This guest article is written by Kerry.
Today, March 1st, is Self-Injury Awareness Day (SIAD).
One of most common misconceptions is that it’s a “white teen girl thing” that it’s something people “grow out of”. Self injury affects all ages, race and gender, at any time in their lives. Often people assume that’s it attention seeking or the person is suicidal, self-injury doesn’t necessarily involve wounds and scars (eg. overdosing without the intention of suicide) and for many people it’s a coping mechanism to help them stay alive, one that they are likely to be ashamed of and hide.
In a society where there is so much pressure to fit in, look a certain way and be seen to be able to cope effortlessly with whatever life throws at you it’s time to start talking more openly about mental health issues. Depression, anxiety, self injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, substance abuse & addiction, bipolar disorder and suicide. Chances are someone you know is struggling with their mental health – statics claim 1 in 4 of us will fight mental health problems this year alone.
If you’re concerned for someone, ask them how they are. When they reply with “I’m fine” ask them again how they really are. They might be desperately wanting to speak to someone but are scared of the reactions they might face so give an automatic “I’m fine” response, being asked that second time gives them the opportunity to open up. If they don’t feel they can talk yet then let them know you’re there to listen when ever they feel ready.
If you’re worried about asking someone how they are because you feel you won’t know what the “right thing” to say is if they do confide in you then that’s ok. There is no “right thing” to say, just being there and not judging them, hugging them and just listening can make a huge difference. Self-injury in particular can be a difficult topic to discuss, the fact that someone has trusted you enough to open up is a big step forward to them starting recovery.
We are all guilty of getting on with our busy lives and it can be easy to forget to stop for a minute and think about others. Today be brave; send that text, make that phone call, go for that cup of coffee and ask the question “are you ok?” Knowing someone is there can give a person enough hope to keep fighting through another night, week, month and eventually the courage to ask for the help they need.
There are so many things that are beyond our control in this world – but losing someone we love to suicide doesn’t have to be one of them. We can help people find healthier coping mechanisms other than harming themselves and we can put an end to the stigma around mental health. Start talking.
This guest article was written by Kerry.