I am sitting at my desk this afternoon and have been reading about self harm awareness day, which is today, so I thought it would be open to talk about experiences with self harm and observations within the workplace.
10% of young adolescents will self harm. This may sound low but when we think about it that is 2 people in each classroom that have or are self harming. Our individual relationships with mental health are very personal and our ways of expressing worry, concern, anxiousness is also very personal. We may be surprised to know that self-harm forms many faces and the feelings and emotions that are connected to each incident are different, every time.
The definition of self harm is:
Any behaviour that that causes harm or injury to someone as a way to deal with difficult emotions can be seen as self harm.
I have come across young people who goad, push, threaten, to receive the same in return, would we classed this as self-harm? I have come across young people who eat without stop buttons or restrict food is this self-harm? How about ongoing negative thoughts or self-talk? How about the more common, releasing through cutting?, what about biting the skin around the nails excessively? All of these can come under the spectrum of self-harm and all need acknowledgement and ongoing support. When faced with turmoil inside it can be so hard to clear a path for something to change as our mind and bodies become consumed with the turmoil. Opportunities for change seem very far away, unreachable, untouchable.
Self harm is not an attention seeking exercise nor is it a suicide attempt, it is a cry for help and a clear sign of internal turmoil.
Whenever I walk into a session whether this be an educational, private or voluntary I have no idea the mindset of my young ward on that day and at that moment. Some days I am privileged to be entrusted with a personal struggle or worry and on other days, the doors are shut and non-verbal approaches are our friend, listening, watching, emotionally being completely present. I question myself daily about the right approaches for support, sometimes, I go home and have to release the emotion just as my wards do and I have healthy and non-healthy ways of doing that. I acknowledge these personal challenges and continuously work on them as I have to remember, I was a young person once too and our child grows up with us, is part of us and wants to be acknowledged, supported, assisted and nurtured just as it did when it was younger. I remember this every time I come across a young person or adult who is struggling and openly listen and be present for their needs at that time.
The mental health foundation has provided a useful download for Self Harm Awareness Day a useful tool to have I believe.