March 1st is Self Injury Awareness Day, so I wanted to write a post discussing self-harm, because I know that it is a topic that some people do not fully understand, which is understandable, because it is not a heavily discussed issue. In this post, I am going to discuss what self-harm is, forms and signs of self-harm, and what to do if you or someone you are close to may be self-harming.
Self-harm is when someone intentionally damages or injures their body. This is usually a way of coping or expressing emotional distress, but can also be in order for to punish themselves or relieve tension. Someone may self-harm for some or all of these reasons, and it can also be a cry for help.
Self-harm is believed to affect around 10% of young people at some point, but people of all ages can have difficulties with it. Someone may be self-harming due to social problems, such as being bullied or having difficulties with work or school, or in order to cope with trauma, such as abuse or the death of a loved one. Self-harm can also have psychological causes, such as having repeated thoughts or voices encouraging self-harm, or dissociating (losing touch with who they are and their surroundings, to sum it up very briefly). Self-harm is also linked to anxiety and depression, as well as other mental illnesses.
Self-harm can come in many forms, the most common of which is someone cutting or burning themselves. Sometimes people also punch/hit themselves, poison themselves with tablets or other chemicals, or misuse drugs and alcohol to cause damage to themselves. Signs of self-harm can include unexplained cuts, bruises, or burns, often on someone’s wrists, arms, and thighs, which they may keep themselves fully covered to hide, even in hot weather. Signs of depression, including a low mood or a lock of motivation/interest in things, and self-loathing can also be indicators of self-harm, as well as talking about suicide, even jokingly.
If you suspect that someone close to you is harming themselves, you should talk to them if you feel that it’s appropriate; try to be understanding and encourage them to seek help, but remember that it is not your responsibility to care for them (unless you are their parent or carer). When you are worried about someone’s safety, it is very easy to end up too involved in the situation, and exhausting yourself by constantly trying to be there for someone. This is not helpful for you or the person self-harming; remember that you are not their therapist and you still need to put yourself first. If you feel someone is a serious risk to themselves, or they are talking about or threatening to injure themselves, contact emergency services. It may feel like you are hurting someone or betraying their trust if they have stated that they do not wish to seek help, but it is the care they need.
If you are having issues with self-harm, seeking help is undoubtedly hard but crucial for your health. I talked about this in more detail in my post about getting help, but I want to outline some options for you here to. If you are a young person, your school or college can offer help to you, all you have to do is ask when you feel you’re ready to recover. Another option open to everyone is seeing your GP, who can refer you to a therapy service that can help you with managing your emotions in a better way, or even a short hospital stay to keep you safe. However, asking for help is understandably hard, so you may find anonymous online services such as Childline, where you can speak to a professional and vent your feelings instead of causing harm to yourself, or you can always turn to a friend if you feel that their support will be enough to help you. Here is a site containing alternatives to self-harm if you ever need them.
Discussing the topic of self-injury and ways to get help is important to me because of my own experiences. I started struggling with self-harm when I was 11. Moving to high school meant that I lost contact with all of my friends, and I was bullied heavily for years when I did. Things were very difficult to cope with, so I turned to self-harm as a coping mechanism. Across the course of 4 and a half years, I caused irreversible damage to my body that I regret beyond words, and if you are doing the same, I can promise you that stopping is the best thing you can do for yourself. Hurting myself every night offered a very short period of relief with a whole new bunch of problems to deal with after it. I was harming not only myself, but people around me, and that wasn’t fair; it took me until I ended up in A&E to realise that people were extremely concerned for me, and it was affecting them very badly. That was one of my lowest points, and quickly became my reason to recover. I could not bear to hurt people around me anymore. By the time that this is posted, I will be a few days away from a year clean from self-harm, and choosing to stop and find other ways to cope is the best decision I have ever made. I completely understand the hopelessness that you may feel if you are in a cycle of self-harm, but a year from now you could be in the same place as I am and looking back being grateful that you chose to stop. Recovering from self-harm is not easy, but it’s completely worth it, and it is possible.
Thank you for reading! I hope you have found this post helpful and I wish you the best of luck in your recovery. Keep growinggg!