Today is Self-Injury Awareness Day and the beginning of Self-Injury Awareness Month. On March 1st each year, we start conversations about self-injury in an effort to increase awareness and decrease stigma.
What is self-injury?
Self-injury, also known as self-harm or self-mutilation, is the intentional act of causing physical harm to oneself. It can take many forms and typically occurs without suicidal intent. Self-injury is classified in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as nonsuicidal self-injury disorder (NSSID).
There are many reasons that people engage in self-injury. Some use it as a coping mechanism that provides temporary relief from overwhelming emotions and stressors, while others use it to combat the emotional numbness they experience. It’s also used to feel a sense of control or as a form of punishment.
What can I do?
- Be aware. Self-injury is common. Approximately 14-24% of youth and young adults and 4% of adults engage in self-injury.
- Follow #SIAD on your social media platforms to learn more about the experiences of those who have engaged in self-injury.
- Look for signs. People who self-injure go to great lengths to hide it. Be on the lookout for warning signs like unexplained injuries, wearing long clothing in warm weather, and engaging in dangerous behavior.
- Listen nonjudgmentally and encourage seeking professional help. There’s a lot of stigma and shame around self-injury. If your friend discloses their self-injury to you, listen with an open mind. Offer your unconditional support and love. Be there. Encourage them to seek professional help. Assist them in finding a local mental health professional and, if you’re comfortable, offer to come with them to their first appointment.