Most of us know or have heard of someone who purposely harms themselves, many of us harboring misunderstandings about their motivations and states of mind. Some of the myths you may have heard or thought to yourself about those who do harm themselves, are in fact damaging to the person. In order for us to be effective in helping them, these myths must first be “debunked”.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the ways a person might behave in a way that is harmful to him or herself. Oftentimes, when we hear of self-harm, we think of “cutting”. While this is a common form of self-harm, it is important to know that this is just one of many ways in which one can cause harm to him or herself. Other ways an individual can harm themselves, include but are not limited to: binge drinking and/or drugging, driving recklessly, punching or throwing things, scratching, burning or scalding the body and intentionally preventing wounds from healing.
When we hear of someone who cuts or harms themselves purposely in some way, we often think to ourselves or have heard others say that the person is “just an attention-seeker”. Other things we may have heard, or thought, are that the person is “crazy” and that cutting him or herself is a “pathetic attempt at suicide”. It is important to know that, if you or someone you know is behaving in a way which is harmful to them, these myths can in fact prevent the person from reaching out for help.
The painful truth about those who harm themselves is that they generally do so in secrecy, for fear of being shamed and labelled. This fear is why many people do not reach out for help and sadly, their self-harming can become more severe, which could potentially lead to suicide. That being said, it is important to understand that most individuals who behave this way do not actually want to die. It is also important for us to understand that those who cause harm to themselves, are generally suffering from some form of mental health issue, which could be depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress. They harm themselves as a way of coping with their pain and to express their feelings in a way that makes sense to them.
If we want to be helpful to them, we must listen to them with non-judgemental ears and encourage them to get in touch with their feelings and begin “talking them out”. It is also important for them to be able to identify their triggers and to develop new, healthier ways of coping with their feelings of pain. If you or someone you know is causing harm to themselves, gently encourage them to seek professional help.
Let them know that they are not alone, that they do deserve to feel better and that they can do so without causing harm to themselves.
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