Self Injury Awareness Day, March 1, 2013

She has everything going for her.  Why would she cut herself?  You are not alone is wondering why.  It is a question many parents and friends ask.  The answer is not as simple as some would assume.  It is not because she just wants attention, or she just wants to manipulate you.  The reasons someone self injures are more complicated that the misperceptions.  Individuals generally self injure to stop intensive and uncomfortable emotion (feel calmer), or to feel something other than numb; in other words, to cope.  Self injury should also not be viewed as a suicide attempt.  Self injury is the deliberate harming of one's body without the intent of suicide and it can happen in many forms such as cutting, burning, bitting, hitting, and embedding.      If you want to help someone you know or love, you need to be aware that it is not only girls who self injure. Self injury does not happen among one group of people; it happens among males and females,  youth and adults, different economic groups, different careers, and different ethnic groups.  Read 2004 Miss Greater Grand Rapids' story (Christiana Hudson), who appeared in the Pine Rest Today publication as well as the Grand Rapids Press.   Knowing how to approach someone who is self injuring is important and can be quite effective as a first step in getting the treatment needed.     What is NOT helpful:

  • Yelling, and other demonstrations of anger (yes, the silent treatment is anger too)
  • Punishing
  • Dismissing as no big deal or just a phase
  • Demanding they stop
  • Use guilt trips or make it all about you

What IS helpful:

  • Share your concerns in a nonjudgemental way
  • Listen, just listento gain an understanding (not the same as fix)
  • Validate, you don't have to agree to validate
  • Seek treatment from a therapist who specializes in self injury

To increase your awareness about self injury, you can find additional resources on my website as well as information about groups (S.A.F.E. Focus and Dialectical Behavior Therapy Groups) and therapy for individuals and families.   Click on photos to read about others who have battled with self injury: Johnny Depp, Demi Lovato, and Princess Diana.       


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