Are Teens Self-Harming Lately? Mental Health Counselor Shares Her Views [Interview Series]

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Dr. Rachna Buxani

It is no secret that both adults and teenagers have experienced an increase in the levels of stress, depression and anxiety as a result of the pandemic.

The pandemic brought about a paradigm shift across the globe, and introduced the ideas of lockdowns and forced confinements. These medically necessary protocols however led to people feeling more isolated and secluded.

Teens in particular have borne the brunt of not only isolation, but also having to spend more time in abusive homes. To understand the situation better, we spoke to Dr. Buxani-Mirpuri. 

Dr. Rachna Buxani-Mirpuri is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) practicing in Florida and the founder of Buxani Counseling Care.

She also has an established career as a counselor in Dubai and the Cayman Islands and continues to help international clients via HIPAA-regulated video conferencing as a Board Certified Tele-Mental Health Provider (BC-TMH).

She has practiced as a counselor for almost 20 years nationally and internationally; in government, private practice, and school settings. She is an active member of the American Counseling Association, American Psychological Association, and the American Mental Health Counseling Association.

Teens Self-Harming Lately

How does your past experience as a counseling coordinator in various schools help you treat people?

Before my work as an LCMH, I served as a Counseling Coordinator for 21 schools in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Specifically, I have extensive experience working with both teens and adults in overcoming various challenges.

Like depression, anxiety, eating disorders, general life stresses, behavioral disturbances, interpersonal conflicts, and marital/familial dysfunction. I feel my greatest strength lies in delivering interventions that are rooted in multicultural counseling experience.
I am a certified Dialectical Behavior Therapy practitioner, which helps me teach mindfulness, relaxation, and distress tolerance techniques to clients so that they can navigate challenging life events. 

What sort of problems/challenges are you seeing today with teens? 

At Buxani Counseling Care, we have seen an increase in anxiety and depression in teens post-pandemic. The increase in anxiety and depression in many cases causes teens to engage in self harm behavior that is very concerning. 

What challenges do teens face today? 

We have seen a large number of teens feeling isolated as a result of the pandemic. During the pandemic, they were isolated from their support system, which for teens consists of their friends.

Many of these teens were in situations where they were stuck at home a lot more than ever before. We also found an increase in family or parental emotional, verbal and physical abuse towards teens resulting in higher levels of distress and increase in levels of anxiety and depression.

Teens Self-Harming Lately

Before the pandemic, what were the most common challenges you faced with teens?

Before the pandemic, we saw teens with anxiety but the intensity has definitely increased. Before the pandemic it was more stress related. Now teens seem to be experiencing extreme anxiety, panic attacks and debilitating depressive symptoms.

What can you advise to parents with post pandemic teens problems? 

I would urge parents to be mindful of their teens. If they see a change in behavior, mood, eating and sleeping patterns, these shouldn’t be ignored.

They can be good indicators that the teen is most likely going through something. It is important to keep channels of communication open, so that the teen feels comfortable enough to talk about their problems.

Parents must reach out to a therapist if they feel like their teen needs professional help.  A therapist can help teens navigate and cope with most mental and emotional challenges.

What are the best therapy teens can get?

There is really no single specific model that’s best for teens, but in my opinion, I would say that CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy) and DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) are very good techniques.

I personally use Dialectical Behavior Therapy a lot with teens since it has components of mindfulness and learning to manage emotional dysregulation that are very helpful to cope with challenging and difficult emotions.

self harming depressed teenager

Watch out for unusual behaviors and seek help when necessary

Teenagers often experience enormous amounts of stress due to physical and psychological changes. In addition, peer pressure, having to perform well at school and sports, etc. can add to their perceived levels of stress.

When things become unbearable, they may withdraw into a cocoon and display behaviors that are not typical for them. This may include going silent, erratic sleeping cycles, not meeting friends often, etc. 

If you notice any such changes in behavior, speak to your teen in a friendly and supportive manner. Let them know that you are around to help them, and that professional care is available if necessary.

This often reassures the teen and helps them to open up and agree to meet a therapist. Regardless of the emotional issues your teen may be facing, a trained therapist will be able to help them.

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