Tuesday was National Self-Injury Awareness Day, here is a selection of thoughts I shared at a special Mental Health Prayer in conjunction with Social Justice Group.
Rates of self-harm in the UK are among the highest in Europe at 400 per 100,000 per year.(1)
Britain, it seems, is a nation in pain. It is a nation seeking to deal with this pain in increasingly destructive ways. The banner of self harm includes many things, including but not limited to eating disorders, self-injury, excessive alcohol consumption, solvent abuse, drug abuse and overdoses.
National Self-Injury Awareness Day seeks to encourage sufferers to get help and change the perception of those dealing with self-injurers.
Self-Injury is undoubtedly difficult to understand – our bodies have impulses that force us to protect ourselves from pain or danger. When someone we love is hurting themselves, it can be even harder to comprehend the reasons and motives. For the person harming themselves – there can be a whole variety of reasons. Some of the most common reasons are; control or punishment of the body, outward expression of inward agony and as a tool for mood regulation.
One of the most important things for people to know is that self-injury is not a suicide attempt, rather it is an attempt to survive life. The following is some advice compiled from the mental health charities Mind and Rethink:
Defining Self Harm:
Self-harm is a deliberate and intended action designed to cause harm to your own self, it is not a suicide attempt.
Self Harm includes:
scratching, cutting or burning your skin.
hitting yourself against objects.
taking a drug overdose.
swallowing or putting other things inside yourself.
Who self harms?
Any age group, although most believe it to be a problem mainly amongst teens and twenties.
1 in 10 teenagers self harm, with a ratio of female to male is 3:1.
The UK has the highest recorded self harm rate in Europe.
Why do people self harm?
It can trigger a release of endorphins
Routines and self-nurturing – a set way of harming and then caring for themselves after.
It can act as a release from anxiety.
What to do/say…
Don’t display disgust.
Encourage the person to talk.
Encourage the person to seek medical help.
Don’t deal with it alone.
Take care of yourself.
Don’t offer ultimatums.
Self harm is scary. It’s scary for the one harming, and it’s scary for the ones trying to help. It is ok that it’s scary. It is ok to face this fear and get alongside the hurting. In the book of Isaiah it says: “A bruised reed He will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench” Isa 42:3. God doesn’t destroy the struggling. God does not give up on His hurting people. I’m going to end this post with the words of a hymn that seems to say this far more eloquently than I could:
O love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee
I give thee back the life I owe
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.
O joy that seekest me through pain
I trace the rainbow through the rain
And feel the promise not in vain
That morn shall tearless be.