Self-Injury Awareness Day 2019
Self-Injury Awareness Day was on March 1, 2019; almost two weeks ago and I completely missed it somehow. However, I find the subject of self-injury to be something that needs more awareness and less judgment surrounding it. If you follow this blog regularly, you may already be aware of the role that self-harm has played in my life which is why bringing awareness to self-harm means so much to me that I would preferably post about this day of awareness late rather than not at all. As they say, “Better late then never!”
These days, it seems as if most people from their preteens on up have heard of self-harm or may even know someone who purposely hurts their self. Self-injury can now be found on TV, in movies, books, and all over the web. There is much more information about this aspect of mental health than there was 20 years ago; when I first started using self-injury as a coping mechanism. That’s right, I am one of the 1 in 5 females who self-harm. For males, 1 out of every 7 has turned to this as well. In the US, there is an estimate of two million people who reportedly self-harm every year.
I used to honestly think that I was the only one who did this kind of thing so I tried to hide my injuries and scars the best I could for as long as I could. Then I was made aware that it actually runs on one side of my family, and I was no longer the only one I knew. As I got older and this topic started to pop up more and more, I started to see and learn more information about my formally preferred coping mechanism. I sought out treatment and learned healthier coping skills.
I wish I could say that I have “outgrown” hurting myself, but that would be a lie. I don’t turn to it nearly as much as I used to. Now, it is only once in a great while when my healthier coping skills have failed me and I feel like I cannot take the pressure that is building up inside of me any longer. If you have ever intentionally hurt yourself, you are not alone.
The information provided below is my personal experience and some things I have learned over the years. Always keep in mind, I am not a doctor or a therapist.
What is Self-Injury?
Self-injury, self-harm, and self-mutilation are all different ways of saying the same thing. Self-injury is the intentional act of hurting oneself by any means. Many people think of self-harm and only think of cutting. I suppose you could say that is the cliche vision people get when they think of someone hurting themselves purposely. Although cutting is the most commonly used method, other people may intentionally burn, hit, scratch, or even punch themselves. Any time a person physically hurts their own body could be considered self-injury.
This question may sound silly to some while being informative to others. The truth is, there is no real “type” of people who self-harm. Although 60 percent of self-injurers tend to be female, males are not left out from this kind of behavior. 90 percent of self-injurers start in their teens and even preteens. Some people “outgrow” this behavior, while others never fully recover or stay away from it. Your neighbor, teacher, friend, boss, or co-worker could be harming themselves and you may never know it. It can affect any race, class, age, or gender. However, a majority of people who self-injure have dealt with some kind of trauma, neglect, or abuse in their life.
Why Do People Self-Injure?
Every single person in this world is unique, so this also means that every person who harms their self intentionally has their own set of reasons. Some circumstances may be similar for some people yet completely unique in their own way. For some, it’s the only way they know how to effectively make their negative feelings and emotions go away – at least temporarily. Other people may believe they deserve what they are doing to themselves. Nearly 50 percent of people who self-injure have been sexually abused. For some, they may partake in this behavior to deal with mental or emotional disorders. For others, they may feel like it is the only thing in their life that they have control over.
Most people who self-injure are NOT trying to commit suicide. They are trying to find a way to stay alive and survive what they have gone through or what they are going through currently.
Doesn’t Self-Injury Hurt?
This is another one that varies depending on the person. Some people say they feel no pain while others may say it hurts some but not as bad as they are hurting on the inside.
For me, when I was younger it rarely hurt while I was creating the pain and hurt much worse afterward while it was trying to heal. As a woman in her 30s, I can say that the pain is more intense than it used to be but at times and I will feel like I need to self-harm because of this pressure that is building up inside of me. At times, I feel like if that pressure were to explode or bubble to the surface that I wouldn’t be able to survive the blast. That is only one reason I use this unhealthy coping skill that I picked up when I was 12-years-old.
Is There Help for Self-Injurers?
If you self-injures, there is help and there is hope. For those who are “in the closet” with their self-injurious behavior, the hardest part is admitting to someone that you are hurting yourself. There is a hotline for people who self-harm in the United States, and that number is 1-800-366-8288. (If you happen to try that number and it is not correct, please let me know in the comments so I can find the correct number and fix it!) Don’t be afraid to reach out for help.
There is also a crisis texting number available for those who live in the US. You just text “Hello” to 741-741. It is a valuable number to have and I happen to have this one saved in my phone. They are there even if you just need someone to talk to when times get tough.
Therapy is a wonderful place to work on the deep-rooted issues that could have potentially started the vicious self-harm cycle. You can work on finding healthier coping mechanism that really work for you. If you have a Psychiatrist or even a Primary Care Physician, they could give you the added support you need to start working toward eliminating or reducing self-injurious behavior as well. Reaching out to someone is key. People don’t know what you are going through unless you tell them.
For those who self-injure frequently or for those who are considered severe cases, they do have treatment facilities who specialize in the treatment of self-injury. One I have heard of and came across through research time and time again is a place called S.A.F.E. Alternative. It is worth looking them up. They also have an app for smartphones from S.A.F.E. Alternatives that has an impulse control log, among other things, that can benefit anyone who self-harms. I have even used an impulse control log (you can click the link to the left to be taken to a post where I walk you through creating your own ICL.) to help aid me in my addiction recovery.
End The Stigma
People tend to fear what they don’t know or understand. All too often, people are quick to pass judgment on another human being who may handle or deal with life in an unconventional way. Those who are different tend to be shunned, and that is not how it should be. Anything surrounding mental health is plagued by stigma. If there is something we don’t understand, we should not fear it or the person who deals with any mental health disorder; after all, they are just humans too. Instead, we should be trying to do research and try to understand.
If you know someone who self-injures, don’t shame them for it. Instead, ask questions. There is usually always a reason behind what we do or how we act. As I mentioned early, everyone in this world is unique and different in their own way. We need to work toward tearing down the stigma that surrounds self-harm.
We self-injurers are not crazy, dumb, or weak. We are just trying to survive our day-to-day lives like the rest of the world. We just have a different survival method than some. #EndTheStigma
Samantha is the author of "My Bipolar Mind: You're not alone," she is also a freelance writer, blogger, and mental health advocate who runs and manages her own mental health blog MyBipolarMind.com.