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Stigma of Self-Harm

Martyna Halas
Explaining your self-harm scars to others can be uncomfortable. Having your self-harm scars discovered is a bit like being outed against your will. Still, the person who confronts you about your self-injury marks will likely want to know what they are. While you don’t owe anyone an explanation, sometimes it’s hard to avoid this conversation. Here are some of the approaches you can take to explain your self-harm scars to others.
Martyna Halas
Self-harm and suicide are somewhat shrouded in mystery. Many consider them a teenage fad, a call for attention, or, worse, an act of selfishness. On the other hand, research suggests that self-injury and suicide often go hand in hand with trauma, which is a serious matter. And yet, the phenomenon is not fully understood. Is it because we choose to suffer in silence? (Note: This post contains a trigger warning.)
Kim Berkley
Self-injury, by its very nature, seems inherently connected to suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Yet while suicide necessarily involves causing yourself harm, there is a subtle but important difference between self-harm vs. self-destruction.
Martyna Halas
Many self-harm stereotypes are linked to immaturity. The common misconception is that if you self-injure, you must be a teenager or going through a phase. Nothing could be further from the truth, and we mustn't forget that self-harm is also prevalent in older adults.
Martyna Halas
Like mental health in general, self-harm is surrounded by harmful stereotypes that perpetuate the feelings of fear, guilt, and shame. We can only bust these self-harm myths by educating one another and by spreading awareness about self-injury.
Kim Berkley
It's understandable to assume that people who self-harm do so because they want to end their own lives. This is understandable but wrong. While suicide attempts do often involve an act of potentially-lethal self-injury, those of us who struggle with nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) are not looking to die. If anything, what we are really trying to do is survive.
Kim Berkley
That someone who self-harms must be unhappy is an easy assumption to make, but the truth is more complicated than that. While self-harm and mood disorders do often go hand-in-hand, self-harm is not intrinsically linked to mood. Not everyone who is unhappy self-harms, after all, and not everyone who self-harms does so exclusively when they are suffering. So why do people self-harm even when they're happy—or at least appear to be so?
Kayla Chang
Self-harm stigma is a bit different than the stigma surrounding, say, something like schizophrenia. Whereas there is no overarching societal perception of schizophrenia as an embarrassing condition to have, there is certainly an element of embarrassment that is created by self-harm stigma.
Kayla Chang
How can there be invisible self-harm? Self-harm is assumed to be apparent to the eye — a reasonable assumption given that self-harm is a physical act performed on the physical body and that self-harm is used at times as a way of making invisible, psychic pain visible and concrete. But not all self-harm can be seen. Invisible self-harm is just as dangerous as visible self-injuries.
Kayla Chang
You see this stigma of self-harm for attention played out in TV shows, movies, and often even in real life: A person engages in self-harm. This behavior is noticed by another person, either because the self-harmer has confessed or wears visible scars. People debate among themselves about whether this self-harming behavior warrants confronting the person and/or seeking professional help for the person. Then, as if on cue, someone suggests they forget about the whole thing, and says something along the lines of, "She's just self-harming for the attention."