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  • Writer's pictureL. Sahara McGirt

Self-Injury Awareness Day - Breaking the Stigma

By: L. Sahara McGirt (DarthSagaSwag)

Content Warning: mentions of self-harm and self-injury and associated suicidal behaviors.

While many people may associate self-injury as a suicidal behavior, such is not always the case. Many of those who engage in self-injury often started as a way of coping with emotional distress or as a means of breaking feelings of emptiness by creating a sense of feeling through acts of self-injury. It is a coping mechanism that is only further worsened by shame, which is why this day exists to bring awareness and education to self-injury with the hopes of breaking the stigma.

You might see people wearing orange ribbons or writing love on their arms or drawing butterflies today as a means of drawing attention to this day. We decided to put up an article here on the Stack Up blog to bring awareness to self-injury and point people to available resources for those engaging in self-injury or who know someone who is.

The long definition of self-injury according to LifeSIGNS:

Any deliberate, nonsuicidal behaviour that inflicts physical harm on your body and is aimed at relieving emotional distress. Physical pain is often easier to deal with than emotional pain, because it causes ‘real’ feelings. Injuries can prove to an individual that their emotional pain is real and valid. Self-injurious behaviour may calm or awaken a person. Yet self-injury only provides temporary relief, it does not deal with the underlying issues. Self-injury can become a natural response to the stresses of day to day life and can escalate in frequency and severity.

LifeSIGNS provides pages full of resources and education about self-injury that I recommend reading. While I don't engage in self-injury, I have close family members who do and learning about it, and the various reasons behind it has made me want to share those resources and hopefully do better myself in how I react to self-injury and especially leaving space for the people I care about to feel they can come to me about it.

Self-injury is primarily seen as something adolescents do when they don't know how to deal with emotional pain or feelings of emptiness. However, adults also engage in self-harming behaviors and often learn to hide them better to avoid the shame of doing it. This can and does include Veterans.

So for those like me who don't understand self-injury, what can we do to help? Educate ourselves by learning more about it. Changing our reactions to learning someone we care about self-injures and helping guide them to resources to help them and encourage healthier coping mechanisms. Remove stigmas from our own views surrounding self-injury and how we talk about it. We never know which of our loved ones might be doing it, and if we only speak about self-injury negatively, we are not making ourselves easy to trust.

For those who engage in self-injury reading this and feeling alone or ashamed or fear over how others will react if they ever find out: We're here for you. If you ever want to chat with someone or need a distraction, drop into the Stack Up discord. Talk to one of our StOP team members or play some games. I'm also sorry I couldn't provide more for you, but I'm still learning.

Some resources about self-injury:

  • LifeSIGNS - Self-Injury Guidance & Network Support: Provides information about self-injury from a user-led standpoint. A nonprofit whose mission is to guide people towards different coping methods when they're ready.

  • S.A.F.E. Alternatives - provides resources to those looking for treatment or learning alternatives to self-injury.

  • Self-injury Outreach & Support - nonprofit outreach initiative providing information and resources about self-injury to those engaging in it, recovered from it, and those looking to help.

  • Mental Health America - "the nation’s leading community-based nonprofit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness and promoting the overall mental health of all." Their page provides education on what self-injury is and potential treatments.

  • The Mighty's Guide to Understanding Self-Harm - provides some statistics about Self-Injury and a general overview of what it is and associated mental health disorders.

There are many, many other nonprofits and resources out there about self-injury. We can break the stigma surrounding self-injury by learning more and adjusting ourselves and how we treat it accordingly.

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