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March is Self-Harm Awareness Month


What is Self-Harm and Who Does it Affect?

Self-harm happens when someone deliberately hurts themselves. This can be done by cutting, scratching, burning, causing bruising, skin-picking or hair-pulling. Studies show that up to 17% of people will self-harm in their lifetime, though this statistic likely does not reflect the true number, due to stigma. Women are more likely than men to self-harm, and rates are higher in the LGBTQ+ community. Teenagers and young adults are more likely to engage in this behavior, but it can carry-over into adulthood. Those with anxiety, depression, eating disorders and substance abuse disorders are more likely to engage in self-harming behaviors. 

Why Do People Self-Harm?

People that self-harm are not trying to kill themselves. Instead, they use the behavior in an attempt to manage emotions. Some people self-harm in an attempt to quell feelings of sadness, anger or frustration. The physical pain can provide a distraction from emotional discomfort. Others may feel emotionally numb, and the experience of self-harming provides some feeling, which can be a relief. Self-harming also releases endorphins, which can make those suffering with low moods feel better.

How Can I Help?

If you know someone who is self-harming, you’re likely scared and worried for them. You probably won’t understand why they would want to hurt themselves. The best thing you can do is listen. Offer a non-judgmental, supportive ear. Self-harming behaviors respond well to various forms of therapy- CBT and DBT specifically. Remind them that they are not alone, and encourage them to seek the help of a professional. 

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