According to a UW- Eau Claire professor, self-injury in school-aged children is a growing problem around the country, and that professor is helping local schools deal with the issue.
It can be hard to know when someone is causing self-harm and not only do family and friends try to deal with it, but UWEC professor, Dr. Jennifer Muehlenkamp, is also training school staff on what to look out for.
“Providing training and bringing the knowledge and support to the people are on the front lines that need this information in order to help them be effective in supporting students being successful and kind of thrive in their life, is really one of the main goals I have,” said Muehlenkamp.
According to Muehlenkamp, research shows 18-20% of middle and high school students report engaging in self-injury at least once in their lifetime.
Dr. Muehlenkamp’s research has helped several school districts throughout the state deal with NSSI, or non-suicidal self-injury behaviors.
“Non-suicidal self-injury are different behaviors that individuals engage in that end up resulting in immediate tissue damage and a lot of times individuals who engage in his behavior report it is without suicidal intent,” she said.
Muehlenkamp’s work and research is known for helping Milwaukee Public Schools, but she has also helped the Eau Claire Area School District.
“I provided training mostly to the school support staff. So the guidance counselors, social workers, the school psychologists, and we spent half a day kind of talking about what self-injury is, how to notice it in the youth in the school, how to respond to it effectively,” said Muehlenkamp.
She says that providing training to schools on NSSI behavior is important because it adds another support system for students.
“Individuals in the school are often the first people to become aware that youth might be engaging in this behavior, so I’ve been working with schools to help better equip them so that they know how to effectively respond to self-injury,” she said.
Muehlenkamp says while she has mostly been helping school aged children, they are not the only ones affected by NSSI behaviors.
“It is a behavior that is predominantly during adolescents however we do see some of the behavior continue into college age as well,” she said.
She has been helping to train school staff for over ten years and says it’s very rewarding to help change children’s lives.
“I feel very privileged to have the opportunity and the ability to share my expertise with my local community as well as the state because I really want to make a difference in the lives of people in the Chippewa Valley as well as throughout the state and even our nation if we get that chance,” said Muehlenkamp.
Muehlenkmap stressed a large majority of individuals that engage in NSSI behaviors are not suicidal and they do not want their actions to end in death.
With that said, she says it is still a serious issue that she continues to research so she can provide the most up to date information to local schools.