window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || []; function gtag(){dataLayer.push(arguments);} gtag('js', new Date()); gtag('config', 'G-9L16YW7S1L'); Skip to main content

Hello Tampa Bayers! This month we’ll be discussing the topic of self-harm in honor of March being Self Harm Awareness Month. Difficult topics like self-harm are often left out of the larger mental health conversation. Yet, as we seek to combat the stigma associated with mental health challenges, it’s something that must be talked about. We are given such limited knowledge and insight into self-harm as a behavior and coping mechanism. Media often portrays self-harm as a “troubled teen” issue that is often shown as a plot point but rarely approached with true empathy. 

Let’s start with the basics: What is self-harm? Sometimes referred to as Non-Suicidal Self-Injury, self-harm is a “deliberate, non-suicidal behavior that inflicts physical harm on one’s body to relieve emotional distress.” Self-harm includes behaviors like cutting, burning, hitting, and puncturing, among others.

We all have coping mechanisms and behaviors that we engage with to soothe ourselves during triggering or stressful times. This can look like meditation, therapy, talking to a friend, or engaging with a movement practice. For people who self-harm, these behaviors are a way that they cope. While this can be difficult to understand for people who don’t experience it, framing self-harm as a coping tool can help you to approach loved ones with care and empathy.

To honor Self-Harm Awareness Month, we’re answering some common questions and dispelling myths about this behavior:

  • Why do people self-harm? As stated above, self-harm behaviors are coping mechanisms, which can lead to an endorphin rush that may temporarily provide a feeling of relief from stress. These behaviors are a way of manifesting an emotional wound in the physical body. While these behaviors are often tied to suicidal ideation in media portrayals, self-harm behaviors don’t necessarily indicate that someone wants to take their life.
  • Is it for attention? This is a common myth and a dangerous one. It’s important to remember that each of us, in pursuing our chosen coping mechanisms, is doing the best we can with the tools we have. Framing self-harm as manipulative or “for attention” can further isolate your loved one and make seeking help or alternative ways of coping more difficult and unlikely. 
  • What kinds of people experience self-harm? Self-harm behaviors are most common among young adults and adolescents but can be used by anyone, regardless of age, gender, and other demographic factors. According to Psychology Today, “approximately 4% of the population in the United States uses [self-harm] as a way of coping.”
  • What can I do if myself or a loved one is engaging in self-harm behaviors? For a coping mechanism to be removed, it must be replaced with other, healthier ways of coping. Seeking professional support to try out new ways of practicing self-care and self-soothing can help a person in moving out of self-harm. If you are looking to open up to a loved one about your own experiences of self-harm, this checklist is a helpful place to start.

Self-harm is a difficult and often misunderstood topic in the mental health arena, but we know that the only way to combat stigma is to have open and honest conversations about hard topics. If you could use support around your own or a loved one’s self-harm behaviors, we would love to connect you with resources. Just dial 844-YOU-OKAY to reach our free, confidential support line for Tampa Bay. You don’t have to do this alone. 

Until next time, 

Your Team at Tampa Bay Thrives

Leave a Reply