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Self-Injury Awareness Day

By Alies Barton, MSW, LCSW

 

March 1st is Self-Injury Awareness Day

Self-injury, self-harm, self-mutilation, cutting, or deliberate self-harm are all terms used when talking about someone hurting themselves on purpose. Self-injurious behaviors are quite common and can affect anybody at any time in life. It is hard to know exact statistics because, many times, people who engage in self-injurious behaviors hide their injuries from others.

Self-injury is a type of coping mechanism. Anyone who struggles with emotional distress could engage in self-harm. Self-Injury awareness day started over 18 years ago to help raise awareness of the problem. The hope is to help others understand and empathize with those who engage in self-injury. Self-injury awareness can help those who suffer by leading more people to be able to be supportive rather than reacting with fear or judgment.

 

Types of Self-Injury

  1. Cutting
  2. Scratching
  3. Burning
  4. Biting
  5. Carving words or symbols into the skin
  6. Hitting or punching oneself
  7. Piercing the skin with sharp objects
  8. Pulling out hair
  9. Picking at skin
  10. Self-medicating (non-suicidal overdosing)
  11. Risk-taking behaviors

Why Would Someone Self-Harm?

  1. To cope with stress or negative feelings
  2. To find distraction from overwhelming emotions
  3. To feel something physical
  4. To gain a sense of control – it is one thing you may have control over in an otherwise chaotic life
  5. Self-punishment if feeling extreme guilt or shame
  6. As a way to express emotions

 

Alternatives to Self-Harm

  1. Delay:
    • Find someone to talk to – a friend, a teacher, or a therapist
    • Text HELP to 741741 to talk to a crisis counselor
    • Write in a journal
  2. Distract:
    • Find another activity to keep your attention
    • The 15 min rule – note that you have the urge to self-harm and set a timer for 15 minutes, and if you still feel like self-harming after the 15 minutes, realize it is your choice to make; you do have the power.
  3. Divert: Find an activity that could give you the same physical sensation as self-injury
    • Punch a pillow
    • Take a boxing class
    • Draw on your arm

Treatment

  1. Seek the help of a professional
  2. Learn how to identify emotional states and what leads to the urge of wanting to self-harm
  3. Use alternative positive coping strategies when feeling that urge
    • Yoga
    • Meditation
    • Journaling
    • Physical activity
  4. Work on being self-compassionate

“To accept ourselves as we are means to value our imperfections as much as our perfections.” Sandra Bierig

 

Resources

www.lifesigns.org

www.crisistextline.org

www.nami.org

 

 

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