Content Warning: This blog will be discussing Self Harm.
This is the first installment of the four-part series on Self Harm. This part will focus on understanding what Self Harm is, including what actions are considered to be Self Harm, as well as data estimating how many people are affected by Self Harm. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 911 or your county’s local emergency number. If you are struggling with thoughts of Self Harm, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HELLO to 741741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
What is considered ‘Self Harm’?
Self Harm can be a consuming and difficult topic to breach. Many people are afraid to reach out or to search for help. This series hopes to offer important information on what Self Harm is, how it affects your behaviors, how to find help for yourself and for others, and how to redirect Self Harm behaviors.
Self Harm goes by many different names; Self Harm, Self Injury, Non-Suicidal Self Injury, Cutting, etc. All of these names are referring to actions that the American Psychological Association defines as “deliberate self-inflicted harm that isn't intended to be suicidal.” The end of this definition is important to note; many people who engage in Self Harm do not have suicidal intentions. Hannah Taddie, a Clinician with Telebehavioral Health.US who works with young adults and teenagers, explains this further. “Most of the time, somebody who is engaging in those behaviors isn’t planning to kill themselves…if someone says they weren’t trying to kill themselves, they weren’t trying to kill themselves...it’s not always meant to be a suicidal act.”
There are many ways that people can engage in Self Harm. Mental Health America lists some of the most common methods of Self Harm as “Skin Cutting, Head banging or hitting, and Burning” and provides other less common examples of drinking harmful substances, excessive scratching, purposefully breaking bones, and punching or infecting oneself. The article from Mental Health America also points out that many people who engage in Self Harm tend to use multiple methods to harm themselves.
How Many People Engage in Self Harm?
It’s hard to determine exact numbers for how many people engage in Self Harm. There is a heavy stigma that surrounds Self Harm and mental health in general which prevents many people from reporting their Self Harm and reaching out for help..
A study conducted in 2010 acknowledges the discrepancy in the data, and reports that in the over 40 countries that participated, roughly 15% of teens and between 17-35% of college-age people engage in methods of Self Harm. This study also reports that Self Harm occurs in between 1-4% of the adult population.
The American Psychological Association reports that at least 35% of those who Self Harm are people who identify as male, but since they are more likely to underreport the percentage could be as much as 50%. They also found that those who are a part of the LGBTQIA+ community are more likely to Self Harm than those who identify as heterosexual.
More recently, a study published through Fair Health reported that claims for Self Harm rose dramatically for those aged 13-18 during the first year of the Coronavirus Pandemic. Claims filed for mental health also rose for those aged 19-22, though these were not reported specifically as Self Harm.
Telebehavioral Health.US Clinician Hannah also mentioned that while she herself has not seen an increase of people who Self Harm, she has noticed that awareness of those who Self Harm has increased, thanks to social media. “I have noticed that teenagers are more aware of [Self Harm] happening...If they’re engaging in [Self Harm], they can broadcast it on social media. That was not always something teenagers can do.” She mentioned that adolescents are more likely to engage in Self Harm in social clusters, where a few people begin engaging in Self Harm and others imitate the behavior out of curiosity.
People who engage in Self Harm are more than numbers and statistics. If you are engaging in Self Harm, you are not alone, and there are people who can help. Part Two of this series will discuss the neurological side of Self Harm and how it can be difficult for people to stop their engagement in Self Harming behaviors. If you are seeking help, take a look at Hannah’s profile at Telebehavioral Health.US or browse through the profiles of all of our licensed clinicians.