Content Warning: This blog will be discussing Self Harm.
This is the third installment of the four-part series on Self Harm. This part will be focusing on how to recognize Self Harm behaviors in yourself and in others, and will also touch on next steps for people who are looking for help. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 911 or your country’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.
Now that we have a better understanding of what Self Harm is, how many people are affected by it, and how the brain can influence the engagement in Self Harm, let’s take a look into how we can help ourselves and others who are looking for relief from OR support with Self Harm.
What are the symptoms of Self Harm?
Many people, when they suspect that someone they know is engaging in Self Harm, tend to look for the physical injuries that come with Self Harming actions. While scars and bruises are common indicators of Self Harm, they are not the only symptoms. According to an online health resource funded by the Australian government, common signs of Self Harm can be grouped into four categories; behavioral, psychological, psychosocial, and physical (here is a link to the resource page). Let’s take a look at some specific examples of signs from each of these categories.
For people engaging in Self Harm, some behavioral signs might be losing interest in activities, avoiding exposing skin, and/or becoming more secretive with potentially harmful objects. Psychological signs sometimes look like expressions of depression and/or anxiety. Psychosocial signs, similar to behavioral signs, highlight a loss of interest in activities and social events; but you can also look for isolation, mood swings, and a change in eating and sleeping behaviors. Lastly, unexplained wounds or cuts are examples of physical signs that someone may be using Self Harm as a coping mechanism. Additionally, frequent headaches or stomach pains without a medical explanation can also be signs that someone is experiencing significant mental-emotional distress
It’s important to note that not all of these signs or symptoms will be present in everyone who is engaging in Self Harm, and not all of these symptoms individually are indicators that someone is harming themselves. Many of these symptoms, like having Anxiety or Depression, can be risk factors that make people vulnerable to using Self Harm as a way to cope with psychological pain. But if someone you know begins to exhibit some of these symptoms, it may be a sign that they are Self Harming.
I want to find help for me/someone I know who is Self Harming. What should I do?
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 911 or your country’s local emergency line, or go to the nearest emergency room.
I talked with Hannah Taddie, a clinician at Telebehavioral Health.US to gather clinical insight on how to approach non-emergency cases. She explained that “The most important thing [I do when someone I know shares they’re engaging in Self Harm] is to validate the significance of [them] choosing to share that [information] with me...you have to see it as a behavior that has meaning.”
If someone has shared with you that they are engaging in Self Harm, Hannah suggests a method called QPR. QPR stands for “Question, Persuade, Refer”, and Hannah describes what each of these steps means. “Question, find out really what’s happening; Persuade, encourage someone to get support, to reach out, if you’re a friend, say ‘I really care about you, I think you need more help than I can give you, how can I help you get that help?’... Refer is just pointing someone in the right direction of where to go [for help].” More information about QPR can be found at the QPR Institute, which also offers training to be an interventionist with this method.
During our conversation, Hannah also touched on the type of person that younger people would share their Self Harm behaviors with. When it comes to teenagers and young adults, Hannah has found that “ Reaching out is scary and friends are safe, but friends also sometimes don’t know what to do… that [knowledge of Self Harm] is a lot to carry.” While it is more comfortable to tell a friend or someone your age, it’s important to tell an adult or a professional about your Self Harm as well. Hannah supports this by saying, “I would really strongly encourage someone to speak to an adult. Always involve somebody who is older than you… if you don’t have an adult, use a crisis text line, use a hotline to tap into somebody who’s [older] than you.” Finding a therapist or medical professional that can help you is crucial to addressing Self Harm.
Help is always available if you are looking for it. Reaching out to trusted individuals is a great place to start if you are seeking help for Self Harm.
Part Four of this series will discuss what to do to avoid Self Harm in the future, and what can help to curb Self Harm impulses. 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.