Lets Get Serious About Self-Harm.

With University Mental Health day approaching, Features writer Emily Hall gets candid about Self-Harm – why we need to talk about it, and what you can do to help. The black image above is intentional, no other picture seemed right to embody this piece.  

CONTENT WARNING – This article mentions self harm, suicide, anxiety and depression. We recommend not reading if any of these topics may be triggering for you. Useful resources and links can be found at the end of the article. 

I am only 22. In my 22 years of life, I have five friends who I know to have self-harmed. Five beautiful, caring, intelligent and kind friends.

I am humbled and honoured that they chose to share with me something so intimate and personal. As someone who has struggled with their mental health, I know how daunting and frankly terrifying the idea of sharing the darkest moments of your life with another person can be.

I am writing from a privileged place of distance, having never experienced self-harm. I have for sure had very dark days. Depressed days. Days where I hated myself, my body, everything. But these thoughts only ever remained just that- thoughts. They never turned into actions. I am, therefore, aware that whatever I write is from this perspective, and that everyone’s experiences and opinions may differ from my own. As with everything I write, I intend to only open up a discussion. Bring to people’s attention taboos and topics which tend to be brushed under the carpet, as these are often the things which are needed to be spoken about the most.

The NHS tells us that ‘Selfharm is when somebody intentionally damages or injures their body’. What it doesn’t tell you is that self-harm causes as much internal damage as it does physical. A feeling of complete worthlessness, desperation, and a yearn to ‘feel’ is how it has been described to me. As an outlet to cope with issues such as bullying, psychological disorders and personal trauma, self-harm is possibly one of the biggest taboos within the discussion of Mental Health.

But why?

Cutting, bruising and burning are all forms of self-harm which are visible. They are there. Unavoidable.

Perhaps it is because it turns mental feelings into physical actions. If someone tells you they are anxious, or depressed, as much as you may empathize- you can’t see it. Cutting, bruising and burning are all forms of self-harm which are visible. They are there. Unavoidable. And once you have seen it, it is very hard to unsee. Not all forms of self-harm are visible, though, some people will choose to do it on parts of the body not readily seen. Poisoning and overdosing are also forms of self-harm; invisible cries for help.

Self-harm is often spoken interchangeably with suicide or suicidal thoughts. For if someone is hurting themselves, surely, they want to end their lives? This is not the case. Self-harm can actually help people through emotional distress. People who self-harm often struggle with another mental health disorder, from anxiety, depression, bipolar to name but a few.

As with most things, talking about self-harm, recognising that it is a thing people do, is SO important. Lots of people have done it, do it, or have a desire to do it. Probably people you know. Sometimes it is the quiet and withdrawn person. Sometimes it is the loud and boisterous person. Mental health does not discriminate. It can affect us all at any time, in any place, and in any form.

One of the bravest things a person can do is share their weaknesses and seek help

Check in with people you know. Follow advice from reliable sources on how to help those who you think may be struggling. What you think might be helpful may actually be far from it. Educate yourself. Educate others. And if you are struggling, know that you are not alone; there is support and resources and people who care for you. One of the bravest things a person can do is share their weaknesses and seek help. So, lets all help each other in that endeavour.

Help and Resources-

Mental Health Helplines- https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-health-helplines/

MIND- https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/self-harm/about-self-harm/

Information and advice – https://www.rethink.org/advice-and-information/about-mental-illness/learn-more-about-symptoms/self-harm/

Emily Hall 

Featured image courtesy of Matthew Wilkens via Flickr. No changes made to this image. Image license found here

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