This is the third article in the #talkingisharmless series, written to mark Self Harm Awareness Day. We hope it will raise awareness of self harm, debunk myths, and provide information on how to get help for self harm.

Myths and facts

Self harm is complex issue and as such it can often be misunderstood or misinterpreted. A number of myths have emerged around self harm, which often add to stigma and can make it more difficult for people to come forwards and ask for help. Below are some of the most common myths around self harm… and the facts!
Myth: It’s just attention seeking


Fact: For most people self harm is a very private and personal thing. Many people go to great lengths to hide their injuries. But for some people it is a way of showing others how bad things are for them and how much they need help. It is also worth considering, is it bad to want attention when you feel like you need help?

Myth: Only teenage girls self harm


Fact: Due to the private nature of self harm it is not easy to say who does it. In practice, statistics demonstrate that females will access support for self harm more readily than males. The issue of self harm is not restricted to teenagers and can affect people of all ages.

Myth: When people self harm they don’t feel the pain Fact: Sometimes when people self harm they are so distressed that they can experience what is known as a dissociative fugue. During this time people can zone out and may not be aware of what they are doing, and possibly not feel any pain.  Pain will always be felt once the dissociation wears off, and afterwards the pain may be amplified. For some people who self harm the pain is what distracts them and gives them relief from their emotional distress.

Myth: People who self harm are suicidal Fact: People who self harm may feel suicidal, but the two do not come hand in hand.  Self harm is a person’s attempt to temporarily survive and feel better whereas suicide is a permanent end to life.

Myth: The severity of the self harm reflects the severity of the person’s problem Fact: Everyone has different levels of resilience and so what seems severe to one person may not to another. It is important to take a person seriously regardless of how severe their injuries are.  Never assume that a person’s problems are not serious because their wounds are not.

Myth: People self harm to hurt or manipulate others Fact: People self harm to express or release distressing emotions. It can be a way of showing physically how bad things are mentally, but as a way of communication rather than manipulation.

Myth: People who self harm must be told to stop Fact: Self harm is the symptom of a greater problem. Stopping a person from self harming will not make their problem go away, it will only take away their means of coping. In most cases, self harm is keeping the person alive, safe and in control. Our services work on the basis of harm minimisation and promote alternative coping strategies.

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