Today is March 1, 2013 – Self-Injury Awareness Day
Self-injury or self-harming is when a person deliberately hurts themselves physically to deal with the emotional pain they are suffering. When it comes to self-harm, cutting is thought of as the main way people hurt themselves. But this is only one way to deal with inner pain. Another misconception is that it’s mainly teenagers that use this coping mechanism; the truth is, self-harm occurs in all age groups, both sexes and many races and backgrounds.
What You Should Know
While cutting is the most talked about in today’s culture, there are many other self-harm methods. Substance abuse, sex with strangers and even tattoos are among other methods used by people who are distressed. Some people binge and purge, others spend money excessively, I even shaved my head when I was 19; maybe I thought that changing my outer appearance would help change the inner being as well. There are so many ways for a person to self-harm, some of which could seem completely natural if you didn’t take a closer look at the person who’s suffering.
So why do it?
Any of these methods and others provide sensations that break feelings of numbness. Issues, such as low-self esteem, trauma, perfectionism and abuse can cause this emotional pain. A person can suffer for a long time without telling anyone, unable to break the cycle. Self-harmers may feel alone and mixed up about the world and not understand why they feel that way.
How can you help solve the problem?
- Help yourself, do not feel guilty about what you are doing, it will only make things worse. Learn some emotional awareness methods and how to cope with overwhelming stress and emotions. It won’t be easy, but no one said life was going to be easy.
- Educate yourself about self-harm. There are many fact sheets on the Internet today.
- Support a friend. The reason people are in so much pain is the loneliness they feel. Don’t judge. Encourage communication and offer support, not ultimatums. It is important to not make the sufferer feel worse than they already do.
- Take part in the Butterfly Project – its easy and a great way to stay focused on finding a reason and cure for self-harm. The Rules are:
- When you feel like you want to harm, take a marker or a pen and draw a butterfly on your arm
- Name the butterfly after a loved one or someone who really wants you to get better
- No scrubbing the butterfly off – it must fade naturally
- If you harm before the butterfly is gone, it dies. If you don’t harm, it lives and is set free. If you have more than one butterfly, harming kills them all.
- Another person may draw them on you. These butterflies are extra special, take very good care of them
- Even if you don’t harm yourself, feel free to draw a butterfly in support. Name this butterfly after someone you love that is suffering right now. Make sure you tell them; you could save them from another episode of self-harm.
These are just a few ways to become more aware about self-harm. There is a very important message here. Mental illness is as hard to beat as cancer and is potentially just as fatal. Studies show that 8 out of 10 sufferers will commit suicide. Self-harm can lead to fatality even if by accident.
What You Should Remember
We are strong, and as with most problems and illnesses, self-harm can be lessened or even beaten with awareness. Remember your marks are not a sign of weakness; they are your personal story, one that needs to be told in order to spread awareness. You are not alone. Individuals who have experienced the most pain have also achieved the most success. Remind yourself everyday of your strength and inner beauty. Without you, life wouldn’t be the same. Encourage those you know who are self-harming to try one or all of these methods.
“My body is a journal in a way. It’s like what sailors used to do, where every tattoo meant something, a specific time in your life when you make a mark on yourself, whether you do it yourself with a knife or with a professional tattoo artist.”
~Johnny Depp, actor