Debunking the misconceptions around self-harm

We’re not attention-seekers

I still remember the first time I self-harmed. I felt desperate and alone. I’ve been clean for a while now, but it’s shocking how many people don’t know the facts about self-harm, so I’ve made it my mission to bust those false facts that you might have.

We’re doing it for attention

No one self-harms for attention. We try and cover up the parts of our body where our scars betray us. We’re not doing it for any other reason than we’re hurting and we can’t see another option. If we could cope without self-harming, we would, because no one likes to put themselves through unnecessary pain. We simply can’t see another way out.

We want to commit suicide

A lot of us don’t actually want to kill ourselves. Sometimes people think that self-harmers have tried to kill themselves many times and the scars are a reminder of a failed suicide attempt. This couldn’t be further from the truth. A lot of the time, we have so much going on in our heads that cutting is the only way to distract our minds from whatever it is we’re overthinking. Sometimes focusing on physical pain actually relieves the emotional and psychological pain that we’re going through and eases the mental burden that we carry around.

We have scars, therefore you can comment on them and touch them

If we’re wearing something that shows our scars, it doesn’t give you the right to ask 21 questions about them. It may have taken a lot of courage for us to wear something more comfortable. We’re often ashamed of our scars so it’s a big deal if we show them. You can take us to the side and perhaps ask us, but that depends on the individual and your relationship with them.

As a general rule of thumb, don’t ask. It’s invasive and it will make us focus on them more so we won’t be able to enjoy whatever we’re doing. And certainly do not touch them, under any circumstances.

We’re not doing anything to help our mental health

Many people think that we’re not handling our mental health problems because we’re self-harming, which simply isn’t true. Many of us are taking medication, have therapy sessions and are seeing doctors for treatment, among many other things. Sometimes life takes its toll on us and there’s a specific trigger or event that takes us by surprise and we deal with it the only way we know how to: self-harm

Self-harm is only cutting/harming your skin with a sharp object

Self-harm is not always so evident. Whilst a majority of self-harmers do cut themselves, there is a large proportion of people who use drugs, alcohol, sex or legal highs as a form of self-harm. This type of self-harm is a lot harder to diagnose as it’s hard to find out who is genuinely taking such substances for fun and who is taking them as a form of hurting themselves from the inside out. Eating disorders can also be seen as a form of self-harm.

We have no self-respect

We do have self-respect. That’s not up for discussion. Not harming yourself and not respecting yourself have nothing to do with one another.

We like self-harming

No one likes harming themselves. We do it because we’re desperate. We don’t get any pleasure from it. We don’t like seeing ourselves bleed, or wearing clothing that covers us from head to toe in the sweltering heat out of fear that someone may see our scars. We genuinely see no other way to relieve ourselves from the psychological warfare occurring in our minds, so we self-harm.

You can do what you want to us because we misuse our bodies

Under no circumstances can you do what you want with someone else’s body, even if they are self-harming. You don’t have rights over our bodies. We self-harm, but that doesn’t mean you have a right to do anything to us. We self-harm, but it doesn’t mean we don’t respect our bodies.

We have a very complicated relationship with our bodies and we’re still trying to figure it out. So respect the fact that whilst we are hurting ourselves, you have no right to do the same.

We still value our bodies, even if we don’t always love them.