March 1 represents Self-Injury Awareness Day (SIAD), an international awareness day that is dedicated to learning about behaviors like “cutting” and other intentional methods of self-injury —raising awareness and providing resources to those who need help.

“Cutting” and other self-injury behaviors, also known as self-harm, include deliberately causing physical damage to oneself. Typically a sign of intense emotional distress, self-injury behaviors  include skin carving, self-medicating, extreme scratching, burning oneself, punching or hitting walls to induce pain.

Cutting and Self-Injury: A Vicious Cycle

Self-harm behavior is an impulsive act of cutting or self-injury that is associated with premeditative thoughts and negative feelings. Often, if the individual does not commit the self-injurious act, he or she will obsessively think about self-injury.

An individual engages in self-injury expecting to either gain relief from negative emotion to cope with a personal issue or create a positive feeling. However, after the self-injurious act is performed the individual will often feel shame or guilt resulting in significant distress leading them to self-injure once again. It is an emotional rollercoaster of shame, guilt, and self-deprivation followed by relief and emotional release.

To be diagnosed with nonsuicidal self-injury, an individual must engage in at least five days of self-injurious behavior within one year without any intent to commit suicide.

Cutting, Self-Injury and Suicidal Thoughts

Self Injury Awareness Day is a great time to pause and consider the danger of this far too common behavior. Although self-injury is diagnosed without the intent of suicide, this harmful and dangerous behavior has a strong association with suicide. Approximately 40% of individuals who self-harm have experienced suicidal thoughts during this behavior, and around 50-85% of these individuals have a history of suicide attempt.

Normal for Teens or a Cry for Help?

The adolescent years are a difficult time for both the teenager and the parents. Peer pressure, rebellious behavior, raging hormones and academic stressors can all play a part in turbulent and moody adolescent behavior; however, the stigma of self-harm and mental behavior should not be ignored.

Self-harm is a dangerous behavior and is not a normal part of teenage development. It is essential to be aware of the warning signs of self-injurious behavior before it is too late.

  • Isolation and avoiding social situations
  • Wearing baggy or loose clothing to conceal wounds
  • Finding razors, scissors, lighters or knives in places where they do not belong
  • Multiple cuts, burns or scars on the wrists, arms, legs, hips, or stomach
  • Always making excuses for having cuts, marks or wounds on the body
  • Spending long periods locked in a bedroom or bathroom

Please share this article to spread public knowledge of Self Injury Awareness Day. Wear an orange ribbon, representing a sign of hope for a misunderstood problem, to acknowledge this day.

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