By: Sarah Snyder
MIDLAND - It's happening every day in the classroom and at home. A range of unstable emotions are driving more and more West Texas teens to cut and local healthcare professionals are finding that it's even turning into a dangerous fad. In a NewsWest 9 special investigation, we caught up with doctors, school nurses, and counselors to find out why kids are cutting and what every family needs to know.
"They mutilate or cut themselves and it gets out of control," Dr. Roddy Strobel, Child Psychiatrist with BCA Permian Basin, said. "It's like substance abuse addiction because when you cut, you feel good but it doesn't last very long, so then you have to cut more and more and deeper and deeper."
It's an addiction that's spreading across West Texas campuses - in every hallway and inside the classroom.
"When they feel emotional pain and they cut themselves, there's a physical release and it makes the emotional pain go away as they watch themselves bleed," Dr. Strobel said. "It becomes very addictive."
School nurses say they're finding cuts on kids as young as 12 who are using everything from razors, to straight pins, even the metal edge on a pencil eraser, and anything else sharp just to experience a pain release.
"In order to make themselves hurt less from one issue, they'll inflict pain through another mechanism like cutting themselves," Tracey Dees, R.N., B.S.N. with Midland ISD, said.
So NewsWest 9 sat down with doctors at Midland's BCA Behavioral hospital to find out where it all starts.
"It's an epidemic," Dr. Strobel said. "That happens at school where it gets publicized through the 'in-crowd.' Teenagers have peer pressure. They need to fit in somewhere then they get that rush of feeling better, then they get addicted."
Counselors and nurses across the Basin say it all boils down to depression either from trouble at school, home or with relationships.
"It's an attention-getting device," Wayne Wallace, Ector County ISD Lead Counselor, said. "It's sends a message that I'm in trouble, I'm depressed, I need help. Anyone we're aware of that's doing that - we address it."
And those kids will do just about anything to hide it.
"They'll cut their upper thigh or arm or abdomen," Dr. Strobel said. "So unless you're doing a skin check daily on your adolescent, you may miss it for a long time."
Local healthcare providers say this behavior could turn even more serious leading to substance abuse or higher levels of depression. School counselors say when they find out they do whatever it takes to help that child get better.
Midland ISD said they've started offering seminars for school nurses and counselors. They say, this issue is much bigger than what most schools are equipped to handle and often, they refer students who cut to psychiatrists and therapists.