One in eight Australians will consider self-injury or self-harm at some point in their lives.
Raising awareness and providing support plays a crucial role in battling these mental health conditions.
The 1st day of March represents Self-Injury Awareness Day (SIAD), which is an event that aims to spread understanding on various self-harm behaviour such as cutting and other methods.
Its goal is to raise ongoing awareness and provide available resources to people who need help.
Cutting and other self-injury behaviours refer to the act that deliberately causes physical damage to oneself. It is typically a sign of intense emotional distress and can exhibit through skin carving, burning oneself, extreme scratches, taking unprescribed medications, or punching the walls to induce pain.
Self-Injury Awareness Day aims to address all that to remove all the stigma surrounding this topic. It also encourages everyone – parents, family members, teachers, and healthcare professionals – to recognize warning signs of self-harm.
Inflicting Self-Injury and Harm
In medical definitions, self-injury is the act of intentionally inflicting damage to the body using sharp blades, burning, hitting hard surfaces, breaking bones, and many more.
These injuries can occur in any part of the body. The common areas where most people do self-harm is through the wrists, arms, thighs, and stomach.
In most cases, self-injury is associated with premeditative thoughts and negative feelings. Meaning, if the person does not commit any of these harmful acts, they may obsessively think about it over time.
The person expects from committing such acts to gain emotional relief from the negative feeling they currently have. It is mainly to cope with a personal issue or derive a positive sense from it.
However, after committing the self-injurious act, the person will often feel guilt or shame from doing such actions. It may result in significant distress, leading to another cycle of self-harm.
Self-injury is an emotional roller-coaster filled with negative feelings towards oneself.
Warning Signs of Self-Injury
Being aware of the warning signs of self-injurious behaviour is essential before it’s too late.
Some of the warning signs may include:
- Cutting or severely scratching of the skin
- Burning or scalding oneself
- Hitting or banging the head
- Punching things or throwing the body against walls and hard objects
- Sticking harmful objects into the skin
- Self-medication or substance abuse
- Isolation and avoiding social interactions
- The intentional wearing of baggy and loose clothing to hide wounds
- Possession of razors, scissors, lighters, and knives in personal belongings
- Single or multiple cuts, burns, or scars in different parts of the body (mostly in wrists, arms, legs, stomach)
Self-injury is dangerous behaviour to have. It is not only a phase in teenage or adolescent development – it can happen to anyone at any age.
A person displaying the warning signs and symptoms of self-injury must seek help from a mental health professional. The first step would be risk assessment and evaluation, followed by a recommended treatment to prevent the self-harm cycle from occurring continuously.
Self-injury treatment is mostly a combination of prescription medications, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy, and mental health first aid intervention. The doctor may recommend other treatment services when necessary.
- Medications help manage various mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and thoughts that come with self-injurious behaviour.
- Cognitive-behavioural therapy helps better understand and manage a person’s destructive thoughts and behaviours. The mental health professional may use contracts, journals, behavioural logs, and other valuable tools to help regain self-control.
- Interpersonal therapy allows the person to gain insight and skills to develop and maintain relationships with other people.
- Mental health first aid allows the recognition of warning signs and learning how to provide immediate assistance in a mental crisis.
Self-injury Awareness Day is a chance to raise awareness on the impact of self-harm on oneself and the community. There is no other perfect day than to learn about this condition and share support with those who need it.
The best way to show care and support is to know more about self-injury and other mental health conditions.
Learn mental health first aid and help people get their life on track following a self-injury attempt or in a suicidal crisis.