I thought it might be helpful to comply a thread of resources and information for those suffering from these issues, or those that want to find out information.
What is Self Harm
Self-harm is a way of expressing very deep distress. Often, people don't know why they self-harm. It's a means of communicating what can't be put into words or even into thoughts and has been described as an inner scream. Afterwards, people feel better able to cope with life again, for a while.
Self-harm is a broad term. People may injure or poison themselves by scratching, cutting or burning their skin, by hitting themselves against objects, taking a drug overdose, or swallowing or putting other things inside themselves. It may also take less obvious forms, including taking stupid risks, staying in an abusive relationship, developing an eating problem, such as anorexia or bulimia, being addicted to alcohol or drugs, or simply not looking after their own emotional or physical needs.
These responses may help you to cope with feelings that threaten to overwhelm you; painful emotions, such as rage, sadness, emptiness, grief, self-hatred, fear, loneliness and guilt. These can be released through the body, where they can be seen and dealt with. Self-harm may serve a number of purposes at the same time. It may be a way of getting the pain out, of being distracted from it, of communicating feelings to somebody else, and of finding comfort. It can also be a means of self-punishment or an attempt to gain some control over life. Because they feel ashamed, afraid, or worried about other people's reactions, people who self-harm often conceal what they are doing rather than draw attention to it.
It's worth remembering that most people behave self-destructively at times, even if they don't realise it. Perfectly ordinary behaviour, such as smoking, eating and drinking too much, or working long hours, day after day, can all be helping people to numb or distract themselves and avoid being alone with their thoughts and feelings. (source)
Why Do People Self Harm?
People who harm themselves generally have
- Issues or traumas that they have not accepted or resolved or
- Intense emotional pain/ feelings
Types of intense emotional pain or feelings can be: Anger
- Self-Hatred – Often people who self harm feel bad about themselves, which may result in low self-esteem and lack of confidence.
- Fear or Anxiety
- Feeling unreal- This can happen when a person feels so out of touch with everything that they feel numb and alone but by harming themselves they feel more alive
These feelings can be present on their own or may be due to a trauma, which may be in the past, or at present such as:
- Divorce / Relationship problems
- Sexual or Physical
- Physical illness
Who is More Likely to Self Harm?
- Self-injurers come from all walks of life and all economic brackets. People who harm themselves can be male or female; gay, straight, or bi; Ph.D.s or high-school dropouts; rich or poor; from any country in the world. Some people who SI manage to function effectively in demanding jobs; they are teachers, therapists, medical professionals, lawyers, professors, engineers. Some are on disability. Some are highly-achieving high-school students.
- Their ages range from early teens to early 60s, maybe older and younger. In fact, the incidence of self-injury is about the same as that of eating disorders, but because it's so highly stigmatized, most people hide their scars, burns, and bruises carefully. They also have excuses to pull out when someone asks about the scars (there are a lot of really vicious cats around).
- People who deliberately harm themselves are no more psychotic than people who drown their sorrows in a bottle of vodka are. It's a coping mechanism, just not one that's as understandable to most people and as accepted by society as alcoholism, drug abuse, overeating, anorexia, bulimia, workaholism, smoking cigarettes, and other forms of problem avoidance are.
- Self-injury is VERY RARELY a failed suicide attempt. People who inflict physical harm on themselves are often doing it in an attempt to maintain psychological integrity -- it's a way to keep from killing themselves. They release unbearable feelings and pressures through self-harm, and that eases their urge toward suicide. Some people who self-injure do later attempt suicide, but they almost always use a method different from their preferred method of self-harm. Self-injury is a maladaptive coping mechanism, a way to stay alive. Unfortunately, some people don't understand this and think that involuntary commitment is the only way to deal with a person who self-harms. Hospitalization, especially forced, can do more harm than good.
Is Self Harming Merely Attention Seeking?
No. There may be a minority of people who do self harm for attention, but it would be unfair to tar all self harmers with the same brush.
Because it can be hard to understand, health-care professionals, friends and relatives sometimes mistakenly regard people who self-harm with mistrust or fear and see their behaviour as attention seeking and manipulative. If someone you know self-harms, you may feel helpless when faced with their wounds, and your own feelings and fears about the situation may cause you to blame them instead of supporting them. Bear in mind they may be using the only way they can to communicate their plight and to get the attention, care and comfort they need. However upsetting it may be for you, it doesn't necessarily mean this is their intention. Whether people have deep wounds or slight injuries, the problem they represent should always be taken very seriously. The size of the wound isn't a measure of the size of the conflict inside.(source)
Self Harm Links
- National Self Harm Network
- Young People And Self Harm
- Secret Shame (self harm information/resources)
- Bodies Under Siege (BUS)-Web board for those who suffer from SH/ED's/Depression/Families and Friends of those who do
- Self Injury And Related Issues (SIARI)
- Samaritains-Report on Self Harm
- Samaritains-A site for those who may be suicidal, or just need to talk in confidence to someone
- Recover Your Life-Self Harm Support Community (be warned there are some triggering images on places in this site)
- Bodies Under Siege Webring-lots more helpful sites here
- Life Signs-another site aimed at helping self harmers (thanks for the link yellop)
- Speakout: A new forum with great potential (thanks for the link S-J)
- The group with the highest rates of self-harm are young women aged 15-19 years. In all age groups, females are more likely to self-harm than males.
- Self-harm can involve different degrees of risk to life, ranging from a wish to die through to self-harm being used as a coping strategy which allows the person to carry on living. The acts can range from high degree of seriousness resulting in coma, irreversible damage, need for intensive care, through to physical injuries which do not require medical attention.
- Acts of self-harm, particularly habitual self-injury such as self-cutting, are often seen by others as manipulative or attention-seeking. However those who do self-harm have usually lived through very difficult and painful experiences and describe their behaviour as a way of coping with overwhelming feelings and gaining a sense of control.
- Several studies have shown that approximately one out of every 100 people who are seen at hospital for self-harm will die by suicide within a year of the self-harm. This is a suicide risk approximately 100 times that of the general population.
- Rates of self-harm in the UK are among the highest in Europe at 400 per 100,000 per year. self-harm rose dramatically from the late 1960s to the early 1970s, then decreased in the early 1980s but rose again by the end of the decade.
- Women are more likely than men to self-harm, however whereas women once showed two or three times the male rate, recent increases in self-harm by men have changed the female to male ratio to 1.6:1.
- Self Harm is not the same as Self Injury. The former includes minor drug overdoses and parasuicide (attempted suicide) where as the latter does not
- Depression is the most common psychiatric disorder in deliberate self-harm patients.
- The death of a major public figure can influence rates of self-harm, although there is not enough research to understand exactly what factors are involved.
- Approximately 1 in 10 teenagers self injure
Beating Self Harm
'Giving up' self harming isn't easy. It isn't simply a case of promising yourself, or someone else that you'll never do it again. Its a coping mechanism and as a result, stopping self harming is as difficult, if not harder, than stopping smoking or drinking alcohol. There is not a quick fix solution. It can take a person several months, years, or they may never completely stop deliberately harming their body.
The best way to stop self harming, or to help a friend/family member to stop is to seek professional help. Support from friends/family is needed but usually, it is very difficult to stop self harming completely alone. In the same way that smokers and alcoholics get help from the NHS there is also help available for people who self harm. This help can be in numerous ways, depending on what the person wants, their age and location. It can consist of:
- regular therapy or counselling sessions
- check ups with your GP to oversee injuries
- access to medication which may help you deal with things related to self harm, such as depression
- stays in hospital if you're feeling 'unsafe' and very self destructive
- or just simply a source of information and someone to talk to.
The majority of people who self harm keep their injuries a secret and are ashamed of this. Therefore confiding in someone- a friend, parent, teacher or health worker can be extremely traumatic and seen as a terrifying prospect. However, speaking to someone else does help and some people find it easier to explain in a letter, poem or email instead of face to face. It can also be upsetting for friends and family to know their loved one is self harming and it is necessary that they look after themselves too. Usually, friends/family aren't trained professionals and consequently, can feel overwhelmed trying to support someone who self harms. Remember, professionals are trained to deal with self harm and will come into contact with it regularly- friends aren't.
Ultimately, people do recover from self harming behaviours. The urge may still be there but the way a person deals with the urge changes. At times it can be difficult to believe that things will get better, but they will if you're willing to make that change. Sometimes people don't want to give up self harming, and that’s OK, as it might not be an ideal time in their lives to concentrate on stopping. A person can not simply be told they must stop, it usually needs to be a conscious decision, but it can be done and it is never 'too late'.