March is Self-Injury Awareness Month in the United States, Canada and Western Europe. According to the Huffington Post, there are two million cases of self-injury reported annually in the United States, with the majority of these cases involving young people. It’s time to end the stigma of self-injury and raise awareness surrounding this issue. You can help break down the stigma surrounding self-injury and its aftermath by not making assumptions around the situation and accepting that the road to recovery takes time.
Don’t Make Assumptions
Perhaps you already know someone who has self-harmed such as a friend, colleague, family member, or someone close to you like a parent, sibling or even your own son or daughter. A YouGov poll, commissioned by ChildLine, The Mix, SelfharmUK and YoungMinds, revealed a significant lapse in understanding about self-harm between parents and their children. The survey found that nearly 40 percent of parents think one of the main reasons young people self-harm is “to seek attention.” However, when asked “Is there anything else you would want people to know about self-harm?” 80 percent of young people said they wished people didn’t think self-harm was attention-seeking.
Dani Singer, founder of Therapy Threads and licensed psychotherapist, says, “self harm is a sensitive and ambiguous topic because most kids and teens don’t understand why they harm themselves. Its ultimately an unhealthy coping mechanism, just like using alcohol or drugs to cope with stress or emotional pain. It’s a release. I like to help my patients understand what their triggers are that cause them to want to harm themselves. For example, feeling lonely, overwhelmed, bored, left out, depressed, anxious, feeling like you need to be punished, being in a family where you feel you cannot show emotions, having a big test coming up, fighting with mom, etc. can all trigger self-harm.”
Accept that Recovery is a Process
When a person who self-harms reaches out for help, that’s definitely considered a breakthrough, but it’s important to remember that recovery from self-injury can take months, even years. Self-injury is a sign of emotional distress and an indication that there are underlying problems. Depression, anxiety, low self-esteem or other mental illnesses can all drive someone to self-injury. Emotional recovery takes time and people of all ages that rely on self-injury as a coping mechanism will need support and guidance when it comes to adopting new ways of coping.
Essential oils can help with depression and anxiety that can lead to self-injury. Lavender, orange, bergamot, Roman chamomile and ylang ylang are all known to be effective when diffused or rubbed on the part of the body in which a person may want to self harm.
According to NAMI, there are also several forms of therapy and coping mechanisms that can help someone who self harms. Psychodynamic therapy explores past experiences and emotions. Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on recognizing negative thought patterns and increasing coping skills. Dialectical behavioral therapy can help a person learn positive coping method.
Margaret Assany’s article on The Mighty puts it best: “I understand it takes courage to wear short sleeves and bear your mark of Cain to the world. I’m certainly not asking you to pretend you’re proud of them. God knows I’m not. If you’re not ready to wear short sleeves, by all means, don’t. Everyone is in different stages of healing (both physically and mentally). I’m not ashamed to say I’m at a point where short sleeves are, for the most part, comfortable to wear. For scars, unlike fresh cuts, mean you’re on the path to recovery.”
NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. You can support the National Alliance on Mental Illnesses by purchasing an aromatherapy scarf from Therapy Threads – a portion of our profits go toward NAMI and their mission to fight the stigma around mental illness. Click here to shop now.