March 1 represents Self-Injury Awareness Day (SIAD), an international awareness day that is dedicated to learning about behaviors like “cutting” and other intentional methods of self-injury —raising awareness and providing resources to those who need help.
“Cutting” and other self-injury behaviors, also known as self-harm, include deliberately causing physical damage to oneself. Typically a sign of intense emotional distress, self-injury behaviors include skin carving, self-medicating, extreme scratching, burning oneself, punching or hitting walls to induce pain.
Cutting and Self-Injury: A Vicious Cycle
Self-harm behavior is an impulsive act of cutting or self-injury that is associated with premeditative thoughts and negative feelings. Often, if the individual does not commit the self-injurious act, he or she will obsessively think about self-injury.
An individual engages in self-injury expecting to either gain relief from negative emotion to cope with a personal issue or create a positive feeling. However, after the self-injurious act is performed the individual will often feel shame or guilt resulting in significant distress leading them to self-injure once again. It is an emotional rollercoaster of shame, guilt, and self-deprivation followed by relief and emotional release.
To be diagnosed with nonsuicidal self-injury, an individual must engage in at least five days of self-injurious behavior within one year without any intent to commit suicide.
Cutting, Self-Injury and Suicidal Thoughts
Self Injury Awareness Day is a great time to pause and consider the danger of this far too common behavior. Although self-injury is diagnosed without the intent of suicide, this harmful and dangerous behavior has a strong association with suicide. Approximately 40% of individuals who self-harm have experienced suicidal thoughts during this behavior, and around 50-85% of these individuals have a history of suicide attempt.
Normal for Teens or a Cry for Help?
The adolescent years are a difficult time for both the teenager and the parents. Peer pressure, rebellious behavior, raging hormones and academic stressors can all play a part in turbulent and moody adolescent behavior; however, the stigma of self-harm and mental behavior should not be ignored.
- Isolation and avoiding social situations
- Wearing baggy or loose clothing to conceal wounds
- Finding razors, scissors, lighters or knives in places where they do not belong
- Multiple cuts, burns or scars on the wrists, arms, legs, hips, or stomach
- Always making excuses for having cuts, marks or wounds on the body
- Spending long periods locked in a bedroom or bathroom
Organizations involved in SIAD include:
- Sociedad Internacional de Autolesión
- LifeSIGNS (Self-Injury Guidance & Network Support)
- Self-Injury Foundation
- Adolescent Self-Injury Foundation
- cars for hope