Self Injury Awareness Day: why we need more personal recovery stories to break stigma and offer hope
Updated: Mar 4
Yesterday was Self Injury Awareness Day but I didn't cover it because I was waiting to see what stories and articles were published, so that I could discuss them here today.
The Young Minds site added a press release yesterday, detailing some worrying trends and statistics. In a new survey they found that over a third of people between the ages of 16 and 25 have self-harmed at some point in their lives.
The statistics are frightening, and I'm always so shocked when I hear these terrifying revelations and I worry that there's not nearly enough focus and attention around self-harm, as well as services available to those in need of them.
Apart from the Young Minds survey there's hardly anything else online about self-harm and injury, which I can only think is because people don't know how to tackle such a tricky subject which comes with so much confusion and stigma.
But, as I have mentioned previously, I am not going to shy away from any mental health/illness topics on this site, so however taboo or difficult a subject is, I will be doing my best to cover it, and to also provide as much information and insight as I possibly can.
The reasons that people injure themselves are diverse, and also different for everyone. I mentioned my own experience of self injury yesterday, where I basically tried to break my own leg in order to give myself a 'plausible' reason to stop work.
I wasn't educated about mental health problems (nor was anyone else), and the result was that I couldn't face talking about it or accepting that I needed to stop in order to get better.
I thought that my only option was to hurt myself physically so that I could legitimately stop work, and not have to deal with the stigma and shame of trying to explain my situation to others.
I know that my experience is different to a lot of others though, and now I'm going to try to explain a few more of the possible reasonings behind a person's self harm and injury.
Many young people resort to self-harm because they feel so overwhelmed with everything that society brings with it today.
There's pressure from social media sites to look, behave and (Instagram), advertise yourself in a certain way. Then there's all the pressures of wanting to succeed in a now ruthless and competitive world, where exam results and interviews seem to mean everything, and wanting to live up to expectations feels important and essential yet unattainable and impossible.
Combine all this together and you can begin to understand why young people might start to turn on themselves physically as a way of releasing tensions and stresses that build up within their minds.
The term 'self-harm' doesn't just refer to cutting, scalding and burning, (which seem to be labelled as 'self injure'), it can also include things like starving yourself, binging or purging, self medicating with alcohol or illicit drugs and smoking cigarettes excessively.
I was guilty of self medicating in the form of cigarettes and coffee to stimulate me when depressed, and alcohol to numb and sedate me when hypomanic or manic, but I've been successfully treated now and GUESS WHAT? - I no longer need to shove stimulants and depressants into my body and mind in order to cope with my moods, feelings or emotions.
My point is that we need to be focusing on treatments now and not simply 'awareness', which brings me to the question of ; what can be done for people who self-harm and self injure?
It seems that the main umbrella as far as diagnosis goes for those that self harm (although other criteria do have to be met), is borderline personality disorder.
I hate the term for two reasons, firstly it implies that there's something wrong with the patient's personality, and secondly it's referred to as 'BPD' which is also the abbreviation for bipolar disorder. Are the inventors trying to confuse us all on purpose? Ridiculous.
Anyway, the gold standard treatment for borderline personality disorder now seems to be something called dialectical behaviour therapy which sounds horrendous in itself, but has been shown to be really successful in helping people with self-injury issues.
DBT aims to help the patient understand and accept their feelings, as well as learn skills to manage them, and become able to make positive changes in their life. It's a form of therapy that's based on the traditional CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) methods, but adapted for those who experience very intense emotions.
I managed to find a few encouraging stories about self injury and DBT therapy on the internet and I also found a really interesting video featuring some wonderfully brave and informative individuals who reveal their experiences.
If you would like to watch the video then you can find it on the home page, I have also added a link to the Young Minds press release page which you can find here.
If you are struggling with self harm issues or know someone who is then you can find helplines and support resources on the Young Minds page which you can find through the same link, (posted above).
Please keep sharing these articles to others and keep the interesting posts and stories coming!
Thanks for reading,
Speak to you soon,