Self-harm is the act of purposely injuring yourself and its more common than you might think.
A study published in Pediatrics found that 7.6% of third grader self-harmed. That’s seven year olds. And another study found that by the time they got into high school, 10 % of girls and 6% of boys engage in purposeful self-injury.
While there are certainly adults who self-injure, most are in their teens. It’s a pretty upsetting picture. Maybe it’s surprising to you or maybe not, especially if you spend time with teens if you are a teen or if you spend time on tumbler.
For majority of folks who don’t self-injure, it can be hard to understand why someone would do this to themselves. Well, there are a few things that everyone should know.
First off, it’s not something that people do for attention. It’s a manifestation of real, underlying mental health problems that are usually not being addresses. Trivializing it keeps people feeling ashamed and stops them from getting help. Self-harm is heavily correlated with depression, anxiety, drug abuse, bullying, problems at home, and an increased risk of suicide.
But even if self-harmers are more likely to commit suicide, most don’t want to die. They are not crazy but finding ways to cope with their pain. One of the main findings about why people self-injure is that it helps them to feel in control. Self-injury can also be an attempt to express intense feelings that they have no other outlet for.
Self-injury may also be a way to vent and release anger , to feel something if they’re depressed and disconnected, to punish themselves or even to calm themselves down.
Because self-harm is caused by difficult inner struggles, if you know someone who self-harms they may need the help of a counselor. If you go to school together, consider talking to your school counselor or another trust-worthy adult in private about your concerns.
You can also support your friend by being non-judgmental and trying to understand their perspective. Let them know that you are around to listen if they want someone to talk to, accept what they are going through, and let them know that you care about them. You can also help them find alternatives to hurting themselves. For instance, you can give them rubber bands to wear on their wrists and snap instead of cutting.
If you are the one who is self-injuring, you don’t have to go through these complicate, overwhelming feelings alone. Reach out to someone you trust and talk to them. You won’t feel this way forever. Eventually things will start to get better.