FORT MILL — For the Doors of Hope 4 Teens ministry, bringing girls back from the dark cycle of depression and self-injury relies on prayer and emotional support.
Doors of Hope 4 Teens, a nonprofit Christian ministry providing resources to teens that struggle with self-injury, was founded by Debra Cornacchia in New York in 2008.
Cornacchia moved to Fort Mill two years ago and hopes the newly formed local support group will help teen girls in the Fort Mill area.
“Living in Fort Mill, I discovered the need for having a local support group to encourage the teenagers and young women in this area who are struggling with the secret addiction of cutting,” she said.
Cutting is the act of injuring oneself with knives and other sharp objects, Cornacchia said. It is one of multiple forms of self-injury that exists.
Cornacchia presented the group’s ideals during an Agape Community Fellowship meeting March 18 in the Upper Room chapel in Fort Mill. She stressed that self-injury is a coping mechanism often born out of dark, negative thoughts of unworthiness and depression.
“Self-injury is not a failed suicide attempt,” she said. “It’s a way of staying alive.”
Cornacchia said Doors of Hope aims to bring light to the girls through faith.
“Hope has a name and it’s Jesus Christ,” she said. “We need the power of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit to set this generation free.”
The Doors of Hope crisis care advocates work to break the cycle of depression, cutting and self-injury, which is often done in secret, Cornacchia said. One of the biggest ways to break that cycle, she said, is to let those practicing self-injury know it is OK to talk about their struggle. Cornacchia started the organization after her own experience with cutting both as a teenager and an adult after suffering years of childhood sexual and psychological abuse.
“I understand the struggle of self-injury and the pit of destruction it brings you into,” she said.
Cornacchia said connecting with God and receiving emotional support helped her break free of her addiction to cutting.
“I’m a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and free from cutting because of one thing – the blood of Jesus Christ,” she said.
Cornacchia said she hopes to do the same for girls around the country.
Wisconsin native Alyssa Kristine is one of those girls. Kristine reached out to Doors of Hope five years ago at the age of 15 to get help overcome her addiction to self-injury.
“They gave me hope when I had none and helped me to realize that I’m not the only one feeling like that,” she said. “It was inspiring to get to know them and see why they are so passionate about helping young women who struggle with self-injury.”
After working with Doors of Hope and connecting with her faith, Kristine has been free from what she called her “silent scream” for two years. She has continued to visit the Charlotte area and learn more about the organization.
“It’s so freeing knowing I don’t have to do that anymore,” Kristine said.
So far, seven girls have joined the Fort Mill support group.
“It’s happening right here where these girls are struggling,” Cornacchia said. “It’s very helpful as we provide an outlet for them.”
The support group is open to teenage girls and young women up to 21 years old.
While self-injury affects young men as well, the percentage is much higher for girls, Cornacchia said.
As the ministry grows, Doors of Hope 4 Teens hopes to open to teenage boys and young men as well, Cornacchia said.
“We want to raise awareness and be the voice to this generation and let them know that there is hope, help and healing for self-injury,” she said.
Parents are also encouraged to use Doors of Hope as a resource.
The first Fort Mill Doors of Hope 4 Teens support group will meet March 25 from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the Regent Park area of Fort Mill. The group will meet the last Tuesday of each month through July.