*The following post may be triggering to people experiencing self harm thoughts. Please keep yourself safe and only read it if you are in an ok place. The following advice is from personal experience and is in no way to be used instead of medical advice. If you or someone you know has harmed themselves then please seek medical attention.*
In 2012 there were a reported 26,000 people hospitalised for self harm treatment. This figure most likely doesn’t even scratch the surface of those who don’t seek medical treatment. Statistics say that 1 in 5 Australians suffer from a mental illness in any given year. Many of these people turn to various forms of self harm in order to cope.
I wanted to talk about ways to help keep safe both from self harming and the after effects of self harm. While there are many different ways that people engage in self harm, I am going to focus on cutting.
Keeping safe during self harm urges
Distraction really is the key to keeping yourself safe. Keep a list of your distraction techniques in a handy place so that you don’t have to go searching for them in a moment of crisis. Distraction techniques are such an individual thing and what may work for you, might not work for others. You can find a comprehensive list of things to try on the National Self Harm Network website.
One of the things that I find helpful in keeping safe is removing things that bring back memories of self harm. This might sound ludicrous and over the top but let me explain. When I self harmed regularly I used two kinds of blades. I only used these two because they ‘worked’. I now refuse to buy these two brands, and buy my razors when I do my shopping online.
Another technique I now use, and one that leads into the next part of this post is telling myself that I am unable to harm unless I have all of the required first aid products in my house. When I was self harming regularly I didn’t care about keeping the wounds clean, and was very lucky that I only had one infection.
Taking care of your wounds
To ensure that the wound is as clean as possible, it is recommended that a clean object is used to self harm. Objects that have been used previously or are not clean can introduce foreign bodies directly to the blood stream, resulting in infection. While self harm is not ideal it is better to at least do so safely, ensuring that the long term effects are minimised.
In the event of self harm it is really important the wound is taken care of appropriately. While the technique of ensuring I don’t have large bandages in my house, for some people this is absolutely necessary. If a wound appears to need stitches then it is important that the self harmer seeks medical treatment within 8 hours. Any longer than this time, and the wound has to be cleaned out daily and needs to be left to heal without stitches. This can take months.
Self harm dot net has some great resources both for loved ones of a self harmer, and the self harmer themselves. The site includes tips on when to seek medical treatment and what to do to minimise damage.
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