1 March is marked as the start of global awareness month for self-harm, also known as self-injury awareness day(SIAD). People wear an orange ribbon to signify support by showing that they are safe to talk to about self-harm. We do this, because it’s difficult for a person suffering from this disorder to seek help. There is still a huge stigma around mental health, and people with this disorder are often told that they are “seeking attention” – making it difficult to speak out. Wearing an orange ribbon helps to show open support and it represents hope for a misread problem.
What is self-harm?
Self-harm is when someone hurts themselves on purpose to help release tension when feeling overwhelmed, depressed or anxious. A person suffering from self injury usually cuts themselves or causes minor bruises on their limbs, face, breasts and eyes, often in hidden places. Around 17% of the world\’s population self-harm at one point in their lives with many cases starting in early adolescent life. Studies show that over 75% of people who self harm continue the habit over the years. It takes a lot of hard work and support to finally stop.
Developing self-harm awareness
In the 80s and 90s self-harm was mainly associated with severe mental disorders including personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and function impairment due to early life loss & trauma. Today, self harm is not considered a diagnosis but rather a symptom of these various mental illnesses. Self-harm is used to regulate emotions from mental illness and has been demonstrated to be effective in reducing feelings of anxiety, depression and other intense negative emotions.
How can you help?
Helping someone who you suspect may be engaging in self-harm is not easy. But you can spot early warning signs to help support them in getting necessary help. Some signs you can look out for in a person you suspect could be injuring themselves are:
– Appearing easily annoyed when asked about injuries. They will often have poor or vague explanations of scars and minor injuries. They could also always wear clothing that hide their scars, and always wear long sleeves and pants even in insanely hot weather.
– Finding razors and sharp objects in their belongings could indicate they use these to self-harm.
They will tend to be more withdrawn and usually express feelings of shame, negativity towards themselves as they usually have trouble regulating their emotions.
It remains important to be mindful in helping someone who has opened up to you or who you suspect is self-harming. “Whatever you do, don’t be silent,” said Yazhini Srivathsal, a psychiatrist at Banner Behavioral Health Hospital. “It’s important to take self-harm seriously and not disregard the behavior.” People who self-harm usually seek a safe place in someone, so it is very important that when they open up:
– Don\’t judge.
– Seek to understand their conflict of self and find out if it’s not suicidal.
– Try to be accepting and normalize how they feel and gently encourage them to get help.
Developing self-harm awareness
Finding ways to get help is easier when you speak up to someone you trust. When reaching out for help, it’s not always necessary to have a face-to face conversation. You can write a letter or e-mail stating how you feel and the kind of support that you need. You can talk to a friend, family member, a professional or an anonymous hotline. It’s important to note that your doctor or health professional should treat you in a sensitive and non-judgemental way.
Here are a few places you can seek help in Namibia:
Online Therapy – Online therapy in Namibia | Best Online Counseling Services https://www.therapytribe.com/online-therapy/namibia/
Lifeline Counseling center – https://www.lifelinechildline.org.na/counselling/
Lifesigns https://www.lifesigns.org.uk/ provide information and support to people who are ready to cope other than self harm.
The above links do not constitute an endorsement of services listed, and are merely indicative of the type of help available.