sensation of pleasure. The act of self injury causes the release of these endorphins which reduces the sensation of pain and produces a temporary high. 

    Joseph Franklin gives an excellent example how self injury works:

    Let's say you go to the doctor and he informs you that your lab work comes back with a terminal illness.  Immediately, you experience intense emotional pain (I would too!!). A few days later the doctor calls you and informs you that the there was a mix up in the lab results and you are not going to die!!  Hip Hip Hooray...instant relief!!  Not only is it instant relief that lasts for a moment, but it is emotional relief that lasts for days.  

    This example demonstrates that there may be a similar correlation between emotional and physical pain relief.   Therefore, there are some people who use the relief from physical pain to manage because traditional healthy methods of coping do not work for them. So, what's the problem if this works for them?  What's the big deal?

    Problem With Self Injury

    One of the biggest issues with self injury is the increased risk for non intentional suicide.  Although teens are not trying to die when they self harm, they are at-risk for an increased rate of suicide.  In addition, there may be an unidentified mental health disorder behind the self injurious behaviors, like depression or borderline personality disorder. People suffering from these mental health disorders often have suicidal thoughts and attempts.  Therefore, if you have a student who is self injuring, it is important that you refer them to a mental health clinician. 

    How Can School Counselors Help Students Who Self Injury?

    Although we cannot provide therapy to students who self injury, there are many ways we can help!!

    1.  Provide awareness about self injury and educate parents, students, and staffs and the myths surrounding self injury. 

    2.  Know how to identify the precursors and signs of self injury. Before a student chooses to self injure, they often experience hyper arousal, confusion, and become overwhelmed.  Next, there is a trigger or an event that upsets the student so much that they want to escape. The trigger is not the event that causes the behavior as the emotions have been building for days, weeks, or months.  After the trigger, the student chooses to act and harms him or herself which then may lead him or her to a state of dissociation. In the state of dissociation, the student may often separate from life, emotions, and the body.  A dissociative state is when the student becomes numb, unfeeling and can even experience a state of psychosis. 

    3.  Listen to them!  I can't emphasize this enough!!  Don't act surprised or shocked, but allow the student to talk to you about his or her feelings and shame.  Remember, it takes a lot of courage for someone to talk about his or her self injurious behaviors so it is helpful if you congratulate the student on sharing his or her secret with you!!

    4.  Help the student identify triggers and healthy distractions.  Lifesigns provides a list of healthy alternatives to self injury that you can share with your students who self injure. 

    Some examples include:
    • 15 minute rule - I really like this idea!  For a duration of 15 minutes, the student should distract him or herself until the urge passes.
    • Remember the term HALT or Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired.  This is a term I use a lot for self care and it really works.  If we don't recognize our basic needs, we often get overwhelmed which causes us to implode or even explode.
    • Create a distraction box with your students by filling it with objects to help them distract from the urge to self injure.  Some object include: stress ball, chain of paper clips, rubber bands, blanket, or even lavender.   
    • Impulse Log -help the student to monitor self injurious thoughts and behaviors.
      Adapted from Lifesigns
    5. Help the parents and friends of those who self injure understand self injury.  You can download lots of fact sheets and resources from Lifesigns. 
    Fact sheet for Parents
    Fact sheet for Friends


    Fact sheet for Teachers

    6. Give information on how to reduce or minimize scars.  This is helpful for students who have stopped self injury and want to reduce the severity of their scars or even camouflage them.  Some tips include:
    • Massaging scars to reduce their hardness and vividness. Students should do this everyday.
    • Use a moisturizer like Bio-Oil, Vitamin E, or Cocoa Butter.
    • For raised, red scarring, students can use silicon strips.
    • Camouflaging makeup from Dermablend for the body. This is a fantastic covering for scars, birthmarks, and tattoos.  Check out this picture!
      Power of Dermablend
    7. Help students seek treatment for their self injurious behaviors. The most common types of therapies for SI include: 
    • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, identifying unhealthy, negative thoughts that lead to behaviors;  
    • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, teaching behavioral skills to tolerate and manage emotions; 
    • Psychodynamic Psychotherapy, identifying past experiences, memories, or issues at the root of self injurious behaviors;
    • Mindfulness, helping student appropriately perceive the thoughts and actions of others around them to reduce anxiety.

    8. Get training!!  See videos and resources for school counselors below.
    9. Follow recommendations by ASCA:
    • No Harm Contract: The school counselor can make an agreement with the student that clearly specifies what behaviors will require the school to take action. For example, the contract may stipulate that the student may not bring sharp objects to school; limit self injury on school property; prohibit the sharing of sharp objects with others; or outline healthy distracting behaviors.
    • Develop a School Policy on Self Injury:  A school policy can clarify any confusion about what is self injury and when it should be reported.
    1.  Specifies when school staff should report self injurious behaviors;
    2.  Designates to whom the staff should report the self injurious behaviors;
    3.  Specifies the extent of administrator, counselor, school nurse involvement;
    4.  Outlines how to notify parents and their responsibilities.
    Cornell University: Developing & Implementing School Protocol

    Adapted from Cornell University @
    10. Prevent social contagion-Cornell University refers to social contagion as a behavior that spreads among members of a group. Sometimes contagion can be reinforced by outside forces, like adults. To prevent contagion schools can:
    • Reduce communication about self injury; 
    • School staff, like the school nurse, can help the self injuring student manage his or her scars. Visible scars and wounds should be discouraged;
    •  Students should be educated to not give the explicit details about their self injurious behaviors particularly when in a group;
    • Counseling in schools should be done on an individual basis rather than in a group.
    11. Raise awareness during the month of March - Self Injury Awareness 

    Self Injury Awareness Ribbon
     Video About Self Injury Awareness

     Resources for School Counselors

    Kaye Randall: See My Pain Webinar

    Workbook for School Counselors

    Videos by Kati Morton (no relation LOL)

    The Extraordinary Counselor Blog-Self Injury Resources 

    SAFE Alternatives to Self Harm

    Non-Suicidal Self Injury: A Training Developed for School Personnel 

    Bibliography on Self Injury

    Resources for Schools

    Resources for Students

    Self Injury Assessment

    Adolescent Self Injury Foundation

    SAFE Alternatives Self Injury Blog for Students

    Love to hear your ideas about how you work with students who self injure!!

    75 Resources and Activities for Youth Violence Awareness

    According to the CDC, youth violence occurs when there is an intentional use of force or power to injure others. The age of those who are among the perpetrators, victims or witnesses of  this violence is between the ages of 14-24.  The good news is that youth violence is preventable!! According to Janet Benavente from Colorado State University, researchers agree on prevention resources for youth violence:
    • Youth violence is learned and can be unlearned.
    • Youth should be part of the solution for preventing violence.
    • Because violence is such a complex issue, it requires a comprehensive and multifaceted approach.
    • Partnerships and collaborations work more effectively than individual efforts.
    In addition, the CDC recognizes that universal school-wide prevention approaches have the best success rate of reducing violence and other risk behaviors in youth. 

    Why, as school counselors, should we be concerned with youth violence?  According to the CDC, youth violence is the third leading cause of death among youth ages 14-24. Some staggering facts from the CDC include...
    • 1 out of 4 high school students were in a fight in the past year. 
    • The number of youths involved in a homicide would fill 87 school buses.
    • The number of youths requiring medical attention would fill up 9 stadiums.
    • 7% of youths were threatened with a weapon.
    • 1 out of 5 high school students were bullied at school and 1 out of 6 were bullied online.
    • 7% of students did not go to school due to safety concerns.
    • Medical care and lost wages due to youth violence exceeds $17.5 billion or enough money to put 271,000 students through college!  Think how many counselors could be hired with that amount of money!!!
    Understanding Youth Violence Fact Sheet
    Understanding School Violence
    Contributing Factors to Youth Violence

    Since there are many factors that contribute to youth violence, sometimes it is difficult to determine which factor(s) will influence aggression.  There are four major factors that impact brutality among teens.

    • Individual factors include past exposure to violence, impulsiveness, poor school achievement, and poor problem solving skills.
    • Relationship factors consist of peer delinquency, family conflict, and poor parental supervision.
    • Community factors are homelessness or frequent moving by the family, weak economy, gang activity, and crime.
    • Societal concerns include acceptable norms of violence, limited education, and limited economic opportunities.

    Although there are many risk factors for youth violence, there are also many protective factors that prevent violence among youth as well.

    Some of these protective factors include:

    High IQ
    Perceived sanctions for misbehavior
    Warm and caring family
    Parental monitoring
    Commitment to school
    Recognition for involvement in conventional activities
    Peers who participate in conventional activities
    Risk Factors and Protective Factors

    Youth Violence Awareness

    How as school counselors can we expand these preventive factors in school? Each year, Students Against Violence Everywhere or SAVE coordinates an awareness campaign to reduce youth violence in schools.  This year, SAVE has chosen a different theme for each day of National Youth Violence Awareness (March 23-27).

    Day 1: Promote Respect and Tolerance

    Day 2: Manger Your Anger

    Day 3: Resolve Conflicts Peacefully

    Day 4: Support Safety

    Day 5: Unite in Action

    National Youth Violence Awareness Month Activities
    Think about hosting a youth violence awareness week. If you want to extend your violence awareness program for the entire month, I have attached other violence awareness topics and 75 different resources to help you educate students, parents, and staff in your school!!  Feel free to share any ideas and I will post them on my blog!

    Other Violence Awareness Topics

    Active Shooter Awareness

    Active Shooter

    Active Shooter: How to Respond


    Pacers: National Bullying Prevention

    Bullying Resources

    Bullying and Suicide Prevention Webinars

    Bullying Prevention Training Module

    Bullying Prevention Toolkit

    Bullying Prevention: A Classroom Discussion

    Bullying Students with Special Needs

    Creating a Safe Space for LGBTQ Students: Online Training

    Cyberbullying Tips for Administrators

    CDC: Electronic Aggression Podcast

    Choking Game


    Recognizing Gangs in Our Community

    Working With Parents in Gang Prevention

    Gang Culture 101

    Recognizing Gangs in Schools

    Influencers of Gang Involvement

    Internet Banging: Social Media Gang Related Violence

    Sexual and Dating Violence

    Break the Cycle: Dating Violence Curriculum

    Dating Matters

    Safe and Supportive Schools: Preventing, Intervening, and Accessing Teen Dating Abuse

    Preventing and Responding to Dating Violence

    Men & Boys: Preventing Sexual and Intimate Partner Violence

    Responding to Transgender Victims of Sexual Assault

    Online Learning Tools: Violence Against Women

    Gender Based Violence: What Schools Can Do

    Rape Prevention and Education

    Sex Trafficking

    Training Tools on Human Trafficking

    How Human Trafficking Impacts Schools

    Human Trafficking 101 for Administrators and Staff

    National Organizations 

    CASEL: Collaborate for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning

    CDC: Injury and Violence Prevention Podcast

    Creating Safe and Respectful Environment- in Classrooms Training Toolkit 

    Find Youth Info: Preventing Youth Violence

    Importance of Education in Reducing Delinquency

    National Crime Prevention Council

    National School Safety Center

    Safe and Supportive Schools

    Safe and Civil Schools
    Safe School Information

    Search Institute

    Threat Assessment in Schools 

    CDC: Youth Violence Prevention

    Veto Violence
    State Safe School Resources

    Arkansas Safe Schools Initiative

    California Safe Schools

    Colorado School Safety Resource Center

    Prevention Works Connecticut

    Florida Safe Schools

    Georgia Center for School Safety, School Climate, and Classroom Management

    Indiana School School Safety 

    Kentucky Center for School Safety

    Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center

    Mississippi Division of School Safety

    Missouri Center for Educational Safety

    Montana Safe Schools

    Nebraska School Safety Center

    North Carolina Center for Safer Schools

    Oregon Safe Schools and Communities Coalition

    Ohio Safer Schools

    Pennsylvania Center for Schools and Communities

    Tennessee School Safety Center

    Texas School Safety Center

    Virginia Center for School Safety

    Washington School Safety

    Injury Centers

    John Hopkins: Center for the Prevention of Youth Violence

    University of Colorado: Center for the Study & Prevention of Violence

    University of Michigan: Michigan Youth Violence Prevention Center

    University of North Carolina: The NC Center for Excellence in Youth Violence Prevention

    University of Oregon: Institute on Violence and Destructive Behavior

    Virginia Commonwealth University for Positive Youth Development

    Student Organizations

    Safe School Ambassadors

    SAVE: Students Against Violence Everywhere

    SADD: Students Against Destructive Decisions