What is Self Harm?
Helmets, seatbelts, firemen....what do these things have in common? Well, they all protect us from harm. We all try to protect ourselves and avoid things that are harmful to us. Sometimes, though, people may do things that are dangerous with the intention of causing harm and pain to themselves. This is called deliberate self harm. It can take the form of cutting, burning, biting and scratching your skin, or other harmful activities, so that you can feel physical pain. It does not necessarily mean that the person is trying to kill him or herself, but it is still a serious issue. Those who engage in self harm usually believe that there is no other way to deal with their problems, and may not feel that there is anyone they can turn to for support.
Why do people harm themselves?
For someone to turn to self harm, he or she may have had very bad experiences at some point in their lives. Experiences such as:
- Death of a loved one
- Low self esteem
- Problems with family, school or peers
- A break-up
These issues are sure to cause very intense emotions within a person- and if this person feels alone, with no support from friends or family- it can be easy for them to turn to self harm. Persons who harm themselves do this as a means of:
- Coping - Self harm causes physical pain, which makes it easier to deal with the emotional pain being caused by the situation- at least for a short while. This ‘quick fix’ does not fix the problem.
- Expressing Difficult Emotions - Hurt, anger, guilt, grief and sadness...these emotions are expressed in different ways, and they are usually hard to talk about. Sometimes, a person may deliberately harm themselves in an effort to express what they are feeling inside.
- Having Control - No one likes feeling that they have no control over what is going on in their lives. When things seem overwhelming, and too much to bear, having some control helps to deal with the situation. Self harm is sometimes used as a way of feeling that sense of control over one’s body and feelings.
- Communicating - Some people who engage in self harm do it in an attempt to let others know that they need support. This is especially true when they feel unable to talk to others about what they are going through.
Even though there are many reasons why people use it, deliberate self harm does not solve the issues which caused the behaviour. It is a cycle which can even cause permanent nerve damage!
What To Do?
There are many better ways to manage your emotions rather than self harm. Try these:
- Talk to Someone - Having the opportunity to let out all those emotions can work miracles! It can be a friend, sibling, teacher, parent, counsellor, or even ChildLine. By sharing your problems and feelings with someone, you don’t feel like you are alone. You may even get some great advice!
- Write It Down - Keeping a journal or diary allows you to express your emotions and ‘get it off your chest.’ So, even if you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone face to face, you can always write a letter or email.
- Exercise - Exercising is a great way of releasing some of the pressure you might feel when tempted to self harm. It doesn’t have to be at the gym, just do regular, fun activities like running, jumping, swimming, or dancing.
- Hobbies - Do something to distract your mind when you get the urge to self harm. Play your Nintendo or Playstation, read a book, go for a walk, watch a movie, sing, dance.....anything!
- Relax - Try deep breathing exercises, meditation, or relaxing music- something to calm you down.