Self-Harm: What it is and what to do
Written by Emma Burbidge Posted in Mental Illness
Self-harm is an umbrella term for any harmful behaviour, action or habit. Self-harm includes a range of things, including overeating, taking drugs, smoking and drinking too much alcohol. This could be deliberate, because you are depressed or anxious, or as a way of punishing yourself for something you have done. When a person causes physical injury to themselves the term self-injury is used. It could be cutting, burning, pulling hair, picking skin or taking an overdose.
However you do it, the consequences could be painful and the results irreversible. The worst thing is that so many self-harmers suffer in silence that there is little information available as to what causes self-harm and how many people do it. People who self-harm may find it difficult to ask for help or not know how to access the support they need, and suffering in silence could just make the situation worse.
Busting Myths About Self-Harm
- Only girls self-harm: While statistically fewer boys self-harm this is just because fewer boys admit they are self-harming because of the stigma and myth that it is something only girls go through. In fact it is far from being something that just affects teenage girls, it affects males and females from all ages and backgrounds
- Self-harmers are only out for attention: Not true. While for some people self-harming may be a cry for help as they do not know what else to do, it is rarely a way ‘to get attention’ as there are so many other ways to do this which don’t involve harming oneself
- Self-harm is mental illness: People who self-harm may be mentally ill and could be referred to mental health teams. You could have a Borderline Personality Disorder or have a learning disability. If this is the case, then it is certainly nothing to be ashamed of. However, there is no direct link between self-harm and mental illness, the occasional cutting because you had a bad day does not signify mental illness
- Self-harmers want to end their life: There is an assumption that people who self-harm must also want to end their life. However, while it is true that some self-harmers do want to kill themselves, this is usually not the case. Most self-harmers just see hurting themselves as a way of coping with life and dealing with their experiences of emotional numbness.
Dealing with Self-harm
In order to deal with self-harm, a person must first admit that what they are doing is harmful and potentially severely damaging for their health. Asking for help can sometimes be the biggest hurdle a self-harmer faces, particularly if the self-harm has been caused by a lack of support from friends or family members.
You can talk to your doctor or NHS nurse about self-harming and the help that is available. There are a number of charities which can also provide their support, such as www.selfharm.co.uk and you can speak to your TCHC Personal Adviser or Tutor if you need help stopping your self-harm or dealing with the scars as a result.
Support varies depending on the kind of self-harm. The treatment for cutting yourself is different to poisoning yourself, for example. Support workers will also help you to figure out what has caused you to self-harm in the first place and to deal with your deep-rooted problems, whether it be depression, anxiety or a mental disorder.
Coming to terms with this and any other problems you may face should see you on the road to a full recovery and acceptance of who you are. Afterall, there are easier forms of escape.