Students Who Self-Injure

My first experience with cutting/self-injury was at the school where I teach Science. A young man in my class was trying to gouge his wrist with the tab on the buckle of his wristwatch. I immediately took the buckle away, and reported it to the Guidance Counsellor. This was a scary situation, and it caught me completely off guard. Afterwards, the Guidance Counsellor told me that kids often cut themselves when they’ve had to deal with so much emotional distress that they don’t feel much of anything anymore – they cut to try to feel something. It is a very serious matter, because people who cut have a high risk of doing more serious injury to themselves than they intend – either by misjudging how much harm they are doing or by infection. He also told me that, if the person does not get help, cutting can often lead to suicide.

That was many years ago. Current research suggests that cutting is a way for people to escape from painful emotions. In a way, it distracts them from the pain and sorrows of their lives – although the issues causing the pain and sorrow don’t get resolved, so the relief is short-lived. Most people who cut are not suicidal, although the risk of serious harm or becoming suicidal remains.

Here are some resources that explain self-injury – what it is, what causes it, and how to recognize it. Please take some time and look over this information.

Over the years, we have had a few students at the dojo who had issues with cutting. As they are part of our dojo family, we have a responsibility to them. If you believe that an individual is harming him/herself, it is important that you report it to Kyoshi.  Don’t try to intervene yourself!

Remember: The dojo should be a place where our students feel safe and supported. As instructors, it is our responsibility to…

  • Support our students by making sure that the material taught is safe and appropriate for their level.
  • Encourage students by giving positive feedback, constructive criticism, and clear directions. This includes breaking down techniques to aid in understanding and making appropriate suggestions for improvement.
  • Not ask students to do anything that is unsafe, unreasonable, unethical, or humiliating.
  • Be aware of and address any negative interactions that would prevent a student from being able to function in class.
  • Lead by example and promote a healthy, supportive, and cooperative dojo culture.

For some students, home is not a safe or comfortable place. School may be less so. The dojo needs to be a refuge where students can set aside the troubles of the day and focus only on their karate.

A final note on rank:
Everyone is equal in the dojo. Higher ranks have more privileges and greater responsibilities, but everyone deserves courtesy and respect.