Raise Awareness. Self Harm is not always what you think.
…This post is about self-harming and may be triggering for some…
Today is March 1st, and it is also Self-Harm Awareness Day. Today is a day set aside to raise awareness, however, this issue should be talked about and discussed a lot more than it is.
When someone hears the term ‘self-harm’ or hears that someone is a “self-harmer’, the most common thought is “that person cuts”. And sure, that is certainly one way for someone to self-harm. Is it the most popular, well I am not sure but it is certainly the most talked about.
Self-harm is a coping mechanism. It is not always the safest way to cope, but for those dealing with emotional stress, depression, bipolar, PTSD, and various other mental health issues, negative coping skills are often the first go-to.
We have needed to be strong for so long and put on a brave face for the world. We have heard the whispers as we walk by, or the negative spin put on mental health issues; how depression is a state of mind, get up and get over it.
So we deal with our issues in silence. We are raised to believe there is something wrong with us; normal people don’t have issues and they certainly don’t speak out loud about them. So we suffer and learn to cope in silence.
Some people do cut. We cut so deep just to feel again. Some will burn themselves, push ice cubes into their skin, starve themselves for hours or days, deny themselves certain privileges such as showering or treats, exercise excessively, and so many more. Not all the scars of self-harm are presented in the form of cut marks. Self-harm is usually a silent coping skill.
Self-harm is also not an attention seeking coping skill. I have heard many times how people are looking for attention and they can stop whenever they want to. If only that was true. The fact is, a self-harmer will go to great lengths to hide their scars, internal and external. We suffer in silence so that no one mocks us, or puts us down, or makes us feel more worthless and ugly than we make ourselves feel. We are not seeking attention. In fact, we are seeking just the opposite.
Self-harm does not discriminate. There are as many males as females which engage in self-harm. We believe people look at this as if it is a ‘female coping skill’ or a ‘sign of weakness’. Neither of which is true. Do not assume that because someone is a male, they cannot be struggling with self-harm or any other negative coping mechanism. Reach out to them just the same!
One last thing to debunk, just because someone self-harms does not mean they are suicidal. Self-harming is not the same as attempting suicide. For most, it is a way to deal with all the negative feelings inside, any trauma or abuse, or pain they are feeling. Reality is that very few which engage in self-harm really want to die. They really want to live and are trying so hard to find a way to do so. They want to survive.
Don’t be so quick to judge someone who is self-harming. Don’t look down on them. Be supportive and accepting and loving. Raise awareness, reduce the negative connotations, and create a world that supports love and acceptance of all.
A. G. Ballard