By: Meghaa Ravichandran
Trigger Warning: This article includes mentions of self-harm with details of cutting.
With the advent of spring, mental health awareness continues to remain strong as we kick off the month with Self-Injury Awareness Day on March 1st. More frequently judged than treated, people who self-harm often do not receive the proper treatment they need to regain a healthy mindset but are bullied for their scars and labeled ‘attention seekers’ instead. Self-harm is the act of deliberately harming one’s own body through cutting, scratching, burning, self-hitting, inserting objects into the skin, and more.
In my experience, when scrolling through social media, there are often more judgemental comments than supportive ones when a stranger online has the courage to ask for help. I’ve also seen hate comments on posts/videos regarding healed self-injury scars, with unfriendly sentiments comparing cuts on one’s wrist to a barcode on grocery products. However, there is always hope in the darkest crevices of the Internet and life as supportive communities spread awareness regarding self-injury and break down the surrounding stigma and social barriers.
It is reported that around 15% of teenagers have reported some form of self-injury with skin cutting being a prevalent method (Mental Health America). Self-harm is often a last resort for many people as they try to process negative emotions and the downhills in life through an unhealthy coping mechanism. Although people who self-harm may be suicidal, the majority are not as they seek temporary relief and fall victim to a self-destructive cycle of self-injury. By engaging in self-injury, a person believes they gain control over their body when everything else in life is uncontrollable.
As with all mental health issues, self-injury causes many problems to one’s health in the short and long term. Physically, it may cause permanent scarring, uncontrollable bleeding, addictions, and infections. Mentally, it can exacerbate negative emotions such as guilt or shame, lead to avoiding friends/family, cause more interpersonal difficulty in close relationships.
Starting a conversation with those around you on this topic is often very difficult to initiate. After setting a serious tone for the discussion, make sure to create a safe space, allowing others to express themselves and offering emotional support when needed. Remember to listen and not judge. If you believe a person you know has been harming themselves, you can look for these warning signs and direct them to treatment:
- Unexplained frequent injures (ex: cuts & burns)
- Low self-esteem
- Difficulty handling feelings
- Problems in relationships
- Unstable work/home environment
- Keeping sharp objects on hand
- Statements of hopelessness/worthlessness
Professional and self-made treatment options for those who self-harm are abundant, but often hard to access due to socioeconomic status, inability to ask for help, uncertainty regarding resources, etc. Ensuring that everyone knows that such treatment exists makes a difference, so here are some examples of beginning the road to recovery:
- Cognitive/behavioral therapy
- Learn more about CBT from the American Psychological Association
- Dialectical Behavioral therapy
- Medication to manage malicious thoughts
- Interpersonal therapy
- Learn more about Interpersonal therapy from the Center for Addiction and Mental Health
- Text HOME to 741741 (a crisis text line)
- Make art! Get creative and adopt new, calming hobbies
- Don’t know where to start? Check out Our Projects – Taarika Foundation
If you would like to observe Self-Injury Awareness Day with us, here are a few ideas to get started:
- Check up on a friend – even the littlest actions mean a lot
- Take a depression screening at your local clinic
- Bring a guest therapist to school for free community consultations
- Attend local/national events near you or organize your own!
- Do your own research if you would like to dive into the issue deeper
- Speak to a professional to seek help or learn more.
- Pro Tip: Organize a speaker series to bring in educational discussions to your school community!
- Listen, don’t judge – think twice before leaving hateful comments online or speaking badly in real life
National Day Calendar. “Self-Injury Awareness Day – March 1.” National Day Calendar, 22 Feb. 2022, https://nationaldaycalendar.com/self-injury-awareness-day-march-1/.
“Self-Harm.” Crisis Text Line, 4 Aug. 2021, https://www.crisistextline.org/topics/self-harm/#how-to-deal-with-self-harm-4.
“Self-Injury (Cutting, Self-Harm or Self-Mutilation).” Mental Health America, https://www.mhanational.org/conditions/self-injury-cutting-self-harm-or-self-mutilation.
“Self-Injury Awareness Day.” National Today, 14 Dec. 2021, https://nationaltoday.com/self-injury-awareness-day/.