March 1 marks Self-Injury Awareness Day, an international movement that aims to inform the public about self-injury. For more than 15 years, Self-Injury Awareness Day has been an outlet for mental health professionals to get reliable information about the topic to the general public. This year’s theme for Self-Injury Awareness Day is “Judge Less, Understand More.” How much do you know about self-injury?

What is self-injury?

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, self-injury, or self-harm, is the act of hurting yourself on purpose. Self-injury can vary from person to person, and can include harmful activities like cutting, burning, hitting, or pulling hair. While most self-injury is done in secret, there have been studies that have demonstrated self-injury is prevalent. In fact, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention notes that in 2015, more than 500,000 people went to the hospital due to self-injury.

Self-injury is a sign of emotional distress, and should be taken seriously. However, due to the secrecy and shame regarding self-harm, it can be difficult to know when someone is hurting themselves. It is also important to note that self-harm behaviors do not necessarily mean a person is suicidal. In any case, self-injury behaviors should be addressed with compassion and appropriate treatment protocol.

What are signs of self-injury?

While every individual is different and unique, there are some signs that could indicate that a person is practicing self-injury. Here are just a few:

  • Wearing long sleeved shirts or covering certain areas of the body consistently, even when the weather may not agree with the clothing choice
  • Scars, bruises, or fresh cuts
  • Having sharp objects on hand and readily available
  • Difficulty maintaining relationships
  • Talking about feeling sad, angry, or frustrated
  • Ritual behavior at the same time every day or week
  • Increasing solitude

What are treatment options for self-injury?

Self-injury is not always a sign of depression. It can also indicate inability to cope with past trauma, anger, or frustration. In any case, the self-harm gives the individual a feeling of release, which they continue to seek through more self-injury behaviors.

Fortunately, self-injury can be treated through a protocol of talk therapy, and sometimes medications. To find a mental health professional near you, check out our Get Help page.

How can I find help?

This March, make an effort to get to know more about self-injury. If you, or someone you love, is participating in self-harm activities, there is help and support near you.

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