Self Harm & Suicide
Self-Harm is causing injury or harming oneself deliberately. It is indicative of a tremendous amount of stress and emotional turmoil. A severe form of self-harm is an act of suicide attempt.
What is Self-harm?
Self-harm occurs when a person hurts or harms him or herself. It can involve one of the following:
- Cutting oneself
- Burning oneself
- Banging the head or throwing oneself against hard objects
- Punching oneself
- Inserting things in the body
- Swallowing objects
- Taking an overdose of tablets
- Reckless abuse of drugs or alcohol
- Prolonged starvation
When someone does self-harm, it indicates that they are going through severe emotional stress and turmoil. In certain cases, the entire self-harm episode could be planned in advance, though it may also occur spontaneously. It is common for people to harm themselves only once or twice. However, it is also possible that they are doing it regularly and it has become a habitual way with them. It may be even difficult to stop them when they are doing so. Suicide attempts are also viewed as Self-harm.
How common is self-harm?
Approximately ten percent of young people try to harm themselves at sometime in their lives but the problem can occur at any age. About eighty percent people will try to harm themselves via an overdose, and about 15 percent will cut themselves. However, most incidents of self –harm go unreported.
Who is most likely to harm themselves?
Research indicates that the categories of people who are more likely to harm themselves include:
- Young women
- Refugees; People seeking asylum who are de-rooted.
- Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals due to prejudice and social discrimination.
- Groups of people who harm themselves together
- Victims of violence or disasters
- People who have been emotionally, physically or sexually abused in their childhood
What are the reasons for Self-harm?
The most common reason why people harm themselves is their inability to cope with unbearable stress or difficult life situations. They will struggle to cope mentally with the adversities for sometime before attempting Self-harm. The main problems that make a person harm themselves are:
- Physical or sexual abuse,
- Feeling low and negative about yourself
- Relationship issues; Break-ups
- Unemployment or continuing conflict at workplace
- Isolation and extreme loneliness
- They are impulsive and lose control over themselves
- They feel powerless and victimized
Some people can harm themselves after consuming alcohol or after taking drugs. Others may harm themselves to show people that they are feeling distressed or to take revenge. But most instances of Self-harm occur in private with a great deal of accompanying pain and suffering.
How do you feel when you harm yourself?
Self-harm may make a person feel as if they have regained control over their lives. It also helps to reduce the intensity of uncomfortable feelings. If you are feeling guilty about something, then harming yourself is a way to punish yourself and get rid of your feelings of guilt. It is a solution for feeling low and negative.
The good news is that people who harm themselves are not necessarily mentally ill. However, the condition may arise when one feels depressed or is experiencing personal issues, or when one is having alcohol related and drug related problems. Self-harm is not the same as attempting suicide but there is a risk that you may kill yourself. This is why people who try toattempt self-harm need to be taken seriously and given assistance.
How to recognize if someone will do Self-harm?
People who attempt self-harm seldom ask for help. There are certain signs that you should look for that will warn you that a person is going to harm him or herself:
- If found using dangerous and violent methods
- Is harming self in little ways regularly
- Is keeping aloof
- Is already suffering from a mental illness
How to help people who harm themselves?
There are several ways to help someone who self-harms including:
- Talking with someone
Talking to someone about your problem can help. So, talk to a Helpline if available or on an Internet service anonymously about your problem. It can allow you to reflect and gain clarity by talking to a concerned neutral person.
- Joining self-help groups
Joining self-help groups in which people who have already harmed themselves helps as each person can help the other on an emotional level and give practical advice that enables them cope better with their own problems..
- Improve relationships
Many people harm themselves because of tensions and conflicts in their close relationships. If this is the case, then it makes sense to seek relationship counseling to help you improve your relationships as a long term solution.
- Get professional help
Professionals can offer help. Some of the methods they use include
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Psychodynamic psychotherapy
- Interpersonal Therapy
- Family Therapy
- Group therapy
Group therapy is not the same as self-help groups. Normally, professionals will lead the group and provide assistance to members to help them cope with their problems and seek pragmatic solutions to their predicaments.
How to help yourself?
If you feel like harming yourself then you should try to help yourself by:
- Talk to others including using Helplines
- Try to distract your mind by listening to music or by doing something that you like
- Try to relax your mind and think about pleasant things and events
- Learn to express distressing feelings instead of turning them inward
- Experience pain in a harmless manner by eating a chili or taking a cold shower
- Show kindness to yourself
- Maintain a diary in which you write about what is happening to you, especially disturbing feelings, as it will make you feel better
Self-harm are both physically and psychologically very damaging and it is best if you eventually abandon it!
It isn’t uncommon to find a dangerous news item in the newspaper, describing how a woman set herself on fire after dousing herself with kerosene, or how a man threw himself off the top of a tall building. Suicide attempts and successful suicides are things that happen everyday. Most of these are because of psychiatric illnesses and in 70% of the cases the primary cause is Depression. Schizophrenia and problems arising from Drug addiction and Alcoholism are other causes of suicide. In most cases, there are some warning signs, even direct signals that the person makes, either to his relatives or friends, or to a doctor. Very often, people don’t take these warning signs very seriously. Problems of daily living, relationship issues and economic problems are becoming major causes of attempted suicides these days.
Signs of suicidal intentions:
The person may give direct hints of wanting to die, or may be seen to be making preparations – making a will, giving away belongings, collecting sleeping pills, pesticides or other toxic chemicals etc. which give an indication of the suicidal intentions he is carrying inside him.
Warning signs of Suicide:
- Talking or writing about death or suicide.
- Feeling helpless or hopeless.
- Look depressed most of the time
- Feeling extreme anger
- Showing impulsive or risky behaviours
- Show changes in eating or sleeping habits
- Losing interest in everything,
- Having severe mood fluctuations
- Experiencing strong guilt or shame
- Abusing alcohol or drugs
- Showing sudden decline in academic or work performance
It should be noted that some people who die by suicide do not show any suicide warning signs.
What are the reasons for people to attempt or commit suicide?
Guilt and self-blame, feeling of worthlessness and emptiness are more common in those attempting suicide. Suicide is more likely in those who have tried it before, especially if precautions were taken to try and avoid being discovered and if violent means were used – e.g. fire, fire arms, jumping from a height.
Suicide is also more common when someone close to the person has died, especially if someone has lost his or her spouse or a mother has lost her only son. Old age, unemployment and physical illnesses make suicide more likely. When a dependent person loses the person who is supporting him or her, suicide is more likely.Suicide is especially common in alcoholics or drug addicts.People who have to deal with a broken relationship and severe marital discord are also likely to commit it. Sometimes deaths due to suicide are accidental or due to wrong timing. The person may not know the potential of a method being used or may act with the hope that help would be available soon, and that he/she would be saved which may not happen.
Most attempted suicides are not actual attempts, but some are. Warning signs of suicide should never be taken lightly. It is a cry for help. If you suspect that someone you know is thinking of suicide, get help immediately by contacting a psychiatrist. The person may need to be admitted to a psychiatric ward. Even while admitted to a hospital, family members must always be alert and on the lookout for suicide attempts.
Often when a person is getting better from a severe depression, he or shemay try to end his or her life. Be very watchful when a person begins to come out of depression. If necessary, take turns to keepa watch. Even if the person goes to the bathroom, someone should be either readily available to force open the door, or to ensure that the person does not lock himself inside. After all, it is very easy to keep a knife or pills hidden in the bathroom and use them at that time.
Keep all objects such as blades and sharp knives away because they could be used by the person to slash his or her wrists. Alsokeep insecticides, inflammable liquids and matches in places that are difficult to find. Be especially careful with different types of medicines, including those used for diabetes and blood pressure and severe mental distress.
Suicides become more common in certain illnesses such as Depression, Bipolar Disorders. Watch out for signs of severe depression, some of which are –waking up early in the morning, frequent crying, withdrawing from routine and social life and weight loss.
Schizophrenia is another disorder in which suicides can take place as a result of the person breaking off from reality and responding to his own abnormal thoughts. Some of the signs of schizophrenia are: talking to oneself , laughing or crying when alone, expressing ideas about others wanting to harm the person, hearing voices or seeing things which do not exist, severely disturbed sleep and withdrawing from day to day reality and functioning.
Suicide is a desperate cry for help and if help is available, it can be averted. At times a spiritual attitude, based on the concept of life after life, is also very useful to reduce suicidal feelings. All the members of the family have to remain united in dealing with the person who is carrying the suicidal intent in an empathetic manner. They must not indulge in blame game or infighting that may further worsen the situation. To prevent suicide is to find a solution to the bigger problem of which suicide was the manifestation.