What is self-harm?
Self-harm is when someone intentionally causes damage to their own body or health.
Most people would associate this with people cutting themselves with a sharp object such as a razor blade, however it can also include burns, bruises and scratches. In some cases, an individual might punch a wall or bang their head against it, pull out their own hair or intentionally cause a fall and/or break their own bones. Eating disorders or drug/alcohol abuse can also fall under the category of self-harm.
Self-harm can become a habit or addiction and can escalate in an attempt to increase the “rush” felt by doing it.
People of any age, gender, socio-economic background and geographical location.
It should not be presumed that self-harm is the preserve of young girls – or that everyone who self-harms wishes ultimately to kill themselves.
However, it’s believed that approximately 13% of children between the ages of 11-16 will self-harm at some point.
What causes people to self-harm?
There are many complex reasons behind self-harm.
People who self-harm may be having difficulty dealing with particular thoughts, emotions and/or life challenges – from bullying and abuse to family break ups or pressure at school or work.
Some self-harm without knowing why they do it, others suffer from low self-esteem, which can have a range of causes.
For some, experiencing physical pain is an attempt to relieve tension and to distract themselves from emotional pain; others see it as a “punishment” that they feel they deserve.
How can people deal with what makes them self-harm?
While the manifestation of self-harm – such as infected wounds or broken bones – will clearly need medical intervention, it’s essential to address the emotional root cause. The best way to do this is to talk to someone you trust.
If you are approached by someone wanting to talk about their self-harming, the situation will require very careful handling. If they are made to feel ashamed or stupid for self-harming it could increase the likelihood of them doing it again.
Options for help include counselling and therapy, including group psychotherapy, which looks at the root cause. In some instances, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can be beneficial.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has clear guidelines on how someone who is self-harming should be treated. This includes having injuries treated immediately and without blame. For younger people, hospitals should be able to offer a consultation with a member of the Child and Adolescent Mental Heath Service (CAMHS) team.
Exercise and general health can also be beneficial for improving your mind set and attitude. So try and eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and have a social-network of people you like, enjoying being around and trust.
Where can you go for support?
If you are self-harming there is no need to suffer in silence. If you don’t have a friend, relative, teacher, GP or other responsible adult you are comfortable talking to, there are organisations that can help.
Be aware that some online blogs may not be in the best interests of someone who is self-harming; in the worst cases they may encourage it.
However, there are some excellent resources out there, which include:
Self Harm – www.selfharm.co.uk
Childline – call free on 0800 1111 or visit www.childline.org.uk
The Samaritans – call free on 116 123 or visit www.samaritans.org
If you have concerns about a child who might be self-harming and live in the Kirklees area, you can find information here: www.kirkleessafeguardingchildren.co.uk
Parents call also call Young Minds on 0808 802 5544 or visit www.youngminds.org.uk
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