If you were not already aware, March is Self-Injury Awareness Month. The term “self-injury” or “self-harm” refers to a common response to severe emotional distress. People who experience severe psychological pain may react by intentionally inflicting non-suicidal injuries on themselves. Experts believe this is a way for people to mirror their psychological pain with physical pain.
March was first designated as Self-Injury Awareness Month more than a decade ago, and there are a variety of nonprofit organizations that continue to promote self-harm prevention in Denver, CO and beyond.
What you should know about self-harm
Self-harm is a much more common problem than many people realize, despite it often sounding like a fringe issue. The problem is particularly widespread among teenagers, of whom about 15 percent will inflict some form of self-injury at some point. The number shrinks to four percent among adults, but this is still a significant number of people. But in fact, about 90 percent of self-injury cases get their start in adolescence.
By far the most common form of self-harm is cutting, which accounts for anywhere from 70 to 90 percent. Other common forms include head banging/hitting or flesh burning.
The lack of awareness of this issue generally is because people often conceal their injuries, or find other explanations for them if people notice them. This is why it’s important to look beyond the physical signs of self-injury.
For people who suspect family members or friends are committing self-harm, you should, of course, be on the lookout for physical signs of self-harm, such as consistent scabs, bruises, cuts or burns on the arms, legs or other parts of the body. But there are some other common signs of self-injury as well, including:
- Overdressing: People who constantly wear long sleeves or coats in especially warm weather might be attempting to conceal signs of their self-harm.
- Excuses: People who engage in self-harm may frequently make excuses for their injuries. If you notice a pattern of this as you continue to see signs of injury, it could be a sign that they’re attempting to cover for their self-harm.
- Isolation: People who engage in self-harm often withdraw from relationships and activities and isolate themselves, even if these were activities or relationships they previously enjoyed a great deal.
It is important to note that, despite the pain, self-harm does bring a person some relief. However, they also experience a lot of shame, not to mention the stigma that comes with being a person who self-harms. There is a tendency for people to label those who self-harm as attention seekers, which only results in further isolation and alienation.
Therefore, friends and family of people who are suspected of self-harm must stay supportive and avoid judgment. Encourage them to seek counseling, and drive them to appointments. Listen to their feelings and their experiences and never make them feel worse for their behavior.
For more information about how you can be supportive and helpful if you suspect a friend or family member is self-harming, contact Continuum Recovery of Colorado today about self-harm prevention in Denver, CO.