(TW: Mention of self-harm)
Self- Injury awareness day is held annually and globally on the first of March for the purpose of working towards destigmatising self- injury. Self- harm or self-injury refers to the act of inflicting harm or damage on one’s own body, for example burning one’s skin, scratching one’s skin, or cutting one’s skin with sharp objects.
The aim of this day is to not only create awareness about self-harm among parents, educators, and caregivers but to also create structures for non-judgemental treatment and support for individuals going through this issue. There is a need for non -judgemental and unconditional positive regard/support, as there is a lot of shame and guilt associated with self- injury. Self- harm or injury in a lot of contexts gets attached with or is understood as suicidal behaviour, which is one major reason as to why there is taboo and embarrassment that exists around this topic. Another purpose of this day is to encourage parents and healthcare professionals like school counsellors, therapists, and doctors to identify early signs of self- injury. So that individuals can get timely attention and the treatment they deserve, like peer- support counselling, family therapy, or post-traumatic stress therapy. Some of the identifying signs include lack of concentration, absenteeism, or being fully covered and wearing long-sleeved clothes even in summers.
Early research on self-injury was influenced by the assumption that self-injury was a prelude to a suicide attempt. More recently, however, this assumption has been called into question. Researchers argue that for many self-injurers, their behaviour represents an effort to heal, rather than destroy, themselves. Self-injurers often rely on cutting and other forms of self-injury to cope, or as a form of self-treatment. Cutting is seen as a move toward renewal and restoration, while suicide attempts, in contrast, are intended solely for self-destruction (J.D. and L.M., 2015).
According to research studies, even though individuals of all ages can suffer from self-harm disorder, young adults and adolescents are more vulnerable to it. Individuals with physical co-morbidities or who’re going through mental health difficulties like depression, anxiety, substance abuse, or eating disorders are more susceptible to self- injury. Adolescent women are also more vulnerable to self- harm, the causes of which can be located in the fact that these young women are often more prone to emotional, sexual, or physical abuse. Hailing from families where healthy expression of anger and distress is restricted or doesn’t exist and lack of social support networks become other potential causes.
Therapists have seen a significant increase in the number of clients seeking help for their self-injury. Explanations for the increase include the collapse of the extended family, the body-focused culture, body alienation, emotional deprivation, abuse, and biology, but none alone adequately explain why people injure themselves and why suddenly there is an increase in reports of this behaviour (Dobie and R.J., 2007).
It is crucial to understand and acknowledge the factors that lead to a person’s self- injuring acts or behaviours. As self- injury cannot be looked at in isolation, as it most often stems from childhood trauma, abuse, bullying, cultural marginalisation, or lack of familial/ social support.
To expand our knowledge of self-injury toward new horizons, future sociological research on self-injury should (i) incorporate cross-cultural and comparative dimensions; (ii) examine how self-injurers create and police boundaries of group membership; (iii) explore the connections among eating disorders, self-injury, and other deviant behaviours; and (iv) investigate the intersection of socioeconomic status and self-injury behaviour (J.D. and L.M., 2015). This day is also an occasion and an opportunity to encourage individuals to share their personal experiences surrounding self-harm behaviour, as well as their journey of coping and self-healing. First hand and lived experiences of people not only act as an inspiration for individuals who’re currently suffering to seek help and identify their symptoms, but it also aids the process of creating awareness.
Nock, M. K., Teper, R., & Hollander, M. (2007). Psychological treatment of self-injury among adolescents. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 63(11), 1081 1089. doi:10.1002/jclp.20415
Roberts-Dobie, S., & Donatelle, R. J. (2007). School Counselors and Student Self-Injury. Journal of School Health, 77(5), 257–264. doi:10.1111/j.1746-1561.2007.00201.x
Taylor, J. D., & Ibañez, L. M. (2015). Sociological Approaches to Self-injury. Sociology Compass, 9(12), 1005–1014. doi:10.1111/soc4.12327