**Trigger Warning** If you struggle with self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Samaritans on 116 123 (UK) or 1-800-SUICIDE (US)
Mental illness and self-harm are talked about in the same sentence more often than eggs are to bacon. Sadly, mental illness is usually thought about after someone’s self-harm has become apparent to the outside world.
While it can be painful to watch someone suffer in this way, it’s not too late to help. But is self-harm as easy to spot as checking their wrists from time to time? No.
In reality, depressed individuals find it hard to talk about their depression and would rather other people don’t know. They don’t want to seem annoying, like a burden or an attention-seeker. They’ve become expert white-liars to hide their emotions from others. They laugh when all they want to do is cry. I know, because I do this too.
Those who self-harm don’t always take a knife to their veins. Some of us are afraid of pain. Self-harming can sometimes be done in the most inconspicuous way. Ever noticed a colleague who never takes lunch? Or goes and sits alone? Maybe they’re starving themselves.
When I was 12 or 13 I stopped eating. My mum made me lunch every day for school, but because I didn’t have anyone to sit with at lunch because I was being bullied, I’d leave my lunch in my bag and not eat. I didn’t look after myself. So I harmed myself by not eating.
Some people choose addictive substances over rational logic. They know it won’t make them better, but they make a choice to actively harm their bodies with alcohol, drugs or even gambling. Do you see these new characteristics in anyone?
While it might not show physical scars on the outside, the internal effects of addictive substances is enough to class it as self-harming. Some people are afraid of pain and death, but want the suffering to stop. So numbing the pain with such substances is enough for them to silence their minds. This is only a temporary relief however, and ultimately does more harm than good. Make sure to keep an eye on loved ones who’s dependency on alcohol and addictive substances grows suddenly over time. They could be fighting a war inside their minds.
The other side of the spectrum is where someone will punish themselves by physically inflicting pain on themselves. This can be in the form of hitting themselves or trying to break their own bones. Sometimes they want to take the physical pain or frustration away and hitting themselves provides a temporary release or a way of non-verbally expressing their emotions. Either way, it’s still causing them harm.
Look for manifestations of self-harm wherever you can. They won’t all be obvious. But the sooner you can identify them, the sooner you can get your loved one help by encouraging them to visit their GP or talking to a mental health charity such as Mind. A problem shared is a problem halved after all.