Today is self-injury awareness day (SIAD). SIAD takes place internationally on March the first every year to raise awareness around self-injury. The following is from Life Signs which is an organisation for self-injury guidance and network support
“Raising awareness about self-injury is incredibly important. Awareness leads to understanding and empathy, banishing judgment and fear, and reducing the number of people who feel alone and suffer in silence. Raising awareness is about educating people who do not self-injure, and reaching out to people who do.” – LifeSigns
Self-injury or self-harm is the deliberate act inflicting an injury on yourself. It is not necessarily a suicide attempt – only in some cases. For all intents and purposes – a coping mechanism. There are many myths and misconceptions surrounding it. I once heard a quote “if you have never self-harmed or ever wanted to then it is impossible for you to really understand why people do it” I know myself that the why is one of the hardest things to explain to someone who hasn’t been there.
The driving force behind the self-harm could be anything, bullying, grief, ill mental health, being physically or sexual abused, the list is endless. The reasons why people turn to self-harm has a way of coping is more complicated to explain. It’s different for everyone. Sometimes it’s a way to stop you from feeling numb inside so you can feel something again, a way to express emotions you are feeling that you don’t really understand yourself or a way of explaining how you feel when you can’t find the right words to communicate otherwise. It can also be a way of gaining control, when everything else is going wrong, self-harm is one way to feel as though you have control of something. Self-harm can be a way of expressing self-hatred or low self-worth.
It’s not an easy option. Obviously self-injury hurts, a lot. It’s nothing to do with age or gender. There’s a myth that self-harm is something teenage girls do to be edgy. Self-harm can become a problem for anyone male or female, at any age, at any stage of their life. Many people prevent themselves from getting help because of this stigma. It’s also not for attention. Most people hide their self-harm and keep it a secret. If someone did self-harm for attention, that’s called looking for help when they are in distress, which is a very different type of attention. No one takes a weapon and physically causes injury to themselves for a laugh. Always take evidence of self-harm seriously.
There are many methods of self-harm it’s not exclusive to cutting. Burning, biting or hitting yourself. Banging your head or pulling your hair out are all considered self-harm. There are other ways but for safety’s sake I don’t want to give ideas to anybody reading this who may be vulnerable. What you have to understand is self-harm is like an addiction, it is a habit that is difficult to stop. It’s not something that can just be stopped overnight, it takes time, support and encouragement.
I started self-harming when I was ten years old. I didn’t tell a soul for eight years. I kept it to myself and got to the stage where I would carry sharp objects around with me so I could injure myself whenever and wherever I wanted, several times a day. You can read more about my story here. My self-harm only came out when the doctors who saved my life after a suicide attempt saw all my scars and injuries. I was accused of looking for attention by so-called friends and even the psychiatrist who treated me on the psychiatric ward afterwards. Eight years I kept it a secret and as soon as it was revealed that’s the reaction I got. I went through all those years of secrecy, hiding and suffering alone for attention apparently.
Self-injury is only a temporary solution for a much deeper problem. In the long run, it doesn’t fix anything it just makes you worse. It’s dangerous and can cause infection or long-term damage. There is also a risk of accidental death. Trust me as someone who’s been there, safer alternative methods exist. You can find some tips and tricks in general here and here. I know the urge never really goes away. But there’s a better quality of life without self-harm. It’s not easy, nothing worth having in life is but I promise it’s worth it.
If you are concerned that someone you know is self-injuring please don’t keep it to yourself, try to approach the situation with them personally or raise the alarm with the person’s loved ones. Whatever you do, don’t tell other people for the purpose of gossip. That’s does not help anyone.
If you are engaging in the act of self-injury please talk to someone, reach out and ask for help. Don’t give up, you never know what is going on in someone’s life; if reaching out to one person doesn’t work try again. You matter very much and your problems are important; no matter how big or small they may be.
Like everything else, the road to recovery is long and small bumps along the way happen, that’s all they are though – bumps, they don’t erase all the hard work you’ve done so far. It’s been ten months exactly since I last self-harmed, before that my record was fourteen and a half months. My longest ever is eighteen months. Yes, I say record because it’s something that I’m proud of. Resisting the urge to self-injure may not seem like a big accomplishment to some but it is for me.
The main and best method I use is the snapping elastic trick. Nobody notices but I always have a hair bobbin/hair tie or elastic band around my wrist. It’s not actually in case I need to tie up my hair, it stops me from self-harming. Every time I get the urge I snap it off my wrist. It’s subtle and as I said isn’t noticeable. When I snap it off my wrist it hurts eventually obviously but the worst it can do is leave me with a bruise, it can’t cause any real harm but I still get a minor fix at the same time.
My self-harm recovery was based around forming new (healthier/safer) habits instead of reaching for something sharp or hurting myself through other means. You can also hold an ice cube in your hand, scream, shout, sing, punch a pillow, use relaxation techniques, exercise, write, draw – just try to find what works for you.
Here are some support networks:
Samaritans: 1850 60 90 90
TeenLine: 1800 833 634 or text Teen to 50015
Pieta House: email firstname.lastname@example.org
Taxi Watch: text or call 087 6665050
Please try not to judge someone for self-harming. Talking openly about self-injury is essential to reduce the stigma around the subject and to encourage those who self-harm to develop alternative coping methods. If you are self-harming please ask for help, I promise it gets easier.
Keep Shining On