What to Know: March 1 is Self Injury Awareness Day


Self-injury (SI) is any deliberate, non-suicidal behavior that inflicts physical harm on one's body to relieve emotional distress.

Self-injury does not involve a conscious intent to commit suicide, though many believe that people who harm themselves are suicidal.

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People who SI are often trying to:

* Distract emotional pain

* End feelings of numbness

* Calm overwhelming feelings

* Maintaining control

* Self-punish

* Express thoughts that cannot be put into words

* Express feelings for which there are no words

Who engages in self-injury?

There is no simple portrait of a person who intentionally self-injures. This behavior is not limited by gender, race, education, age, sexual orientation, socio-economics, or religion. However, there are some commonly seen factors:

* Self-injury more commonly occurs in adolescent females.

* Many self-injurers have a history of physical, emotional or sexual abuse.

* Many self-injurers have co-existing problems of substance abuse, obsessive-compulsive disorder or eating disorders.

* Self-injures tend to have been raised in families that discouraged expression of anger, and tend to lack skills to express their emotions.

* Self-injurers often lack a good social support network.

What are the types of self-injury?

* Cutting

* Burning

* Picking at skin

* Interfereing with wound healing

* Hair-pulling

* Hitting

* Scratching

* Pinching

* Biting

* Bone-breaking

* Head-banging


Self-injury is often misunderstood. Self-injurers trying to seek medical or mental health treatment frequently report being treated badly by emergency room doctors and nurses, counselors, police officers and even mental health professionals.

Finding professionals who specialize in working with self-injury is IMPERATIVE. With proper treatment, new ways of coping will be learned and slowly the cycle of hurting will end. For more information go to the American Self-Harm Information Clearinghouse.


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