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Warning: this article may contain emotional triggers.

March is Self Injury Awareness month in the United States. Self injury, sometimes called self-harm, is any deliberate, non-suicidal behaviour that inflicts physical injury to your body. We often think of cutting when it comes to self injury but it can include burning, bruising, scratching, and drinking something harmful like bleach. Self injury is a coping mechanism. It can help you deal with intense emotional distress by creating a calming sensation or the feeling that you have control of a situation. It’s also real pain as opposed to emotional pain. You can see the injury and know why it’s hurting.

Self injury happens across all genders, races, beliefs and ages. It’s more common among girls, something that’s led to the gender based stigma that girls who self injure are attention seekers. Self-harm, even if it is attention seeking, is the physical symptom of an emotional cry for help. To ignore the plea because it’s a girl harming herself is simply being stupid.

Self injury lets a person deal with highly charged emotions and situations that feel out of control. Abuse, trauma, perfectionism, low self-esteem, bullying, and divorce are a few examples. Prayer alone won’t stop self injury because the mind believes the reason it originally gave for punishing the body. Even if you haven’t done anything wrong, you believe you have or that you deserve the pain.

How can you help?

Don’t judge the person who is self-harming. It’s not a punishment from God, nor does it indicate the level of the person’s faith. Offer options to make positive changes in the person’s life. Don’t tell the person what to do. Talk openly about the problems. Don’t stay silent. Tell someone. Encourage the person to get help. Don’t judge the severity of the injury as being an indicator of the level of emotional pain. A severely depressed person might have only a few scratches instead of cuts. Get professional help, because the idea is to get healthier coping mechanisms for the person. 

For more information or assistance:  Mental Health America   

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