This Friday, March 1 is National Self-Injury Awareness Day (SIAD) – a day dedicated to education and awareness surrounding those who self-harm or self-mutilate. All over the country, orange ribbons will be worn to represent hope for this problem riddled with stigma.
To self-injure means to intentionally and voluntarily harming oneself by burning, cutting, poisoning, hair-pulling or bruising oneself, among other harmful ways, or even picking at wounds with the intention to cause harm or pain. Self-injury behavior can persist and worsen over long periods of time.
Because so many people who self-harm themselves go untreated or unspoken, due to the shame, guilt and embarrassment surrounding this condition, we don’t know exact numbers – but according to Mental Health America, nearly two million people in the U.S. self-injure.
Many of those who self-inflict harm or pain are trying to escape from and cope with emotional issues buried underneath the surface. Anxiety, stress, depression, pressure, trauma and self-hatred are all causes of self-injury. Warning signs of self-injury include unexplained cuts, scratches, bruises or other signs of physical harm, self-criticism, restlessness, increased substance use and sudden behavior/mood changes.
SIAD is a time when awareness organizations increase their outreach efforts with community events or fundraisers. Others wear their orange ribbons in support, write “LOVE” on their bodies – and some may even choose to open up about their own self-injury. LifeSIGNS says, “By raising awareness our intention is to change how people react to self-injury, by educating them about the truths and by banishing the myths. We intend for people, even if they are unable to fully understand self-injury, to at least be able to empathise with people who hurt themselves in order to cope with emotional distress.
Self-injury can be addicting, but help and hope are available now.