the user-led self-injury organisation.

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Cover up those wounds

The weather’s lovely here in the UK right now, and although it’s nice to get out ‘n’ about, it does raise the annual issue of whether  to hide or show our self-injury scars.

This of course is a personal decision. I, personally, prefer to keep mine hidden unless with people I love and trust. It’s not because I’m ashamed; it’s just that self-injury has always been a secret / hidden thing for me. It’s not that I don’t want to share my scars with the world; I just don’t want strangers to know of my past inner pain. Showing scars isn’t for me; but I do admire people who have the strength / courage not to care what the world thinks!

But scars are one thing; fresh wounds are completely different. It always saddens me to see people wandering around with fresh self-injury wounds on show. Quite apart from the fact that it’s unhygienic and potentially dangerous, there’s just no *point* to it. Fresh wounds should be covered by sterile dressings, let alone clothes!

For me, one of the worst places for seeing such things has been summer music festivals. I was queueing for the toilets at a festival once and the girl in front of me had some fresh and quite serious wounds on her arm. I asked her if you she needed any help and offered her my antibacterial lotion and suggested the first aid tent and the Samaritans tent. She burst into tears and told me she’d felt she’d had to do it because all her friends had SId specifically for the festival and they bullied her into joining them. Their ‘wounds’ were part of their festival outfit. I was disgusted and I talked to her for a long time. I still have her number in my phone and I think of her occasionally.

We often talk about self-injury not being for attention, and nobody wants to be thought of as an attention seeker. But what other possible reason is there for showing off fresh wounds? And please don’t tell me it’s a cry for help, because strangers at a music festival aren’t going to help you (well, unless you happen to be standing in front of me in the loo queue!)

I fully *get* that self-injury can be a cry for help. But ask that help from the right people yeah? If you want to show off your newly bloodied arm, show someone who loves and cares about you, or show a doctor or a nurse. Don’t show the checkout guy in Tesco!

See our web page Showing our Scars (scroll down) and also our pages on scars, scar reduction and skin camouflage


  • Jules

    I’m sorry you didn’t see my final paragraph where I give links to our pages on scars, scar reduction and skin camouflage.

    I think you may have misunderstood the intention of my article – it wasn’t about how ‘we’ feel if people see our fresh wounds – it’s about how ‘they’ feel. This might be a controversial concept; so many people only really care about themselves these days. I’m not telling people how they should behave. Everyone is free to behave exactly how they wish, and to choose whether or not other people matter. It is merely my personal opinion that it doesn’t hurt to show some respect and consideration for others.

    It’s great to see so many people starting to speak out about the number of unnecessary and triggering pictures of self-injury wounds on the internet. I, personally, like to extend that same consideration to real life.

  • 39075

    I have been very interested while reading the above article and the comments. I did feel uncomfortable reading about the opinions regarding fresh wounds and healed scars. But of course, the article is a personal expression of ones’ thoughts about whether “self harm” should be seen by “others” – I quote those words to emphasise that self harm is an action we do to ourselves and that we spend our lives showing ourselves to other people around us.

    I felt uncomfortable as I feel it was a general consensus of the majority people who most likely have not come across self harm before (whether through their own actions, or actions of their peers, family etc.). Self harm is such a personal thing, it feels different to different people and it has hundreds and hundreds of reasons for doing self harm – choice usually not being one of them. I do not care what the man at “Tescos” thinks of me if he happened to seen scars or “fresh wounds” However, this is my personal feeling, somebody else may feel extremely distressed knowing a complete stranger as discovered something so personal about themselves – i can understand why someone may feel this as it is a personal attribute that may cause the “man at Tescos” to form some sort of judgement of themselves. However my personal feeling is that i have come past feeling distressed or nervous about a stranger making a judgement of me.

    To clarify (if you have managed to read this far :D). It is a personal thing, if someone feels very frightened about strangers seeing evidence of self harm, it is a positive thing that there is advice out there that can help them learn ways in which to cover scars – I may add your article does not have any advice with regards to this.

    I would like to speak for those who feel that family is usually the enemy and more often than not those who you put love and trust into end up being enemies also. Healthcare professionals – there are good and bad ones, I have always thought that when you come across a bad one, it seems worse as to say a bad secretary, as you tend to have an expectation that a healthcare professional may be caring. More often than not this is not the case. As I am sure many of us know.

  • Jules

    Hi Sarah, I’d firstly like to clarify that my article is about fresh wounds, not healed scars.

    I can’t possibly comment on people who are unfortunate enough to have a birth defect or have been injured in an accident, as I’m lucky enough to have suffered from neither. My scars are self-inflicted, they were my choice. But I do have the empathy to understand that the two are very different. I’m unsure how someone who didn’t have a choice about the way they look, or about the reactions of an insensitive public, might feel about the suggestion that the two can be compared. I imagine some might find it upsetting, or even insulting.

    You’re absolutely right, you don’t *have* to take any responsibility for the thoughts and feelings of people around you. It’s your choice.

    At FirstSigns we never tell people what to do or how they should behave. But we *do* offer suggestions and thoughts and ideas for people to either consider or dismiss as they choose.

  • Sarah

    I found this blog, and Christian’s comments in particular, really interesting. As someone who has not self-harmed for a number of years, I hate that it remains an unpleasant consideration in hot weather. In particular, the issue that if you do choose to wear short sleeves (as I often do when I am with close friends or alone, whether this is in a private scenario or out among anonymous strangers), people seem to feel it gives them the right to make judgments about you: what sort of person you must be, or in what way you must be trying to manipulate those around you by not covering yourself up. I’ve heard comments from others, particularly at work (where I always cover up), wondering why people would “show off” something like that and what it must say about them as a person: it never seems to cross their minds that perhaps the person concerned is just hot, or so used to their scars that, if they are in a situation where they feel safe (eg with friends) they might even forget they are there at all. In some instances, in my opinion, attitudes to self-injury say more about the people making judgments (and, perhaps, society in general) than the person who has harmed themselves.

    People can have injuries for a huge variety of reasons and, like Christian says, outside of a situation where you are responsible (work etc.), why should anyone feel the need to hide scars or fresh injuries just because it might upset someone? It’s a bit like saying someone who has been in a car accident shouldn’t go out in public unless the injuries are hidden or, to take the analogy even further, that someone with a birth defect, or who looks “different” in some way, should hide away to avoid upsetting children. Of course, I’m sure no one here (indeed, most people) would ever dream of thinking this: the point I’m making is to ask why self-harm is seen as so different? Why, because it looks as if someone has injured themselves, should they have this responsibility for the thoughts of those around them? The more you stigmatise something, the more problematic it is going to be for the person concerned (and the less likely, perhaps, that they will be able to stop doing it), and the more likely it is going to continue to upset others because they are encouraged to see such behaviour as “wrong” and to make judgments about the person concerned in other ways.

    That said, the festival story is deeply troubling. With friends like those…!

  • Jules

    Thank you for your comments, Christian. It’s great to hear different thoughts and opinions and to get people talking about self-injury.

    I’m going to be writing an article on ‘choice’. You’re concerned by my opinion that self-injury is a choice. I’m concerned by your opinion that it isn’t.

    How would you feel about contributing to the article and providing balance? We’ll publish a single article with both opinions.

    Or maybe there’s something else you feel strongly about surrounding the subject of self-injury? We’re always looking for people to contribute to our blog, so if you’re interested in writing for us please get in touch

  • Christian

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s not about some inconsiderate exhibition. As I said, I make an effort to make it inconspicuous, as much as anything because I work with (at times) vulnerable people, and I will also ensure that children are not upset. But who I am is who I am, and my style of dress or hair has offended people before (for some reason I don’t quite understand) and I don’t see that I should have to cover something just because someone else doesn’t like it, any more that I should not have studs on my belt ‘cos someone else doesn’t like it (though to continue an analogy I do not wear a studded belt at work). In a situation where I have to modify my appearance I will do so, but in my day to day life where I am (to use the work example) not being paid to be a certain person its my business. I don’t go out of the way to offend, but iof someone is offended by what I am that is their issue to deal with, I don’t shove it in their face (be that clothes, scars or wounds) but they are the one with the problem not me.
    And I am a bit confused/concerned by the comment that self injury is a choice. If so I could ‘choose’ to never do it again, surely…? But I can’t as has been proven by the fact that after some pretty painful life events I have done so again…
    about a minute ago.
    And looking at the end of this which wasn’t on the facebook, that almost seems to me like you are suggesting that worrying about others should be a part of what we choose to to about our own self harm – that goes against what I believe that it is a personal thing that is not anyone’s business. Empowerment is about knowing what is ok for you!

  • Jules

    Perhaps covering up fresh wounds is less about ‘caring what anyone thinks’ and more about showing respect to other people (including children) who probably don’t want to come face to face with your wounds in the supermarket (for example).

    As you point out, we have a choice as to where we self-injure, and indeed self-injury itself is a choice (yes, it *really* is). With choice comes responsibility, and I believe that we have a responsibility to consider and respect other people.

    Only by accepting responsibility for our choices / behaviours / actions and by taking responsbility for the affect those choices have on ourselves and on others, can we become self-empowered enough to make healthier choices and seek a happier life.

  • Christian

    I have never hidden my scars, or indeed my wounds for fear of what anyone thinks. That is their problem. The girl you describe is a very sad situation that someone (her or her friends) should feel like that, but I don’t quite get the difference between wounds that are fresh, or old scars? I take care of any injuries I do to myself and (as someone who has regrettably just broken 6 years of managing not to harm) have had the presence of mind to ensure that anything recently is in a place that will be covered by a short sleeved shirt, but sometimes a bandage can be as much inciting comment as anything else anyway. And at some point wounds actually need air to heal.

    And sadly, in the nearly 18 years that I have (on and off) hurt myself I have not met ONE single healthcare professional who was sympathetic. The only one who came close to not patronising me was the one who refused to discuss it and just doped my up on Diazepam, which helped short term, but just ended up being a drug of abuse for me.

    If any of my friends see my scars/cuts and want to help it will be gratefully accepted, if any stranger comments they will be told to do one (though probably less politely) than I will post on a public forum.

  • Wedge

    It wasn’t suggested in this blog article that anyone has to wear long-sleeves. It’s great that we can all see the value in dressing wounds, and recognise that choosing to have scars on view is a personal choice. A choice we support either way.

    It’s a great idea to talk to a healthcare professional or someone who cares for you about self-injury and the issues behind it. We all deserve help and support. We don’t have to talk directly about SI, we can talk about the things that get us down, the things that drive us to hurt ourselves and the things we’d like to see changed so we can cope better.

    It’s great to have help and support; FirstSigns wants people to be able to talk about emotional health and self-injury without stigma.

  • Anonymous

    At the same time though, why should people *have* to wear long-sleeved tops on a really hot day just because it’ll look like ‘attention seeking’? I agree that the wounds should be dressed though, unless they’re not serious enough to need dressing in which case I don’t see the problem with having them in sight. I’ve never done it myself but don’t have a problem with people who do!

    Also, re: show them to someone who loves/cares about you/health professional- sometimes people might just want help from a stranger. A lot, if not the majority of people feel uncomfortable talking to family & friends about SI and they might not be ready to seek professional help yet so what’s wrong with getting help from someone else?


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