Understanding Self-Harm: 5 Coping Strategies

What is self-harm?

Self-harm is a tricky and complicated concept to understand. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines self-harm as an intentional act with an outcome that is non-fatal. 

It usually includes habitual behaviour which is displayed by physical harm to the body. A common notion associated with our lives relate to self-preservation, therefore something such as self-harm may be difficult to grasp (National Alliance on Mental Health, 2018). 

As individuals, we go through and grow through many challenges and experiences in our lives. These experiences and challenges we face may push us to behaviour that seems the unlikely response. This behaviour may be depicted through acts of self-harm. Self-harm is then seen as an act that has negative stereotypes associated with the concept (NAMH, 2018). 

In South Africa, research has indicated that 17% of all deaths are due to self-harm and more than half include youth between the ages of 20 to 24 years (de Wet, 2017). Given all of this information, it is important for us to understand the condition that may lead to self-harm. 

These include the inability to manage emotions, to “feel” again, to cope with feelings of sadness, for relief of stress, to be in control physically and emotionally; and to cope with past trauma (NAMH, 2018). 

The point of this post is to equip you with the basic knowledge of self-harm. Something that could assist you with being able to identify this act in a loved one, friend, peer and so forth.

5 Coping Strategies

It is important to identify coping strategies for dealing with self-harm or someone you know that exhibits behaviour of self-harm. These strategies have been identified by the National Alliance on Mental Health.

ONE — Confide in someone you know and trust

This could be a friend, family member, teacher etc. Opening up to someone could help you to process your emotions and feelings in a more logical manner.

TWO — Seek professional guidance from a healthcare professional. 

Speaking to a professional would give you more insight into the emotional aspect to self-harm. That’s where HG comes in …

THREE — Identify your triggers

It is important to identify what triggers you to feel the need to physically harm yourself. Once you identify these triggers, you could substitute these urges with positive functions that could move your attention from the negative urge to self-harm. Keep a journal to take note of these triggers as this allows for self-awareness.

FOUR — Find new coping techniques 

Techniques such as journaling, a new hobby, listening to music or anything that could help you to relax.

FIVE — Exercise regularly

Exercising regularly is proven to relieve stress.

For more information on self-harm and prevention, please visit www.helpguide.org

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