Cutting and Self-harm

Self-harm is a way of expressing and dealing with deep distress and emotional pain. As counterintuitive as it may sound to those on the outside, hurting yourself makes you feel better. In fact, you may feel like you have no choice. Injuring yourself is the only way you know how to cope with feelings like sadness, self-loathing, emptiness, guilt, and rage.

The problem is that the relief that comes from self-harming doesn’t last very long. It’s like slapping on a Band-Aid when what you really need are stitches. It may temporarily stop the bleeding, but it doesn’t fix the underlying injury. And it also creates its own problems.

If you’re like most people who self-injure, you try to keep what you’re doing secret. Maybe you feel ashamed or maybe you just think that no one would understand. But hiding who you are and what you feel is a heavy burden. Ultimately, the secrecy and guilt affects your relationships with your friends and family members and the way you feel about yourself. It can make you feel even more lonely, worthless, and trapped.

I few years ago I was asked to teach a class at one of the local colleges, and the subject
was depression and cutting.  I started the class with the topic of depression, signs and symptoms and passed out a related puzzle for a class activity.  Then I switched topics by showing a video on cutting which really brought home the topic as it was graphic and created an understanding of self-harm, if it was not understood before. After the video I asked the class, full of 7th and 8th graders, did they know or have they experienced self-harm.  A few hands went up and so did one of the kids in the class that had a hand up for every question that was asked.  As the class when on this student finally said, "I cut, it helps me deal with my depression." "My father passed away and I'm having a hard time with it." I made sure the student took all of the information I presented in class with a good understanding of all of it. A list of social services was given and the student was encouraged to keep seeing a counselor.  I was glad that they wanted to get help.  The first thing is admitting that there is a problem.  As an advocate for mental health I was very glad that I could give the information needed to get help but, the student needed a professional immediately.  The next time I teach a class on mental health.  I will be sure to have counselors on site or at least available.  If students talk freely, they want help.  Look for the signs and help others to leap into recovery!

                                           by Lisa Polnitz, Editor & Publisher