She is the girl who never shows off her body. Her hair, always falling in front of her face. Her lips are pursed in a fake smile. She wants to cry and yell and possibly get a migraine for a day, two, or three, but she has to keep up appearances. She is a chatterbox, and she is the class clown. She liked sharp objects, or perhaps she did not see much of a choice – I could see the angry red slices from within her arm flashing out from underneath her long checkered shirt.
Self-injury is not a pleasant subject, but it must be addressed.
Most people, if given a piece of paper to write how they feel, would leave it blank because that is exactly how they feel – empty. This could be as a result of difficulties, feelings of helplessness, hopelessness or worthlessness that they are experiencing.
Although the 1st of March is Self-Injury Awareness Day, it does not prevent us from discussing it every other day.
Self-injury Awareness Day is a grassroot, global awareness event / campaign held annually every 1st of March as mentioned earlier. On this day, and in the weeks leading up to it and after, some people choose to be more open about their own self-harm. Awareness leads to understanding and empathy, banishing judgment and fear, and reducing the number of people who feel alone. This is about educating people about those suffering in silence.
Mental health organizations also make extra efforts to raise awareness about self-harm and self-injury, with some even offering free therapy sessions on the day.
Self-injury or self-harm is defined as intentionally injuring or harming one’s own body by cutting, burning or even starving oneself; amongst many other ways. It does not necessarily imply that you are attempting suicide; rather, it is a harmful way of dealing with emotional pain, intense anger, and frustration. Self-injury is usually done in private and in a controlled or ritualistic manner, leaving a pattern on the skin. Cutting (cuts or severe scratches with a sharp object),scratching, burning (with lit matches, cigarettes, or heated, sharp objects such as knives), piercing the skin with sharp objects, and inserting objects under the skin are all examples of self-harm.
Research on non-suicidal self-harm (NSSH) shows that one in every five women and girls aged 16– 24 years reported self-harming. An alarming number of children are also self-harming,according to a study conducted last year for BBC Radio 4’s File on 4 programs, the rate of self-harm amongst children aged nine to twelve in the United Kingdom more than doubled between 2014 and 2020. The number of children in this age group who were admitted to hospitals after consciously injuring themselves increased from 221 in 2013-14 to 508 in 2019-20.
Anyone, at any age, can suffer from self-injury. However, according to the NHS LIFESIGNS (a self-injury guidance and network support group) stresses: “There are certain characteristics that some people who self-injure share. These include, but are not restricted to, low self-esteem, perfectionism and high achievement, poor body image, trauma and abuse. Anyone who has anything distressing to cope with might potentially turn to self-injury.”
There will always be a reason for self-harming behavior, so instead of focusing on the injury, it is more important to try to identify the underlying issues that have caused it. People who self-harm should not be mocked, made to feel disgusted, or angered. They are already overburdened. Caring for them includes helping them understand that you are there for them, offering to accompany them to seek medical attention and see a therapist. Respecting their privacy and need for confidentiality by not forcing them to do things is of utmost importance.
You do not have to yell at them or tell them to stop because they will not, self-injury is very delicate and takes a long time to heal.
As people, we should also educate ourselves on the subject of self-injury. We can help them realize that there are other means to communicate, understand or even embrace their feelings through mediums such as canvases, walls, and a variety of other surfaces; on which they can design and leave their imprints other than their own skin with the hope that they can resist the urge to injure themselves.