Cerritos College • Norwalk, Calif.

Talon Marks

Persons of self-harm need support, not shame

Bianca Martinez

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You look precariously at your loved one and you noticed several pink slashes on their arm — you notice several patches of hair is missing from their head — their face or ears are red.

But instead of asking your loved gently what happened, you erupt.

“WHY ON EARTH WOULD YOU DO THAT TO YOURSELF?”

“ARE YOU STUPID?”

“WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU?”

“YOU’RE SICK”

This verbal onslaught is reality for most individuals who commit self-harm, when in reality, the only one committing the heinous act is the individual behind the verbal onslaught.

Self-harm doesn’t necessarily mean that an individual is suicidal and it definitely doesn’t mean that the individual is sick.

The truth is that in most cases, self-harm is actually a coping mechanism.

Helpguide.org provides a definition of self-harm by stating, “Self-harm can be a way of coping with problems. It may help you express feelings you can’t put into words, distract you from your life, or release emotional pain.”

The site also debunks common myths, provides a list of signs of self-injury and coping alternatives.

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/anxiety/cutting-and-self-harm.htm

The individual may commit self-harm in an attempt to calm themselves or distract themselves from certain thoughts or situations.

It is not a cry for attention.

Self-harm varies in form such as, cutting, hair pulling, burning, slamming their head against a wall, to committing unsafe behavior that can put the individual at risk for negative consequences later on.

Instead of chastising an individual with a tendency to self-harm, use that energy to actually research on how you can help and support your loved one.

Never make an individual feel bad for their self-harm because it can actually be a stressor for that individual and result in even more self-harm.

Instead, talk calmly with your loved one; be mindful of stressors that can induce self-harm; and most importantly, listen to them.

Support them because they need a shoulder to lean on. They require understanding, not ignorance.

An individual with a tendency to self-harm should seek consultation with a therapist when ready and comfortable to do so; not because they are mentally ill or because they have a disorder, but to seek healthy alternatives when contemplating self-harm and to identify possible stressors which can be responsible for the self-harm.

Healthguide.org states, “A therapist can help you develop new coping techniques and strategies to stop self-harming, while also helping you get to the root of why you cut or hurt yourself.”

It is definitely helpful and beneficial to know what these triggers are so the individual can either try the best of their abilities to avoid the stressful situation or recognize a potential negative thought before hand and diffuse it before it results in self-harm.

The site also explains that understanding the reason behind self-infliction, it will be easier for the individual to develop healthier alternatives.

There are helpful alternatives that an individual with self-harm tendencies can try when overwhelmed.

When considering self-harm:

Draw on the area where you would normally cut with a washable soft tip marker.

Instead of banging your head against a wall, just stop and take a deep breath and clear your mind of all negative thoughts all the while repeating a positive mantra that inspires you.

Instead of fixating on negative thoughts, write them down in a journal. Write down your thoughts and feelings in depth. It helps to put them somewhere else instead of all in your head.

If low self-esteem is a stressor, devout a day completely to self care: take a warm bath with lavender oil, apply a gentle face mask, any activity which can you leave you feeling refreshed and new.

If you are feeling completely alone, give a good friend or close family member a call. Never feel embarrassed for needing to talk to someone. It is very helpful to discuss feelings rather then keep them in your mind where they will eventually implode possibly resulting in an incident of self-harm.

No individual is a disgrace if they self-harm, it is a coping mechanism.

No individual is stupid or insane for trying to cope with the downside of life.

Everyone copes with stress differently.

Remember that and always keep that in mind.

Everyone compartmentalizes situations differently.

Individuals who self-harm deserve as much respect as those who don’t

Be patient, communicate, and share helpful and healthful alternatives to self-harm to those who may need it.

Be a friend, not an enemy.

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Cerritos College • Norwalk, Calif.
Persons of self-harm need support, not shame