– Cheryl Rainfield, Scars
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What is self-harm?
Self-harm, also called self-injury, is when someone hurts themself on purpose. They can create injuries that can be lethal if they are severe enough. There are two kinds of self-harm methods: Non-suicidal Self-injury and Deliberate Self-harm. Click below to learn more about each.
Non-suicidal Self- injury
- Intentionally overdosing on a drug or medication
- Limiting eating
- Participating in many non-suicidal self-injury methods
- Self-harming so frequently that injuries can’t heal
- Feeling powerless
- Not being able to express oneself
- Lacking in skills to cope with the situation or emotions
- Have friends or family members that self-harm
- Experience stressful life events or situations
- Are socially isolated
- Experience depression or other mental health disorders
- Have a substance use disorder
How widespread is self-harm?
Wyoming hospitals reported that over 200 Wyomingites were hospitalized each year from 2016 to 2019 because of self-harm injuries. All together, more than 900 residents were hospitalized during that time. About every 9 out of 10 of these hospitalizations were reported to be because of an intentional drug overdose, also called a drug poisoning. Wyoming hospitals reported that adolescents age 15 to 19 were the most commonly admitted group because of self-harm injuries (15%, or 151 total) during 2016-2019. Hospitals also reported that over two-thirds of these teens hospitalized were female. In 2020 alone, hospitals around the US reported about 187,000 hospitalizations because of some method of self-harm. Globally, about 17% of all people are predicted to self-harm at some point in their life. Among teens, 17% are predicted to self-harm at least once. On average, cutting is reported to be the most common method of self-harm, and is found in almost half (45%) of all reports of self-harm around the world.
Why be aware of self-harm?
Studies have found that, on average, teens will start to self-harm at age 13. These studies have also found that teens will self-harm more frequently and often at age 16. If a teen self-harms, they are five-times more likely to experience thoughts of suicide, also known as suicidal ideation. Teens are also found to be ten-times more likely to attempt suicide if they self-harm. These risks are greater the more frequently a teen self-harms. Overall, almost 1 in 3 teens (30%) that self-harm have reported a suicide attempt. Knowing about self-harm is the first step on the road to stopping and recovering. See below to learn more about what you can do if you self-harm and want to stop, or if you know someone who self-harms and want to support their journey to recovery.
What can you do to stop?
- Help you get support from people around you that care.
- Give you some relief knowing that you are not taking this journey alone.
Talking with a professional can:
- Help identify the root causes of your self-harming.
- Challenge your thoughts that push you into self-harming.
- Help you create a plan to stop self-harming.
- What do I feel before, during, and after I self-harm?
- What is going on around me before I self-harm?
- Which emotions do I want to feel when I self-harm?
- Which emotions are the most harmful?
- What would I miss if I stop?
Once you can find the reason(s) you self-harm and why you want to stop, it can be easier to make a plan to stop. The feelings linked with your self-harm won’t stop right away, but there are ways to cope and change them as you start your plan.
- If self-harming gives you a physical sensation to release emotions, then try to find physical activities that provide a similar release. Practicing a new sport, exercise, or martial art can be a more positive alternative that satisfies the same emotional urges.
- If self-harming provides a way to express emotions visually to yourself or others, then try to find creative channels for a similar release. Get into the habit of using those emotions creatively like in writing, painting, or drawing. Even tearing up the work can help you satisfy and overcome those feelings.
For more strategies to help you cope with urge to self-harm, click the links below:
How can you help a loved one stop?
Self-harm in usually done in private and can be difficult to spot. You might not understand why your loved one does it, but you can still play an important part to help them stop and recover. See below to learn more about what you can do to help.
- Changes in how they view themselves, like feeling that no one can help them, feeling that they have no hope for the future, or even questioning their own identity.
- Changes in how they behave, like wearing longer clothes (even on hot days), not participating in their favorite activities, or even ignoring their injuries and calling them accidents or saying they are just clumsy.
- Changes in how they act in social situations such as having mood swings, being numb to their or others’ emotions, or feeling more anxious than usual.
- Letting your loved one know that you care about them, that they are not alone, and that you are available to talk.
- When your loved one does open up about their self-harm, take it seriously and show your concern for them.
- Remember that stopping is their choice, but know that you can help them follow through by finding resources, looking for strategies, etc.
- Praise their effort to stop self-harming and when they express their emotions in new and positive ways.
- Support them on their journey to recovery by helping them practice the skills they learn to cope with their feelings or just spend time together doing other positive activities.
- Not forcing change.
- Not acting or talking in ways that take away their control.
- Not ignoring or overly focusing on their injuries.
- Not dismissing or overly simplifying their situation.
- Setting clear boundaries for each other about how much support you can offer, and what kinds. Make sure you and your loved one are honest in setting those boundaries and following them.
- Be realistic about the support you offer and expectations you set in the process.
- Share how you are feeling during the process with someone you trust or a professional.
- Take breaks if you need to and make time for yourself to rest, clear your mind, and participate in your own activities. Remember to communicate this with your loved one.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Fast Stats
- Gillies D, Christou MA, Dixon AC, Featherston OJ, Rapti I, Garcia-Anguita A, Villasis-Keever M, Reebye P, Christou E, Al Kabir N, & Christou, PA. Prevalence and Characteristics of Self-Harm in Adolescents: Meta-Analyses of Community-Based Studies 1990-2015. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 2018; 57(10):733. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2018.06.018
- Lim K-S, Wong CH, McIntyre RS, Wang J, Zhang Z, Tran BX, Tan W, Ho CS, Ho RC. Global Lifetime and 12-Month Prevalence of Suicidal Behavior, Deliberate Self-Harm and Non-Suicidal Self-Injury in Children and Adolescents between 1989 and 2018: A Meta-Analysis. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2019; 16(22):4581. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16224581
- Mayo Clinic – Self-injury
- Mind – What can friends and family do to help?
- Recovery Village – Self-harm Statistics and Facts
- Valley Behavioral Health System – Signs and Symptoms of Self-harm
- Wyoming Injury and Violence Prevention Program – Suicide and Self-harm in Wyoming