Self Injury Awareness Day, MAR 1

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Will you see the emotional scars?

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.

young womanSelf-injury is any deliberate, non suicidal behaviour that inflicts physical harm on your body and is aimed at relieving emotional distress. Photo courtesy of Piotr Kozikowski

Physical pain is often easier to deal with than emotional pain, because it causes ‘real’ feelings. Injuries can prove to an individual that their emotional pain is real and valid. Self-injurious behaviour may calm or awaken a person. Yet self-injury only provides temporary relief, it does not deal with the underlying issues. Self-injury can become a natural response to the stresses of day to day life and can escalate in frequency and severity.

When it comes to self-harm, cutting is thought of as the main way people hurt themselves. But burning, bruising and scratching are amongst other methods used by people who are distressed. Another misconception is that it’s mainly teenage girls that use this coping mechanism – but it also includes people of both sexes and all ages, races and backgrounds. So why do it?

Despite the media’s frequent portrayal of self-injury being something that predominantly affects teenage girls, at LifeSIGNS we know this is wholly inaccurate. LifeSIGNS itself was founded by Wedge – and he’s never going to be a teenage girl!

Self-injury can affect anybody, at any time in their lives. Gender, age, sexual orientation, race, religion, background – they are all irrelevant. If, rather than considering who might turn to self-injury, we instead focus on who could possibly suffer from the emotional distress that can lead to self-injury, it’s much easier to imagine that self-injury really can affect anyone.

Self-injury is a coping mechanism. Anyone who has anything distressing to cope with might potentially turn to self-injury.

So instead of looking at who self-injures in terms of such things as gender and age, we might consider that 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. Of course, a person who self-injures may experience all, some, or none of these characteristics, as may a person who doesn’t self-injure.

This mechanism can provide people with a sensation that ‘breaks feelings of numbness’. This emotional pain is caused by issues such as low-self esteem, trauma, perfectionism and abuse. A person can go on suffering like this while telling no-one and feeling uable to break the cycle. So how can you help and raise awareness?

Firstly print out a fact sheet, depending on who you are and how you want to help. From parents and friends, to pamphlets for males and teachers, there is unique advice available for everyone. Hand these out, or pin them up and use the online templates to send letters off to radio shows or your local MP. For more information, go to the Self Injury Awareness Day website.

Another small but significant thing you can do is buy one of the new orange and purple wristbands. You can’t miss the colour, so when your friends ask what it’s for you’ll have the opportunity to talk about the day!

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