Today – March 1st – Is Self-Injury (SI) / Self-Harm (SH) Awareness Day. I’ve never really written much about SH, which is a little surprising since one of my first volunteer role in mental health was supporting young people who SH. There is also a definite overlap with Eating Disorders and SH; in fact, as many as 72% of people with an Eating Disorder also engage in SH behaviour – and in particular SH is more likely to be present for those individuals who also engage in purging behaviours (such as self-induced vomiting).
So let’s strip this back – since it is my first post on the topic – and look at the facts:
Self-harm is any behaviour where by an individual inflicts harm to themselves as a way of coping with distressing of difficult emotions or feelings.
SH typically present as biting, cutting, burning, or none-lethal overdosing – however any behaviour that inflicts injury or causes harm can be considered SHing.
SH is primarily a coping mechanism and is very rarely a form of attention seeking. In fact most people who SH do so in secret.
While SH is most predominate in adolescence it can be present through the life-span – affecting people of any age, gender, background and social standing.
SH affects around 400 in 100,000 people in the UK – the highest rate of any country in Europe.
While there is such a high rate of prevalence the stigma and misunderstanding of these behaviours remains high. It can be exceptionally difficult for people with no experience of SH to understand and empathise when they hear that someone they love is engaging in one of these behaviours.
If you know someone who is using SHing behaviours, you may feel that the best thing to do is to prevent the person from doing so. However, it is highly recommended that additional support is sought as the SHing behaviour at that point in time may be that individuals only coping mechanism.
It is possible to learn to manage SH behaviours, and also to stop entirely, but change rarely happens over night and relapses can happen.
To learn more you can visit:
If you need to access support immediately, please contact the Samaritans.