If you are easily triggered by discussions around self injury, self harm, self mutilation, or suicide.
Please skip this post.
Were you aware that March is Self Injury Awareness month?
I’m just going to be really upfront and say that this subject triggers me in the most stressful way. I hate talking about it. It is probably the hardest thing for me to talk about and even write about. So why do I bring it up? Why put myself through something so immensely uncomfortable?
I bring it up because I have experienced thoughts of suicidal ideation. I have a child who has expressed suicidal ideation. I have a relative that took their own life. So YES this subject affects me because I have experienced it in the most intimate ways possible. I never want anyone to experience the pain I have felt. So I will talk about it until it is no longer hard to talk about.
What is it?
Self Injury Awareness Month recognizes that self harm happens across all genders, races, beliefs and ages1. As per Doorways an Arizona counseling clinic, here are some common questions surrounding self injury.
What Forms Does Self-Injury Take?2
There is a variety of ways to inflict self-injury. The most common methods are skin cutting (70‑90%), head hitting or banging (21-44%), and burning (15-35%). Less common ways of inflicting self-harm include scratching so that bleeding occurs, punching objects or oneself, breaking bones purposefully, inserting an object into a body opening, and drinking a harmful liquid such as bleach. Most individuals engaging in NSSI hurt themselves in more than one way. For instance, many “cutters” also suffer from an eating disorder.
What Causes Teens and Young Adults to Injure Themselves?
People who self-injure report a variety of negative feelings—they may feel one or more of the following: empty inside; lonely; bored; fearful of intimate relationships; unable to resolve interpersonal difficulties; unable to express how they feel; misunderstood by others; under or over stimulated; afraid of responsibilities. Read this National Institutes of Health (NIH) report entitled Nonsuicidal Self-Injury in Adolescents.
Physical Pain and Psychological Pain
Self-abuse is used as an outlet to relieve psychological pain. It may also be regarded as a means of exercising control over one’s body when you have no control over other aspects of your life. Unfortunately, relief is only temporary, and without appropriate treatment, a self-sustaining cycle often develops with urges to self-injure growing in frequency and becoming harder to resist.
Self-Injury and Suicide
While those engaging in non-suicidal self-injury do not mean to commit suicide, they may bring about more harm than they intend and end up with unanticipated medical complications. In severe cases of self-injury, the sufferer may become so desperate about the addictive nature of their behavior and their inability to control it, that they carry out a true suicide attempt.
What are the Warning Signs of Self-Injury?
If you are a parent, the appearance of unexplained or inadequately explained frequent injuries such as cuts, burns, or bruises, should definitely trigger concern. Don’t simply take at face value “I fell” or “The cat scratched me.” Be aware that your adolescent will attempt to conceal these physical signs of self-abuse with clothing, so pay attention if they start wearing inappropriate clothes such as pants or garments with long sleeves in hot weather. The physical symptoms will go hand-in-in hand with one or more of the following: low rate of self-esteem; difficulty handling feelings; avoidance of relationships; relationship problems; poor functioning at home or in school.
What is the Treatment for Self-Injury?
Effective treatment for self-injury sufferers usually takes the form of a case-appropriate mix of cognitive/behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and medication. In difficult to treat cases, other treatment services may be necessary. These could include partial-inpatient therapy of several hours per day or even hospitalization under a specialized self-injury hospital program. Services for accompanying problems such as eating disorders or substance abuse should be integrated into the treatment, depending on individual needs.
Seek a Professional Diagnosis
A teen or young adult who engages in self-injury should be evaluated by a mental health professional. Self-abuse behaviors may be symptomatic of other mental disturbances such as personality disorders (especially borderline personality disorder), anxiety disorders (especially obsessive-compulsive disorder), bipolar disorder, major depression, and psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts or plans of self harm, reach out to someone you feel safe with immediately and call 911.
If you can not think of a person you can trust, here are resources for you to get immediate support you need. Self harm is not the answer – EVER. There is hope even if it doesn’t feel like it.
- Call your local law enforcement or dial 911
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255
- Lifeline Chat
- Veteran Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1
- Veterans Crisis Chat
- Hospital Emergency Room
- Mental health facility
Out of the Darkness
Last year was the first year I’ve fundraised for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – Out of the Darkness Walk. I was extremely emotional that day but I had to walk in person because I knew others needed to know they were not alone in their suffering. I walked in honor of my relative who took his own life. I still have my beads and bib from that day. It actually hangs in my closet where I can see it to remind me why I am so vocal about mental health.
I am walking again this year because it is important to me, my family, and to our community. If you would like to join my team or donate to AFSP, here is my donor page. My goal this year is $750! I’d love your help with donations, prayers, and getting the word out.
If you want further information surrounding mental health, substance abuse, or self harm. I have linked some very informative sites.
- Stamp Out Stigma’s resources page
- National Institutes of Health
- Self Harm, Psychology Today
- Mental Health America