A student confided in me that she cuts herself, and my heart broke.

It broke like it had three years ago when I found out a student in my first period language arts class cut herself, way back when I was merely a student teacher.

I didn’t know how to handle that. Everyone seemed to just know and accepted what was.. that that girl did it and that it was her thing, her way of getting attention. I skipped my night class the day I found out. I was going to barricade myself in my apartment when I remembered I owed someone a favor. Soon, I found myself on the counter of a friend’s apartment hyperventilating until the guy that.. until someone came, hugged me, and told me that everything would be all right. Had it been? No. I found out weeks later that there had been another in her class; that one made threats my last week of teaching, and it made every day her name appeared on the absentee list unbearable. Thankfully, both girls were there my last day and strutted through their eighth grade graduation, the ceremony at which I blubbered like a fool, a year later.

A 2002 study published in the British Medical Journal estimated that in the U.S., one in every 200 girls between 13 and 19 years old, or one-half of one percent, cut themselves regularly. Those who cut comprise about 70 percent of teen girls who self injure. Even more shockingly, an ABC News Medical Unit study found that at age 14 or 15, a “perfect storm of surging hormones, immature brains, and unfamiliar emotions” drive nearly one in 12 teens to deliberately hurt themselves, most often by cutting.

When did we become so obtuse to miss this? When did this become a social norm? One in two hundred girls in 2002 has become my reality of 3 in 50 this year, and it has gone relatively undetected. Mental health and self harm are imperative topics for the middle school mind, both of which I feel are completely neglected and have been replaced by standardized testing and “data tracking.” Where in that number does it say student X battles with depression and/or anxiety and cuts herself to control any form emotion, all of which affecting her life beyond her writing rubric score? PARCC, Governor Christie, NWEA: show me where.
*Of course the proper measures are being followed, but positive vibes would be appreciated.

Ms. S. 


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