Self-Injury Awareness Day (SIAD)—also known as Self-Harm Awareness Day—is a globally recognized awareness day that is observed every year on March 1st. Self-injury is a sobering reality for millions of people around the world, including about 2 million people in the United States alone. SIAD aims to shine a light on this growing issue and help everyone better understand the complexities behind self-harm and how to support those around us who are struggling with it. Keep reading to learn more about this important awareness day and how to help.
- What Is Self-Injury?
- Why Would Someone Self-Harm?
- Signs of Self-Injury
- Why Self-Injury Day?
- What to Do and How to Show Support
- Final Thoughts
What Is Self-Injury?
Self-injury (i.e., self-harm) is the action of hurting yourself on purpose. These self-inflicted injuries can come in many forms, but some of the most common include the following:
- Cutting and/or piercing the skin with sharp objects
- Carving words or symbols into the skin
- Burning the skin with small flames or hot objects
- Pulling hair out
- Picking at scabs or wounds, preventing them from healing
- Inserting objects under the skin
- Hitting yourself or intentionally falling
Approximately 15% of teens and 17–25% of young adults have self-harmed in their lifetime. It is important to note that self-injury is not intended to result in suicide, but those who self-harm are 3.5 times more likely to attempt suicide than their peers who have not self-harmed.
Why Would Someone Self-Harm?
Some good news is that self-harm is not a mental illness but is most commonly caused by poor or underdeveloped coping skills. This plays a large part in why the majority of people who self-harm are young. But why is this good news? Because those that are self-harming can make full recoveries after treatment and therapy.
Briefly, some reasons someone would self-harm include:
- to punish themselves
- to distract themselves
- to try to manage stress and anxiety
- to feel a sense of control
Those who inflict self-injury are usually trying to cope with neglect, trauma, depression, and abuse in their personal lives and do not understand how to process these traumatic events in a healthy way. This is especially true for young people who may have grown up in an abusive environment where they learned not to express their needs or emotions out of fear or neglect. Instead, these young people learned to take out their frustrations and anger on themselves, using pain and injury to feel a release. Sometimes the feeling of pain will force the body to release endorphins and hormones meant to help cope with the pain, thus giving the person a sense of emotional relief—however short-lived.
Signs of Self-Injury
It is important to remember that those who self-harm are not doing it to seek attention; actually, it is quite the opposite. Those who are in the habit of self-injuring get very good at hiding their actions and any evidence on their bodies. Sometimes it can be difficult to see the physical damage unless you know how to look closely for the physical and behavioral indicators.
Here are some things to pay attention to that may be signs of self-harm:
- always wearing long sleeves and/or pants regardless of the weather
- increase of bruises, scratches, bitemarks, burns, or other injuries
- talk of hopelessness, unworthiness, helplessness, or distress
- fresh or old scars (often in patterns)
- always keeping sharp objects close-at-hand
- impulsive and often unpredictable behavior
Why Self-Injury Day?
Self-Injury Awareness Day is a globally recognized day created to increase awareness and encourage support and resources for those struggling with self-harm. The goal of Self-Injury Awareness Day is to make meaningful changes in the lives of those who are vulnerable to self-injury and to those around them who may not know how to help them. Self-injury is a complex and complicated topic that many do not understand well enough to know how to recognize the signs, be empathetic to why someone may self-harm, or what to do about it.
National and global awareness days can go a long way in shining a spotlight on uncomfortable topics—like self-injury—that often get swept under the rug and ignored because acknowledging the reality of the issue can cause unease or even repulsion. Those who self-injure often hide their scars and injuries because of shame and guilt, only for these feelings to drive them to self-harm again. When collective awareness initiatives are put into place, the goal is to reduce these feelings of shame and encourage those struggling to seek help with a lessened fear of judgment or misunderstanding.
By helping society as a whole understand self-injury, those most at risk can better understand their urges and that there is a path to healing and recovery that does not include perpetuating the pain. Showing support and a path to recovery is the ultimate goal of social awareness and SIAD.
What to Do and How to Show Support
- Take all talk or mention of self-injury seriously. If someone you know mentions self-harm, even if it seems like a jest, take it seriously. People in pain often use humor to mask serious feelings and intentions.
- Show your support. Orange is the color of Self-Injury Awareness Day. Show support and awareness by wearing an orange ribbon on March 1st. Take the opportunity to share something you learned about self-harm support when someone asks you about the ribbon.
- Share your support. Share your support on social media by using the hashtag #SelfHarmAwarenessDay.
- Reach out. If you suspect or know someone who may be struggling with self-injury, reach out to them and make an effort to show that you care about them and what they are going through. Let them know you are there—without judgment—when they feel the urge to self-harm, and offer to be their SOS buddy to take their call or text instead of self-harming.
- Encourage seeking help from a professional. Normalize professional psychological help by talking to those around you about the benefits of therapy. Encourage those around you struggling with self-injury, depression, or trauma to see a therapist who can help them process their emotions and learn new coping mechanisms.
- Share crisis contacts. In addition to encouraging professional help, it is important that people know who they can call or text in the moments they need it most. Share the number for the crisis text hotline available through text and WhatsApp:
Text HOME to 741741 to be put in immediate contact with a crisis counselor.
Don’t forget, observing Self-Injury Awareness Day is not only about raising awareness but about putting that awareness into action and supporting those around you who are struggling with self-injury and circumstances that may be a catalyst of these harmful behaviors. Helping those who are self-harming find the support and resources they need to recover is the end goal of awareness.
This March 1st, take the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those who are silently struggling all around you. Whether you choose to wear a ribbon, make a social media post, or talk to someone close to you who may be self-harming, do what you can to maximize the impact of Self-Injury Awareness Day and be a part of the healing.