Cutting, Scratching, Burning. There are a number of ways an individual may self-harm. And it’s more common than you may think. In fact, Nearly 17% of all people will self-harm sometime during their lives. March is self-harm awareness month, to help bring attention to self-injuring behaviors and get rid of some of the confusions about what self-harm is, identify the signs to watch for, and offer ways to help someone who you suspect might be engaging in self-harming activities
While social media, television and movies can help us learn more about human behavior, sometimes these depictions aren’t always accurate. That’s true of our understanding of self-harm as well. To erase the stigma surrounding self-harm behavior it’s important to know more about it.
Here are some more of the common myths surrounding self-harm along with helpful facts to provide a more complete understanding of the issue.
Self-harm is a mental illness
Self-harm is a failed suicide attempt
People self-harm because they want attention
Self-harm is a minor problem that doesn’t need focus
If you’re harming yourself on purpose, you must be crazy
Self-harm is a behavior, one that indicates a need for additional coping skills in one way or another
Not all individuals who self-harm are suicidal. Typically, those who self-injure are doing it to cope with something like that is painful to them.
Seeking attention isn’t why people intentionally harm themselves, even though they very well may benefit from having attention on them.
Self-harm isn’t about the action, it’s about why an individual feels the need to take that action
By seeking help for self-harm, an individual is taking positive steps in their mental health
Being alert to the signals of self-harm
There are a few signs that someone might be deliberately harming themselves. And while it’s most common during the ages of 12-18, self harm can happen at any age. Here are a few things to watch out for.
- Unexplained wounds or scars
- Blood stains on clothing, towels, or bedding
- Preoccupation with sharp objects or cutting instruments
- Frequent accidents or mishaps
- Covering up with loose clothing or clothing that hides arms, or other body parts especially in warm weather
- Seclusion and often irritated
Plus when someone is hurting themselves, they may go to great lengths to hide their injuries. They may feel ashamed about their actions and the wounds and scars that self-harming leaves behind. It is this shame that can sometimes lead to not wanting others to know about it.
If a classmate, co worker, friend or loved one opens up to let you know they are self-harming and want to talk about what’s going on, it’s important to react calmly and listen without passing judgement on them for what they have done., In addition to needing help to address the issue, the individual may also require medical attention for their wounds (depending on how deep, if stitches are needed or possible infection).
Help is available when you need it
If you or a loved one is engaging in self harming behaviors, there are plenty of resources available to help. All it takes is the first step of reaching out to a friend, family, or coworker.
- Crisis text hotline – To get help for self harm simply text connect to 741741 and get connected to a trained crisis counselor.
- National suicide prevention hotline – 1-800-273-8255
- National Domestic Violence hotline – 1-800-799-7233
- SAMHSA National hotline – 1-800-662-4357
- Self injury hotline – 1-800-366-8288