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March is Nonsuicidal Self-Injury Awareness Month

March 1st marked the launch of Self-Injury Awareness Month, an initiative created to educate the public about nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI), more commonly known as simply self-injury or self-harm. NSSI is defined as self-injury administered deliberately with the intent to injure oneself without any intention of suicide. This behavior can affect anyone but is most seen in teenagers and pre-teens and manifests in different ways through different self-injurious behaviors.

Common Methods of Injury:

  • Cutting with knives, needles, razors, fingernails, or any sharp object.
  • Burning with fire or hot metal (branding).
  • Hitting, punching, or banging objects with their fists or their head.
  • Hitting or punching themselves.
  • Embedding objects under the skin.
  • Pulling out hair.
  • Picking at skin or scabs to re-open wounds.
  • Drinking chemicals.
  • Provoking others to injure them.
  • Tattooing and piercing, but only if the goal is solely for experiencing pain or has other negative connotations and not if they are done out of personal or artistic expression.

Who Self-Injures:

Teens and pre-teens are the most affected population and females comprise 60 percent of all self-injury cases. While race and socioeconomic status has shown no significant influence on who self-injures, young members of the LGBTQ+ community are at a higher risk for self-injury than their heterosexual and/or cisgender counterparts. Self-injury is not considered a mental illness, but it is often associated with various mental illnesses including depression, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and certain personality disorders. Self-injurious behavior is also commonly seen in those who experienced childhood abuse and/or neglect and 50% of self-injurers are victims of sexual abuse. While self-injury is often a result of a mental disorder or mental illness, it is often attributed to otherwise mentally healthy people who are struggling with intense feelings related to a difficult issue, loneliness, an upsetting memory, or just to feel a sense of control during a chaotic period of their life.

Why People Self-Injure:

Self-injury is a coping mechanism for dealing with strong feelings, as those who self-injure may lack the skills to manage their feelings in a healthy way. This behavior is a manifestation of feelings associated with negative emotions. Self-injurers may feel empty or numb and self-injury invokes some feeling for them, even if that feeling is pain. Self-injurers may also injure themselves to block or distract from upsetting memories, giving them a temporary release from those emotions. Self-harming may also release some strong feelings the individual is holding, or they may be seeking to punish themselves or to have a feeling of control. Self-injuries may be a call for help so keeping an eye out for signs of self-injury could help someone if you are able to recognize them.

Signs of Self-Injury:

  • Wearing cool-weather clothes in warm weather (long sleeves, pants, etc)
  • Dismissing injuries as being due to clumsiness or accidents
  • Finding sharp objects or other objects that could inflict injure in their possession
  • Withdrawal from their regular activities
  • Recklessness or impulsivity
  • Scars, scabs, or burns
  • New scratches and cuts appearing regularly
  • Bruising
  • Broken bones
  • Loss of hair, especially in patches
  • Demonstrating feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, or worthlessness
  • Displaying emotional distance and indifference
  • Erratic emotions and mood swings
  • Displays of guilt, shame, or disgust with themselves


What To Do If You Are A Parent:

If you are a parent to someone who is self-harming, open communication is important as well as seeking the advisement of a health care provider and mental health professional. Parents should express their concern, but it’s important to refrain from displaying anger or make threats or accusations. It’s also important to refrain from over-reacting. Some parents may confuse self-injury as an indication of a suicide attempt and self-injurers may face an unnecessary and traumatic hospitalization or intense evaluation. Be calm, open, and receptive to your child and seek professional, medical guidance on how to help them effectively.

What To Do If A Friend Is Self-Injuring:

Calmly speak with your friend, express your concern, and encourage them to reach out to their family or a medical professional for support.

What To Do If You Are Self-Injuring:

If you are self-harming and need help, reach out to your trusted family or friends to help you take the first step to heal. If you feel you don’t have support, a crisis hotline may help guide you. If you’ve severely injured yourself, think an injury might be life-threatening, or believe you might seriously injure yourself or attempt suicide, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.

To support this month-long initiative for awareness of nonsuicidal self-injury, share this information with your friends and loved ones. Help spread the word about this important topic so that those who suffer may be able to find the help they need.


Hotline Website And Self-Harming Resources:
















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