This is not the easiest blog series to leave on a website as the subject is very taboo. However, I am a blog writer who has a niche interest in the subject of mental health. I have also been asked to perform at the Swindon Mental Health Festival 2019 with a 20 minute poetry slot and also to help provide information in the form of blogs on self injury that can be given out in a pamphlet to people attending the festival. This is the first of four blogs on self injury that will be found in this pamphlet. If you are Swindon based or nearby the festival is a great chance to learn about mental health problems and the help available as well as listen to some great poetry and music
Basic self injury facts
Written by Annalisa Jackson (www.beaniebardphotography.com)
I’ve written this blog as I am assuming that, if you are reading it, you are looking for some information regarding self harm and self injury. Maybe you know somebody who self harms and want to know how to help, or maybe you self harm and are looking to learn more about some of the triggers and alternatives. This blog series will attempt to cover all these topics.
Self harm is the commonly used term most people know. However, self harm is a large umbrella term. You can self harm with food: under or over eating it. You can self harm with substances: alcohol, drugs, cigarettes. You can also self harm through exercise by taking to it excessively, to a point it is doing your body harm. These tend to be the socially acceptable forms of self harm (even with the more C class drugs). Self INJURY however, is what most people mean by self harm, and is the secretive, hidden, socially unacceptable face of self harm. Self injury can take a variety of forms. The most known and stereotyped is cutting oneself with a sharp object, but it is a broad spectrum including, but not limited to, burning, friction burning/scratching/gouging, swallowing foreign objects or poisons/tablets, hitting or bruising oneself, hair pulling or skin picking (trichotillomania and dermatillomania). Often indeed a mixture of these.
There are a variety of myths around self injury and very little knowledge of actual facts; this blog is a short attempt to remedy some of this. Whilst self injury is seen as the purview of teenage girls: a phase, attention seeking and so forth, it is none of the above. As the graph below shows, whilst it IS most prevalent amongst 12 to 24 year olds, with a peak value of 450 incidences per 100,000 people for females, and 250 incidences per 100,000 people for males, you can see the line shows clearly that right to the age of retirement and beyond, there still continues to be a section of population who self injures. At any given time the estimated value of those who self injure is 1 in 10 of the population. The graph also shows that the percentage of females who self injure is higher but not exclusive, and a lot of men also self injure, a fact often overlooked by awareness campaigns. As the age goes up the difference actually becomes less apparent.
Self injury is also very unlikely to be for attention, a phrase that is highly offensive. If self injury were for attention none of this information would be needed. The truth is that most people self injure in secret, they keep their wounds and scars hidden, have inventive excuses and often self treat. If people are asking for attention there are far less invasive means than self mutilation. And IF a person IS using self injury to ask for attention, this indicates more of a dire need for help and support than a pathological behaviour, if you consider the distress level needed to cause a physical injury to oneself. True ‘attention seeking’ through self harming does of course occur, but is not the overriding reason it is made out to be and fallacies like this are a barrier to proper awareness and understanding. Speaking for a moment from a personal view as the author of this blog my experiences of attention being brought to my self injury have been very negative in the past – an overriding reason it was kept silent for so long until I decided not to let stigma stop me spreading awareness through my writing. Most people who self injure do not choose to reveal it due to the way they are perceived by society.
Self injury is also often NOT about committing suicide. Whilst it used to be called ‘parasuicide’ this term was discarded to emphasise this point. There is some information in one of the following blogs about common reasons for self injury but the ratio of self injury to suicide is quite low. Below is a graph showing these ratios. There is also an infographic credited to www.harleytherapy.co.uk with some further basic facts.
There is of course a lot more that can be said on the subject but the enduring myths on self injury are regarding peoples age or gender, what self harm actually is and isn’t and why it occurs. How to help somebody who self injures, some reasons why it does occur and alternatives will be covered in the remaining 3 blogs of the pamphlet.
Copyright to words: The Beanie Bard. All Rights Reserved. August 2019. Graph Uncredited