Self Harm: you’re not alone

Recognizing the signs and realizing what you can do to help stop self harm.

Health Mental Health Brian Webb

Millions of people around the world suffer from depression, anxiety, and other issues relating to mental health. The rates of self-inflicted pain and harm are on the rise again, and in the wake of the growing anti-LGBT sentiment spreading across eastern Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, and Asia. It’s important to understand why people inflect themselves with self harm, the resources available, and how to get help.

What is self harm? Formerly referred to as self-mutilation, self harm, also referred to as self-injury, self-inflicted violence, non-suicidal self-injury or self-injurious behaviour. It refers to a spectrum of behaviors where demonstrable injury is self-inflicted, according to the Self Injury Awareness Book. Self harm can be as basic as biting one’s fingernails or picking at one’s cuticles. But Self harm can also include cutting or burning of the skin, punching or hitting themselves, misusing alcohol, drugs, or tobacco, poisoning themselves with tablets or toxic chemicals, deliberately starving themselves or over excessive binge eating, over-excessive exercising, and more. Virtually any act where one deliberately inflicts pain or harm to one’s self knowing the consequences can be seen as self harm.

Know and recognize the signs of self harm. These signs may point to someone you know inflicting self harm, according to the National Health Institute of the United Kingdom:

  • excessive alcohol or drug use
  • unexplained cuts, bruises or cigarette burns, usually on their wrists, arms, thighs and chest
  • keeping themselves fully covered at all times, even in hot weather
  • signs of negativity or depression, such as low mood, tearfulness or a lack of motivation or interest in anything
  • self-loathing and expressing a wish to punish themselves
  • not wanting to go on and wishing to end it all
  • becoming withdrawn and not speaking to others
  • changes in eating habits or being secretive about eating
  • any unusual weight loss or weight gain
  • signs of low self-esteem, such as blaming themselves for any problems or thinking they’re not good enough for something
  • signs they have been pulling out their hair, and more.

A healthcare commission report in 2006 found that 150,000 people attended accident and emergency departments with self harm injuries and over 170,000 Americans are admitted to the hospital due to self harm. In a 2016 study, it was estimated that 42% of all young LGBT people self harm and 67% of trans youth harm themselves in some way, shape, or form. In 2015, the Lesbian Gay Foundation reported that 73% of lesbian, gay and bisexual people have experienced prejudice, discrimination and harassment because of their sexual orientation.
Stonewall research found that of current secondary school pupils, 143,000 children have suffered from anti-gay name-calling; 64,000 have been physically attacked; and 26,000 have had death threats.

What can you do to alter these statistics and limit self harm? How can you help those in need and guarantee next generations of LGBT youth are not inflicting self harm? Identify the problems and the ones doing the harming. They need access to the right channels like counseling, medication, and advice. Talk openly about depression, mental illness, and what it means to deal with issues like anxiety. Only through discussion can people begin to deal with the reality of others suffering. Third, do a better job of reaching out and being there for friends and loved ones. And many times, folks are just looking for someone to talk to.

In a world where youth are subject to hate and bullying and countries are still murdering gay people, it is important for the LGBT community to be there for one another. A little bit of empathy and compassion go a long way, and just simply being there for someone or lending an ear can make all the difference in the world. It is important to distinguish between self harm and suicide – although the two are linked (about 3 in 100 people who self harm over 15 years will actually kill themselves), the majority of people who self harm do not what to end their lives, they are harming themselves to deal with emotional pain. Self harm is a battle that can be fought together, especially when you are able to recognize the signs, speak up about the troubles, and be there for one another when needed.

Self Harm: you're not alone

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