Never is written on my inner right thigh. It is not printed in ink; it is embedded in the flesh, written in scar tissue. I remember how I got this scar because I remember cutting the word into my skin.
March 1st is Self Injury Awareness Day – the goal is to discuss the realities of self injury and reduce stigma for those who are affected by self injury. Self Injury is still surrounded by myth, taboo and limited understanding – I hope to contribute to changing this through my own research and writing. Why? Because I self injure.
Self injury, self harm, NSSSI (non-suicidal superficial self injury), self abuse, self mutilation, cutting – the list of terms used to describe this behaviour is long and speaks to the confusion that surrounds the behaviour. For the sake of this post I will be using the term self injury. The terms I’ve listed here are what we find in academic, health and clinical literature and media. The labels that are used socially are much more problematic – emo, sicko, attention seeker, psycho, length ways not across- get it right… these labels can all be summed up in one easy term – bullshit!
Jokes about self injury, comments trivialising the behaviour and general ignorance only contribute to the shame, guilt and lack of knowledge experienced by self injurers and those that care for them. Not only do I find this reaction or treatment of the topic hurtful but I can also find it triggering*. Self injury is more common than you think yet the taboo’s still exist leaving many to continue to carry the secret and refuse to seek help when needed.
*Triggering – when using this term in relation to self injury it refers to “setting off”, something that causes the individual to want to injure themselves or to think about injuring themselves.)
Some people in my life know that I am a self injurer but I am now undertaking a discussion and investigation about my experience with self injury which is more open and in depth than I’ve ever been before. The process of doing so is incredibly confronting – not just for me but for those who know me. I do not find it easy to talk about my relationship with self injury however I think it is an important discussion to have. The literature that does exist comes from a psychological, medical, care or sociological perspective. Most accounts from self injurers themselves are anonymous and generally gathered and edited by others. Discussions of self injury in the media are often presented in a sensationalised way, we hear of the ‘epidemic’, we hear that it is a ‘youth issue’ and the behaviour may be ‘shocking’!
Self injury is surrounded by egg shells and while care and compassion is needed, pity and reference to self injurers as ‘victims’ does little to reduce stigma. Because of the stigma around self injury the internet has always been an important resource for both information and support. I found internet forums particularly useful when I first began seeking help. I am now combining my research into social media and the self with my personal experience with self injury and refocusing my PhD in an effort to raise awareness and fill the gabs in the literature to help create understanding – not just for others but also for myself.
Here are two links that provide a general overview about self injury (more broadly discussed as self harm):
These links are a starting point. Understanding self injury is not straight forward. There is still a lot of research to be done. Therefore the purpose of this post is awareness. Be aware of how you think about self injury, how you engage in discussion of self injury how you react to self injury – be this as someone who self injures, someone who treats self injurers, someone who knows someone who self injures or someone who knows nothing about self injury… if you don’t understand self injury don’t make assumptions.
Writing this post also serves the purpose of my own self awareness. Embarking on a project where I am discussing my own experience is challenging. I have to confront my own fears and preconceptions of how I will be viewed and treated. I am opening myself to criticism, subjecting myself to material that will be upsetting and testing my own abilities to care for myself.
I am asking you the reader to simply, be aware:
If you know me personally be aware that I am undertaking this testing project. Ask me questions if you have any. Be aware that I will need your continued support throughout this project.
If you are a self injurer I hope you have a strong support network. Do try and seek support in a way that you are comfortable with. There are many good organisations online or alternatively talk to your GP or call a help line. You are not alone. I am not seeking research participants for my work but am happy to receive feedback and suggestions of resources or particular issues you feel need to be addressed in the discussion of self injury.
Do you want to start talking about your self injury? Read this:
What can you do if you know someone who self injures? Firstly don’t treat them differently, don’t try to fix them, don’t try and control their behaviour and don’t treat them as fragile. You need to operate within your abilities. Simply ask them if you can do anything to support them, encourage them to seek professional help if necessary (or willing), basically let them know that you care about them, respect them and if they need to talk you will listen without judgement.
Know someone who self injures and want to help? Read this:
Want to know more about my story?
You can stay informed about my research via this blog or by liking my facebook page https://www.facebook.com/belindawrites
I can also be found on
IMPORTANT – Please note: I am a creative writer and researcher and am not trained in mental health or counselling. I am writing my first novel which features a protagonist who self injures and my exegesis will be discussing the research that accompanies this novel and my experiences reflecting on self injury, creative writing and social media. The novel is a work of fiction and not a memoir or autobiography. This is a work in progress and therefore subject to change through process.
If you need help now please contact Lifeline 13 11 14 (Australia)