*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.
If you or someone you know is suffering with self harm thoughts then please get in contact with either your GP or a helpline. Some great ones include Lifeline, Kids Helpline, and Beyond Blue.
Flogging my blog with Grace
I would love to know more about what leads to self harming. I get that depression and mental health are reasons behind such behaviour, but it is something I have never considered although I have been through my own issues.
Suicide is an issue that has plagued our family, but not self harm. I am pretty much a virgin on the subject and would be very interested to learn more about what motivates this form of “venting”.
Obviously, I don’t have the right words to ask the appropriate questions, so I will leave it to you to help me understand this devastating coping mechanism (please do not be offended by my ignorance, I am truly interested and perplexed by this subject).
No offense taken and I’m more than happy to provide some information for you. I have written about this before so I will just give you some links to those.
Self Harm Doco: http://musingsofthemisguided.com/2013/04/self-harm-doco.html
If you have any questions at all, don’t hesitate to ask 🙂
How horrible to be in such a place that you feel you have no other option but to self harm. I’m at least relieved that you can talk about it with some type of distance and objectivity. May your triggers continue to work. x
*As in the removal of those triggers* !! my comment didn’t read well. x
This is so much more prevalent than people think. Look at those stats! Great post T!
Yep, it’s pretty confronting when seeing the stats.
During my darkest time, after my grandmother died and my family fell apart, I lost it pretty badly. Not to the point of suicide, I never intended to kill myself, or even to significantly damage myself… but I took the blades of scissors to my upper thighs where no one would see on an almost daily basis…
Becc above mentioned that she felt she lacked the vocabulary to ask the right questions, the truth is so do I! If someone asked me WHY I did it, I’d have to honestly say I have NO idea. I know I didn’t want to die, I had too much to do. Too many responsibilities I couldn’t leave. I didn’t want anyone to know, I covered them carefully, never worse skirts, so it probably wasn’t for attention? I don’t know… maybe I did want someone to see just HOW dark everything was for me. How sick I felt inside while being perfectly healthy. Whatever I was after, I never got it. Eventually I had a bit of a crisis situation, packed up my entire universe and moved to another landmass. This probably wasn’t the healthiest response, but it’s worked out pretty well.
I guess my point is don’t feel in any way bad about not having the vocab for this kind of thing… I did it and I don’t have a vocab for it either.
Self harm and suicide, while suicide can happen as a result of self harm gone too far, are not the same thing. Without even realising it, I think you managed to outline why you did it. No doubt it is probably more complex if you sat down and nutted out the details, but for many people self harm is used as a way to express their mental anguish in a physical way, a way that they can see and deal with. One of the things that my psych says when I say that I have had self harm urges is that it can stem from an overwhelming emotion, which we feel unable to cope with. I know for me, while I know WHY I did it and continue to struggle with it, but I am still at a loss as to why I first picked something up and thought it would help to hurt myself with it. Self harm for so many people is like an addiction and the more you do it, the more you need it.
One of the things that I most struggle with is when people ask my advice on how to deal with their friend or relative who has started to self harm. I just go blank, and have absolutely no idea what to say, despite dealing with this for the last 11 years.
Good information as always, Tegan. I hope it gets read by those who will benefit most.
Thanks, me too!
Awesome post. Mental Health issues have been unspoken about for way too long. Information is power, as is acknowledgement and preparation.
Information is definitely power. By dispelling the myths I hope that the stigma will slowly start to lift.
You are doing a great public service there T – a bit of an eye opener for me – thanks for sharing 🙂
Thanks Em xx
WOW, what a post Tegan. I too hope that it is read by the people that need it most and so wonderful that you have provided links to further help if people need it. I really hope that you keep safe.
A few months ago, I came across a waitress in a cafe that I frequent regularly who had clear signs on both arms that she had been cutting. I wanted to know so badly why her life had been so bad that she felt the need to self harm. I often think about her. I guess self harm is not put out there as much as other things so good on you for raising awareness. Keep doing what you’re doing x
Just like Mental Illness, there is not always a clear cut ‘my life is horrible’ reason for why someone self harms. Raising awareness is one of the reasons that I continue this blog, and I hope that by continuing to talk about it without fear, the stigma will slowly be removed.
By being brave, honest and generous enough to share your story, you’re opening a dialogue for people who may not have a place to discuss this Tegan.
You’ve opened my eyes, especially how you have management techniques in place. Take care.
I can’t imagine how bad the feeling is that would lead to self-harming and in so glad you are able to deal with those urges in the way that you do. I think posts like these are so important, not just for people who are self-harming, but for people like me who have no idea about it and really wouldn’t know where to begin to help someone.
Thank you, I too hope that it can help both self harmers and the people who care for them.
A great post, as always, really informative. Sorry I know that’s a bit of a generic comment, but I do mean it1
I know you mean it xx
I wish I had known this 4 years ago when we were dealing with it in our family. But, it’s never to late and it has certainly given me some insight into what we were dealing with.
Thank you so much for sharing this -.
Have the best day !
I’m sorry to hear that you have dealt with this in the past. I hope that your family member is doing ok now.
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