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Self Injury Awareness

Posted on Tuesday, February 20, 2024
March is Self-Harm Awareness Month, and despite a recent cultural shift toward more open discussions about mental health, self-harm remains a significant and often misunderstood topic. It may be helpful to learn more about the behaviors surrounding self-harm, how to recognize signs, and how to prevent it within your peer group and community. This month can also be a time to get involved and support those who are struggling with self-harm and related mental health challenges.

What is self harm?
Self-harm (formally known as non-suicidal injury) is an intentional act of causing physical pain to oneself without the intent of committing suicide. Cutting, burning, head banging, wound picking, and burning oneself are common methods of self-harm behavior. Studies show that approximately 4 percent or more of the population self-injures and as high as 14 percent of young adults may engage in self-harming. Self-harming is commonly associated with eating disorders, depression, personality disorders, self-identity issues and substance abuse issues.

Why do individuals self-harm?
To feel pain
Persons who have a history of trauma or abuse will often feel numb as a way to block out their feelings. This numbness can feel like an empty pit in one's stomach, and that person may want to physically feel emotions or feelings. When someone self-harms, they physically can feel that pain and sometimes self-harm is a way for that individual to feel again.
To punish themselves
Persons who engage in self-harm often feel guilty or unworthy. Often, they have low self-worth, possibly brought on from trauma, bullying, abuse or loneliness - and as a result, they may often feel that they are not "good enough". People struggling with disorders may harvest feelings of guilt, especially if they are left untreated. Self-injury behaviors are a means of punishment to relieve that person from their "guilt".
To distract from unwanted feelings
Individuals who my deal with anxiety, sadness, depression, loneliness, anger and other negative feelings may cut as a way to avoid internal feelings. For these individuals, self-harm is a way to forget about painful emotions or memories that may be happening.
To regulate internal emotions
Self-harm behaviors are often a way for individuals to have a temporary outlet from feelings they are not able to cope with or work through. Inflicting physical pain is a fleeting way to escape from reality and to express internal emotions. Self-harm releases a surge of endorphins, which create a sense of euphoria and relaxation. This temporary state is quickly replaced by feelings of guilt and shame, resulting in even more negative internal emotions, which can be a strong driving force to continue the cycle of self-harm.

Scary self-harm statistics
- About 17% of all people will self-harm during their lifetime.
- The average age of the first incident of self-harm is 13
- 45% of people use cutting as their method of self-injury.
- About 50% of people seek help for their self-harm but only from friends instead of professionals.
- Not only is self-harm prevalent, but rates are increasing. According to emergency room trends, there's been a 50% increase in reported self-injury among young females since 2009.
Who self-harms
- Adults - adults are the least likely group of people to follow through with self-injury. Only about 5% if adults have self-injured in their lifetime.
- Teens - Young adults have the highest rate of self-hard, with about 17% admitting to self-injury at least once in their life.
- College Students - Studies have found that about 15% of college students reported in self-harm.
- Women vs. Men - While women are more likely to self-harm, males may represent at least 35% of self-injury cases.
- Sexual Minorities - LGBTQA+ are at high risk of self-injury.

Warning Signs that someone may be self-harming
As a parent this can all seem pretty scary and may make you question if your child is self-harming. There are a few signs you can look out for, but the best way to prevent self-harm, is to talk to your children frequently. Some signs may include:
- Changes in mood
- Being Secretive
- Avoiding situations where they have to expose their arms or legs, such as swimming, wearing short sleeves, or shorts.
- Strange excuses for injuries
- Withdrawing from unusual activities

What should you do if you suspect your child is self-harming, or want to get help for them (or yourself)?
You should never accuse your child flat out of self-harming in an argument. This can lead to more self-harm and feelings of guilt. Instead, professionals explain you should have a sit-down conversation and tell your child what you know and suspect. Get some kind of support going. If your child is open with you, talk it out, offer support and monitor. Don't get explosive! If your child is one who does not open up to you very much - as most teenagers don't - get professional help from a therapist or counselor. You can also guide your child to a hotline that they can call/text when they feel like self-harming if they are not the type of child to come to you when that desire hits. Once your child is in treatment, there are many ways to divert those negative feelings outward, such as doing a craft, snapping a rubber band, or finding their zen. It's finding what works for your child, working through it, and talking about it.

Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 to connect with a volunteer crisis counselor, free 24/7.
Crisis Call Line: 988 (National Suicide Prevention Hotline)

We know this is a dark topic for our followers, but our children need help more than ever. If our newsletter can reach just one parent that can help their child, we want to be able to do that. If you have friends with troubled teenagers, share this blog with them. You never know who you may be helping!