As many as two million Americans engage in self-harm, such as cutting, burning, scratching, bruising, and hitting themselves.
Despite the fact that self-harm is not typically discussed, and is often misunderstood, those who engage in these behaviors should not feel ashamed or alone.
It is important to see that self-harming behaviors can lead to increased symptoms of depression and can even create a fear of seeking help because of the fear of judgment.
However, you should recognize that help is available and not be haunted by feelings of shame or loneliness.
March 1st marks Self-Injury Awareness Day, also known as Self-Harm Awareness Day.
This global movement encourages people who have experienced and suffered from self-harming thoughts and experiences, as well as those who have loved ones who self-harm, to be more open about their struggles.
It also seeks to bring more education and awareness to this sensitive, yet often overlooked, topic. The goal is to challenge the stereotypes associated with self-harm and to encourage people to educate themselves about it.
It is believed that these behaviors give a sense of control and help to reduce tension, while allowing the person to express their emotions and break free from the numbness associated with depression.
Mental health professionals explore the phenomena of self-harm when we encounter clients who struggle with it. Depression and self-harm often go together, though depression is not the only cause of self-harm. There may be a multitude of reasons why someone is engaging in self-harming behavior.
How to Respond to Self-Harm
Families may feel shocked, angry, helpless, and even responsible when they discover a loved one is harming themselves.
Families of those who self-harm may not be aware of this behavior. If you notice a change in your loved one’s behavior, such as isolation or withdrawal from normal activities, it is important to reach out.
It’s vital not to panic, as this could have a negative effect rather than making them feel comfortable talking to you.
Let your loved one know you are there for them, empower them to find help and resources, and remind them of their worth. This may help them feel safe being open and honest with you.
If You Need Support…
There is support out there for you and your loved ones, whether you are self-harming or someone you love is self-harming.
- The Self-Harm Crisis Text Line is always available: text HOME to 741741.
- Self-Injury Recovery Anonymous, the support group, is also available at www.thesira.org.
Even though it might feel like it at times, you are not alone. There are people who will support you and be there for you.
When times get tough, remember that you are never completely alone—you can reach out for help and support from people you love and the organizations above.