[Article by Health Assured]
Self-Injury Awareness Day is a global event held on 1st March every year – the aim is to reach out to those who self-injury, and educate others. Awareness will lead to understanding and empathy for those who self-injure, as well as reducing the number of those feeling alone and suffering in silence.
What is self-injury?
Self-injury falls under the umbrella term ‘self-harm’, which is harmful behaviours to one’s bodies not purely intended to be used as a coping mechanism. Self-harm includes diverse matters like eating disorders, risk taking behaviour as well as drug and alcohol misuse. Self-injury is where someone deliberately causes non-suicidal injury or pain to their body in order to cope with emotional pain and distress, or awaken feelings of numbness or disassociation.
The most common forms of self-injury are scratching, cutting, burning and non-suicidal overdosing (sometimes known as chronic self-medication).
Who is likely to self-injure?
Anyone can self-injure, regardless of their age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, career or personal strength. As self-injury is a coping mechanism, it is those who have anything distressing to cope with that may potentially self-injure. For example those suffering from poor body image, trauma, abuse or low self-esteem.
Signs to look out for
There are some signs you can look out for to indicate that someone may be self-injuring.
• Obvious cuts, scratches or burns that do not appear of an accidental nature.
• Frequent ‘accidents’ that cause physical injury.
• Regularly bandaged arms/wrists.
• Taking more time off work either sick, or to visit the doctor/hospital.
• Wearing long sleeves and trousers during hot weather, and reluctance to wear any short-sleeved uniform.
How can self-injury be treated?
Those who self-injure may feel very alone – however there is support and treatment available. The specific treatments that can be used to treat self-injury are:
• Counselling and talking therapies. Psycho-Dynamic Therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Person Centred Therapy.
• Drug Therapies. If a mental health disorder is diagnosed, drugs may be prescribed.
Tips to help those who self-injure
• Write a list of things that you have accomplished or are proud of.
• Set achievable goals and write them down – these could be goals to decrease the frequency or harm of self-injury, or ways to improve self-esteem.
• Look after yourself – a healthy body promotes a healthy mind.
• Consider interacting with people more – look for groups on the internet for similar hobbies, and the local library will have information on local groups, activities and societies.
• Treat yourself by doing something you really enjoy – remember to make time for yourself and your interests.
• Put together a distraction box – this can include anything that helps to distract you and move you away from negative or unhelpful thoughts/behaviours.
• Seek help.
To seek help or encourage someone to seek help, the following can assist and offer support:
• LifeSIGNS online support forum http://www.lifesigns.org.uk/.
• Your doctors surgery – they can refer you directly to specialists who can help with self-injury and the associated feelings.
• Helplines – for example the Samaritans (08457 90 90 90).
Health Assured are here to help and support you – you can get in touch through our 24/7 helpline.
How you can get involved
If you would like to get involved with the awareness and fundraising for Self-Injury Awareness Day, there are a number of ways that you can.
• Buy and wear self-injury awareness wristbands
• Put up self-injury awareness day posters
• Promote the day on social media using #SIAD (beware when browising through, as some may post unpleasant content)
To buy wristbands, download the posters and other materials or find out more about how you can get involved, visit the Self-Injury Awareness Day page on the LifeSIGNS website.