The UK has one of the highest rates of self-harm in Europe, but many people still do not know these simple facts about self-harm. The stigma created by many of the myths in this post stop many people seeking help about their self-harm problems. Attention seekers? Suicidal? Dangerous? There are loads of myths that can be broken down by simply analysing the statement or doing simple research. These myths have all been proven wrong but not enough people know that, so I have given seven common myths and the truth (and lies) behind them.
“People who self-harm are attention seeking”
Sadly, a majority of people who self-harm do it secretly, it is possible you know someone who self-harms. Self-harm is a common way of coping with problems, it may give a person feelings when they are numb or physical pain to get rid of the emotional pain. There will be a few people who self-harm for attention, but they are likely to only harm once or twice, if they continue to do it over a long period of time they may have other issues in their life. This myth often stops people coming forward and seeking help.
“Self-harm means cutting”
Cutting is one form of self-harm, but there are several others. Excessively scratching your skin, burning yourself, pricking yourself with needles, overdosing, these are all other methods of self-harm. It should now seem obvious that anything you do to intentionally harm yourself could be considered self-harm.
“If someone self-harms they are dangerous”
This is a complicated one, it does make sense but not how many people think. If someone self-harms they could be dangerous to themselves. A majority of methods of self-harm could easily go wrong, for example someone may cut their wrist too deep or hold their hand in a flame for too long. Someone who self-harms is dangerous so you should try to help and educate them to make sure they do not do something they will regret in the future. On the other hand, you are unlikely to be in danger by hanging around with someone who self-harms. They will only harm themselves. When self-harm turns to suicidal thoughts, you should be more concerned for both their and your safety, but remember that the person who self-harms is in far more danger than you.
“People who self-harm can stop when they want”
You would probably not say this about a drug addict, or an alcoholic. Self-harm can become an addiction, self-harm has been shown to release chemicals that boost the mood. When someone has problems in their life, these chemicals may be their only way of coping so they become addicted. I am addicted to self-harm, and I am trying to stop with the help of my friend and professionals. If someone is addicted to self-harm, they will not be able to stop on their own. Would you expect a drug addict to just give up?
“If someone self-harms they are suicidal”
Self-harm is a way of living, not dying. As mentioned before, someone who self-harms is using it to cope with the problems in their life. Self-harm can be linked to suicide and can lead to accidental death but a majority of people self-harm to cope.
“If the wound isn’t bad we don’t need to worry”
Just because blood is not pouring out, or the cut is so deep you can see muscles and tendons, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t worry. Personally, when I am suffering the most emotionally I will do lots of smaller cuts. This does not apply to everyone, but you cannot judge emotions based on one wound. Always take self-harm seriously.
“They must have a serious mental illness if they self-harm”
It is understandable where this myth can come from, why would your average person hurt themselves? Self-harm should be used as an indication that there are problems in a persons life, but those problems may not necessarily be a serious mental illness. This does not rule out an illness, but talking to the person will probably give you a better understanding of why they self-harm.
There we have it, seven myths busted! Or re-busted… or explained again so that people can learn… Anyway, for people to feel comfortable with their self-harming they must know that will not be judged, they must know that those they talk to know the truth about self-harm. Are there any more myths you believe people should know are not true? Or do you want to discuss one of the myths above? Share in the comments below, and remember, if you self-harm you are not alone.