March Is Self Harm Awareness Month
I decided to check out the Monthly Calendar to see what “month’ this is, Psychology Today keeps an online blog with each month posted. I do not know who decides what is made aware each month, but I found the following for the month of March 2017:
- American National Nutrition Month
- Brain Injury Awareness Month
- Gender Equality Month
- National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month
- Self Harm Awareness Month
All of these are equally important, but I wanted to focus on “Self-Harm Awareness”. Not because I know a lot about the subject, but because I hear more and more about the subject as I work with Crisis Services here at the Center. I feel like it is another subject that people stigmatize and do not want to address until they have to.
What is Self-injury, also known as self-harm, self-mutilation, or self-abuse: occur when someone intentionally and repeatedly harms themselves in a way that is impulsive and not intended to be lethal.
“Self-harm is not a mental illness, but a behavior that indicates a lack of coping skills. Several illnesses are associated with it, including borderline personality disorder, depression, eating disorders, anxiety or post-traumatic distress disorder. – See more at: http://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Related-Conditions/Self-harm#sthash.6zp2dAFp.dpuf”
Skin cutting, head banging, or hitting and burning oneself are some of the most common methods used to harm oneself along with all other purposeful non-suicidal self-injures. It is important to note that individuals who engage in self-injury often have more than one method.
I will not give you all the statistics and medical research, just basic facts. Individuals who self-injure use it as a way to cope with or relieve painful or hard-to-express feelings, not as an attempt to suicide. Individuals who self-injure often report feeling empty inside, or over/under stimulated, uncertain about feelings, perception by others, fearful of responsibilities and/or intimate relationships. The false sense of control and relief is temporary and leads in a cycle for the need of both Physical and Mental Health Care. If not treated the cycle can repeat long enough that there can be additional health care issues.
Warning signs that someone may be injuring themselves include:
- Unexplained frequent injuries including cuts and burns,
- Low self-esteem,
- Difficulty handling feelings,
- Relationship problems or avoidance of relationships, and
- Poor functioning at work, school or home.
Individuals who self-injure may attempt to conceal their marks, such as bruises, scabs or scars with clothing. If confronted they may deny self-injury and make excuses for their injuries.
What To Do If You Are Worried That Someone Is Hurting Themselves:
If you believe someone has been hurting themselves, ask them how they are doing. Be prepared for the answer yes or no. Be willing to listen to them no matter how uncomfortable it makes you. This maybe be a difficult subject for you to approach, remind yourself you are there to listen and help them find the help they need. Be honest when listening, but not judgmental or confrontational; you do not have to understand everything they tell you. They do need you to listen without worrying about what to say next or brushing off what they are saying as “not serious”. Encourage them to seek professional treatment by stating that self-harm isn’t uncommon and doctors and therapists can help. If possible, offer to help find treatment. But don’t go on the offensive and don’t try to make the person promise to stop, as it takes more than willpower to quit.
These are just a few of the facts about self-injury that I found in my research. I encourage you to do your own search and find out how you can recognize and address the subject of self-injury with individuals in your own life. Or maybe you are the person who turns to self-injury during Crisis? I have included some links to sites below for more information about self-injury.
There are people who are willing to listen, please call someone if you are in Crisis and need someone to listen. The Arkansas Crisis Line operates on limited hours at 1-888-274-7472 or you may call 1-800-DONTCUT (366-8288).
As always if you have a medical emergency please call 9-1-1.
Thanks for reading,
Melissa Jackson, Crisis Services Program Manager, Arkansas Crisis Center
Sources and Resources:
S.A.F.E. Alternatives (Self Abuse Finally Ends) http://www.selfinjury.com/
National Alliance on Mental Illnesses www.nami.org
– See more at: http://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Related-Conditions/Self-harm#sthash.6zp2dAFp.dpuf
Mental Health America http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/self-injury
To Write Love on Her Arms https://twloha.com/ikeptliving/
To Write Love on Her Arms is a nonprofit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire, and invest directly into treatment and recovery.