There are intense psychological and emotional pressures for teens. Of course, the primary psychological task for teens is a search for their identity, and this involves social interaction, friendships, and often romantic relationships. However, for those teens with mental illnesses such as depression and tendencies of social withdrawal, small events can have large impacts, not just for them for those around them as well.
This seems to be the case for Chris Plaskon of Milford, Connecticut. He was likely a depressed teen who came to school more than once with self-inflicted cuts on his arms. When he was in the eighth grade and arrived to school with cuts of self-harm, his close friend, Maren Sanchez provided her support.
Sanchez was a close friend to most people who needed help. She was also very active in extracurricular activities and well liked around the school. However, when she decided not to go to the junior prom with her friend Chris Plaskon, she wasn’t expecting such a severe consequence. On the day that Sanchez was to attend junior prom with someone else, Plaskon attacked her with a knife and stabbed her to death.
Currently, Plaskon is being held in custody with a $3 million bail. If he is found guilty, he is expected to serve many years in prison. Although he sought help for his feelings of frustration and depression, clearly there wasn’t enough support for him to prevent what happened. Clearly, there was not enough help to prevent the homicide from happening.
Although it’s a pattern more associated with female adolescents, self-harm is common among teens. Self-injury is often a way for teens to cope with intense feelings. Having an outlet to articulate feelings, to get them out of the bag, so to speak, prevents the need to find another way to cope with them. Talking about emotions and expressing them is a healthy form of emotional release.
Likely in Chris Plaskon’s case, because he was also reportedly depressed and suicidal, he likely cutting himself for a different reason. Although self-harm is often a way to cope with intense emotions, teens might also self-harm to calm and soothe, to feel more alive if they feel disconnected or numb, and to release pent up anger. Because of his depression, Plaskon likely cut himself to feel more alive and find reprieve from feeling numb. At times, he might have cut himself to release pent up anger.
Self-injury is the direct harm to one’s own body, without the intention of committing suicide. It can include cutting, biting, scratching, and bruising the skin. Treating self-harm in adolescence is multifaceted because there are multiple reasons why an adolescent might engage in self-injury. For this reason, part of the treatment itself is to tenderly support an adolescent in getting in touch with the reason behind their behavior.
Teen depression is also a common occurrence. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), approximately, 8% of teens meet the diagnostic criteria for major depression. Across the length of adolescence, one in five teens have experienced depression at some point in their teenage years. Typically, treatment for depression includes a form of individual therapy as well as psychotropic medication.
One wonders whether the Chris’ parents were suspicious of any of his behavior, suspicions that might have prompted seeking treatment, which might have prevented such a horrific event.
If you’re a parent of a teen and you suspect signs of depression or if your child is participating in self-injury, it’s certainly better to safe than sorry. If this is the case, don’t hesitate to take your teen to a mental health professional.
Yee, V & Schweber, N. (April 27, 2014). Suspect in School Attack Once Turned to Victim for Help, Friends Say. Retrieved on June 2, 2014 from: http://www.nhregister.com/general-news/20140502/christopher-plaskon-milford-teen-accused-in-fatal-stabbing-of-maren-sanchez-on-one-to-one-suicide-watch
By Robert Hunt
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