March 1st is Self Harm Awareness Day. Did you know that suicidal ideation and attempts are much higher in individuals who self-harm? Did you know that the average age people begin to self-harm is 13? Did you know that girls are more likely to self-harm? (Gilles et al., 2018)
We know that statistics like these can be alarming. However, the more that we understand and educate ourselves about important topics like self-harm, the more that we can do to help.
What is self-harm?
Self-harm is a harmful outlet that individuals with anxiety, depression, or other mental health problems use to release negative emotions.
Some examples of self-harm include cutting, burning, hitting oneself, scratching, picking at wounds, pulling out hair, and other destructive behaviors. (Self-Harm, 2021)
What are the warning signs?
It’s important to know the warning signs of self-harm, so that we can recognize when a friend or family member may need help.
Warning signs of self-harm include scars, wearing long sleeves even in the summer, having sharp objects, impulsiveness, hopelessness, self-isolation, relationship problems, new wounds, and trouble controlling emotions (Self-Harm, 2021; Olsson, 2020; Cutting and Self-Harm, 2020).
What can you do to help?
Sometimes it’s hard to know the right thing to do or say when someone we love is struggling with self harm. Here are some tips to guide you should you find yourself in this situation.
- Don’t judge. Don’t criticize. Don’t give ultimatums. Don’t make it about you.
- Listen. Offer support and understanding. Be someone they can talk to.
- Encourage them to seek professional help.
- Help connect them to resources. They may go to selfinjury.com or call 1-800-DON’T-CUT (366-8288). Offer to call the doctor, drive them to appointments, or accompany them (Milligan, 2018).
- In addition to seeking professional aid, help find alternatives to cutting such as listening to loud music or drawing on the body (Lyness, 2015). Ask them what has helped them feel better in the past (Milligan, 2018).
Cutting and Self-Harm. (2020, September). Retrieved from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/anxiety/cutting-and-self-harm.htm
Gillies, D., Christou, M. A., Dixon, A. C., Featherston, O. J., Rapti, I., Garcia-Anguita, A., . . . Christou, P. A. (2018). Prevalence and Characteristics of Self-Harm in Adolescents: Meta-Analyses of Community-Based Studies 1990–2015. Abstract. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 57(10), 733-741. doi:10.1016/j.jaac.2018.06.018
Lyness, D., PhD (Ed.). (2015, July). How Can I Help a Friend Who Cuts? Retrieved February 5, 2021, from https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/friend-cuts.html
Milligan, A. (2018, December 18). How to Help Someone Who Self-Harms. Retrieved February 5, 2021, from https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/2018/12/how-to-help-someone-who-self-harms/
Olsson, R. (2020, August 10). How to Help a Friend Who is Self-Harming. Retrieved February 5, 2021, from https://www.bannerhealth.com/healthcareblog/teach-me/how-to-help-a-friend-who-is-self-harming
Self-Harm. (2021). Retrieved February 5, 2021, from https://www.crisistextline.org/topics/self-harm/#pass-741741-on-to-a-friend-8