*The following could potentially be triggering*
Today is Self Injury Awareness Day.
Raising awareness about self harm is important. More awareness leads to better understanding, empathy and it helps stop judgement and fears therefore reducing stigma.
There are multiple assumptions about self harming which leads to stereotyping. Many of these assumptions are myths, today I hope to debunk a few of these.
Self Harming Myth: “People who self harm are attention seeking”
A lot of people think that people who self harm are doing it for attention. This is not quite the case. In a lot of cases people have feelings of shame after self harming. Self injuring is a personal thing and people tend to try and hide it, make sure it is covered up.
Self Harming Myth: “Only young people/ teenagers self injure”
This is not true. Self injury is an issue across every generation. It is important for people to know that people self harm at any age! Not just when young. It is important for people at any age to reach out for help if they need it. It is important to know that is even an option, they are not ‘weird’ or acting ‘inappropriate for their age’.
Self Harming Myth: “Self harming means cutting”
Self harming is always assumed to be cutting. However, it is not the only way that people injure themselves. Self harming is a physical response to emotional distress. Anything from biting, scratching, starving yourself, burning, purposely depriving yourself of sleep, overdosing these are all examples of self harming, and there are many more.
Self Harming Myth: “People who self injure are trying to kill themselves”
It is often perceived that people who self harm are trying to kill themselves. This is not the case. It can be true that people are self injuring with the intention to end their lives. However, self injury is more complex. A lot of people who self harm are injuring themselves in order to make their lives manageable – it is a coping method. They want to switch off feelings, or sometimes it is the opposite, want to feel something. It is a way to release an overload of emotions and feelings that they don’t know how to let out, or convey in another way.
Self Harming Myth: “It is only girls who self harm”
It is true that statistics show it is more females who self harm than men but there is not a true representation of data. Males are less likely to reach out for help.
Self Harming Myth: “Self injuring is just a phase”
It is quite a common misconception, especially concerning young people that self harming is just a phase that a person is going through which they will overcome or ‘grow out of’. This can be damaging to an individual. It demeans their feelings and experiences and create a feeling of loneliness for that person. If a person has approached you and told you that they self harm or have self harming thoughts, it is important to let them know that they are being taken seriously, you are listening and that they are not alone.
Self Harming Myth: “Self Harming is about trying to look/ be cool (especially online)” or “It is only emos/goths who self harm”
When I was in school, this was a very common point of view. If you were a goth or emo then it was automatically assumed that you were a self harmer. If you listened to certain music, or dressed a certain way, or even had certain friends then you were a self harmer. The bit that I never understood, and still don’t to this day, is that if you were part of these social groups and it was assumed that you were a self harmer then you were still bullied. Surely, if you thought somebody was self injuring you would want to try and help them? Not bully them?
There are websites online that can be damaging, especially to young and vulnerable people. Self harming is romanticised on them and portray self harming as ‘trendy’.
There is a cycle of self harming. It starts with a build up of emotions and suffering, which will lead to the act of self harming which provides an instant, short-term relief. However, this is usually followed by feelings of shame which then leads to emotional suffering. It is a vicious circle, and it is a circle that is difficult to break. Learning methods and techniques to break the circle is important is a person’s journey of growth and recovery. A person stuck in this cycle needs help and understanding in order to get the strength to break out the cycle.
Spreading awareness about self harm will hopefully remind people that they are not alone, and there are places to turn in their times of need. Self injury does not discriminate. It affects people of any age, gender, race, sexuality, rich, poor. It affects people of all walks of life. If a person tells you that they self harm, let them know that you are there for them, without judgement. Encourage them to be safe and to speak to a medical professional. Remind them that they are not alone. Some Tender Loving Care can go a long way! Be kind to people, you don’t know what struggles they face on a daily basis. Everybody is just trying to feel their way through life.
Below I have linked some useful sites for information and contacts
Breathing Space: 0800838587 (open 6pm – 2am Monday – Thursday, 6pm Friday – 6am Monday)
For any readers not from the UK, the To Write Love on her Arms website has quite a useful list under their “Find Help” Section. Do check it out, quite a lot of places are covered. https://twloha.com/find-help/local-resources/