Self Harm Awareness Month
By: Lauren Buckley, Masters Level Intern
Self-Harm Awareness Month is observed in March. Self-harm can be referred to as self-mutilation, or the act of deliberately inflicting pain and damage to one’s own body (psychologytoday.com, n.d.). Self-harm most often refers to cutting, burning, scratching, and other forms of external injury, but it can also include internal or emotional harm, such as consuming toxic amounts of alcohol or drugs or deliberately participating in unsafe sex (psychologytoday.com, n.d.).
Non-Suicidal Self-Injury (NSSI) involves self-harm without suicidal intent. Some youth engage only in NSSI with no suicidal behaviors (Jacobsen, Muehlenkamp, Miller, & Turner, 2008 as cited in kurtzpsychology.com, 2022 ), however intent can quickly change leading up to and/or during the act. Statistically, lifetime estimates of NSSI is at a rate of 17.2% amongst adolescents (Swannel, Martin, Page, Hasking, & John, 2014, as cited kurtzpsychology.com, 2022). According to research, people who engage in self-harm activities often are three-and-a-half times more likely to try suicide (National Today, 2023). Some studies have shown that NSSI is an even stronger predictor of suicide attempts than a prior history of attempts itself (Ribiero et al., 2016 as cited in Kurtzpsychology.com, 2022)
Being aware of the warning signs of self-harm is important. BrightView Health (2022) lists some factors to look out for. These can include unexplained injuries, isolated behaviors, negative self-talk, decreased work performance, academic suffering, being unable to meet responsibilities and more. According to National Today (2023), “further signs are finding sharp instruments such as razors in strange places, constant excuses for cuts on arms, stomach, and legs, and locking themselves into the bathroom or bedroom for long periods of time.”.
It is important to bring awareness to the underlying factors toward self-harm and to refrain from making assumptions. Specifically, it is significant to point out that “NSSI is not an attempt to ‘manipulate’ others, and it is not inherently ‘attention-seeking.’ (kurtzpsychology.com, 2022). There may be several reasons contributing toward self-harm. Some include: an escape or relief from psychological pain, to feel something if emotional numbing is present (e.g., after experiencing trauma), to obtain care and concern if they lack the skills to ask for help effectively, and more (kurtzpsychology.com, 2022). With this being said, it is important to be supportive and understand the underlying factors.
If a person finds that their loved one engages in NSSI, it is important to address it quickly and open up conversations around their thoughts and risks. Encouraging open and honest communication is significant as it can provide important information about an individual’s safety. Additionally, using a non-judgmental, compassionate, and loving approach is recommended to make the individual feel supported and cared for.
Referring to the appropriate services and professional help resources is important to help individuals acquire the support they need. Early intervention can lead to new, healthy coping skills and a quicker reduction of self-harming behavior (Wellpower.org, 2017). One may seek help from a mental health professional to address and navigate through concerns surrounding one’s mental health. It is important to seek the appropriate level of care within one’s concerns respective to self-harm.
BrightView Health (2022, March 10). Self-Harm Awareness Month: How to identify and provide self-harm help. BrightView. Retrieved February 28, 2023, from https://www.brightviewhealth.com/latest-updates/self-harm-awareness-month-how-to-identify-provide-self-harm-help/
Kurtzpsychology.com (2022, March 10). Awareness is prevention: Self harm awareness month. Kurtz Psychology. Retrieved February 28, 2023, from https://www.kurtzpsychology.com/awareness-is-prevention-self-harm-awareness-month
National Today. (2023, February 15). Self-Injury Awareness Day. National Today. Retrieved February 28, 2023, from https://nationaltoday.com/self-injury-awareness-day/
Psychologytoday.com (n.d.). Self-harm. Psychology Today. Retrieved February 28, 2023, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/self-harm
WellPower.org. (2017, December 8). March is self-harm awareness month. WellPower. Retrieved February 28, 2023, from https://www.wellpower.org/blog/march-self-harm-awareness-month/