The Truth About Non-Suicidal Self-Injury: 5 Myths and Facts, Originally Posted on The Huffington Post by Peggy Andover Ph.D.

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Ten things not to say to a suicidal person


In July 2011 I wrote a post entitled, “Ten things not to say to a depressed person.” It was the first piece on this blog to attract a large audience and I own much of my blogging success to that post and its companion piece, “Ten supportive things I’m glad somebody said to me.”

I’ve decided the time is right for a similar piece on dealing with suicidal people (although I’m definitely not expecting the same number of readers for this post!). Suicidal thoughts have been a problem for me since around Christmas and the wide variety of responses I’ve received to my blogs and tweets, along with training to be a Mental Health Instructor, have given me cause to think about how people respond to individuals they know to be suicidal. A common response is feeling that they must throw some logic at the problem. What people don’t…

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Dark Secrets, Scars & Stigmas

I’m glad someone finally said this. I’m experiencing something similar, where many people say that people self-harm for attention. Thanks for posting this!!!

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Misconceptions about self-harm #2

#2 Only pre-teen, females self-harm.

For some reason, many believe that self-harm affects female exclusively.  Self-harm, like alcoholism, bulimia, drug addictions, etc,. does not only affect young people of a certain gender. Triggers can happen to anyone at any age, and reasons that people self-harm can manifest at any age.

*About 30-40% of people who self-harm are males. While this is a small percentage compared to females, it shows that self-harm does not occur JUST  among females.

Here are the results from the National Self-Harm Network survey (390 respondents) –> survey includes both males and females.

Under 16
17 – 25
26 – 34
35 – 44
45 – 54
55 – 64
65 plus
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Living For Yourself: Why It’s OK to be Selfish

As I’ve struggled with self-harm for many years,  I’ve realized that when I have relapsed, it was because I had no one to go to (for the most part).  I didn’t have anyone to talk me out of it, distract me, or to just unload to and share my burdens with. This caused a vicious cycle; I’d have the urge to cut, would do it because I didn’t have anyone, feel guilty afterwards, and cut again because of the guilt and the utter loneliness that I felt.

It was like I was drowning, and I could see the surface, but something kept pulling me down and there was nothing to grab onto to prevent it.

I had an epiphany the other day: I’m really not all that alone.   Sure, I don’t have forty friends or anything, but there are still people in my life that I can trust and who know about my self-harming.  This is not a new admission. I suddenly didn’t get a few friends over-night. There have always been a few people there for me from when I started self-harming in 10th grade, til now. And in that epiphany, I realized that I didn’t have to put myself through the torturous cycle of this loneliness and despair. I have my sister, who is my best friend, two friends who know what I’m going through, acquaintances that I could talk to, and even classmates who have reached out to me when they read my blog. So I asked myself “Why didn’t I go to any one of these people when I had the urge to cut? I probably wouldn’t have done it if I had had someone there.”

It’s because I hate inconveniencing people.  I hate asking people of things. If I needed 50 cents to do laundry, I would go with smelly clothes until I could find the money myself because I hated asking someone for something, even such a miniscule amount of money.  It’s actually really bad, there have been a lot of things in my life that I had to make do without or had to find a round-about way of achieving something because I hate asking people for things. People have walked all over me throughout my life because of it, and I never told them to stop because I didn’t want to bother them.

For those who have read my previous posts, you know that I’ve been struggling with relapse recently, and as I said earlier, it was hard for me to stop because I felt like I didn’t have anyone. I would be fighting the urge, sitting on my bed crying with a utensil in my hand, scrolling through my phone contacts to see who I could call and who could just help me.

It got to a point where I realized that I hated feeling like this. I hated feeling lonely and like there wasn’t anyone who could help me or talk to me, when I clearly had people that were willing to do so.

I’m still struggling with trying to actually do this, but I’m going to give someone a call next time I have the urge to hurt myself.  I’m always worried about inconveniencing someone and don’t want to burden them with my problems, but I’m going to be selfish and put my needs first. Those who know about what I’m going through probably won’t think it’s an inconvenience, and have often said that they are willing to just listen if I need a shoulder to cry on.

So, if you’re like me, try not to stress about calling someone just to talk. If they are a good friend/family, or anyone who knows about your self-harm, they are more than willing to help you and want you to get better. They care about your well-being and won’t mind being interrupted if it means that they can help talk you out of hurting yourself. I’m going to be selfish and ask for their help, because I know that it might prevent me from doing something that is harmful to me. And if it is inconveniencing them, I will find a way to repay and thank them later for their time.  I need to put my mental health and well-being first, and I would advise anyone else to do the same. You do what you have to do to get better, and others will understand.

If you don’t have anyone you feel like you can really turn to, check out It’s a great place where you can vent or lend an ear anonymously.

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Misconceptions about self-harm: #3

#3 All people who self-injure have “Borderline Personality Disorder.

People who engage in repetitive self-injury have reported being diagnosed with depression, bipolar disorder,

anorexia, bulimia, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and/or anxiety and panic disorders.

However, many who self-injure may not have any diagnosable disorder at all; a recent study by Cornell found that almost half of college students with current self-injurious behavior show no other identifiable mental illness.

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Misconceptions about self-harm: #4

#4: Self-injury is untreatable.

From the Cornell Research Program on Self-Harm: “Although self-injury can be difficult to control or stop, most people who practice it  are able to stop at some point. There is, however, no “magic bullet”in the treatment of self-injury, as the behavior is most often a symptom of any of a variety of other underlying issues. Cognitive Behavioral therapies, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, and Group or Family therapy are those therapies most commonly used to treat self-injury.Anti-depressants or other psychiatric medications are also used to treat underlying depression or anxiety. Some who self-injure also successfully stop on their own, without ever seeking formal help. Because it is most often used as a coping mechanism, however, the practice of self-injury typically does not stop until the individual who uses it has other methods to cope and is fully ready to stop self-injuring –regardless of the treatment approach used.”

Previous #8                                 Next #10


***Misconceptions ranked and titled through a survey of friends, family, and classmates. the Cornell program happened to have an answer to one of the misconceptions, and explained it better than I could.

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Top Five Misconceptions About Self-Harm: #5

Hi everyone! I asked a few friends, family and classmates some questions about what they thought about self-harm, and what some misconceptions about it were. I will be posting a countdown every day, so stay tuned for that! When I am finished, I’ll post a list of all of them together.


#5. Self-harm is for “goths” and “emo people”

I won’t even go into how angry these labels and stereotypes make me. What is “goth” or “emo” anyway? Why do we associate self-injury with these two types of people? The notion of self-harm doesn’t discriminate based on age, gender, class, sexual orientation, or education level. It’s impossible to look at someone and determine if they self-injure (or not) by the way they look, or who they hang out with.


Stay tuned for tomorrow’s misconceptions! Let me know in the comments what you think about each misconception.

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Living with Scars: Finding Freedom from Self-injury by Lauren Bersaglio, Founder of Liberio Network

I love hearing other people’s recovery stories.

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When A Loved One Self-Harms

Em shares her story and gives an outside perspective on what it’s like to watch a loved one struggle with self-harm.


How did you learn about your friend’s self-harming habits?

Em: “He told me. I was 14 at the time, and he was 16. There was minor cutting on his wrists and forearms, and it had apparently gone on for a couple of years. He had gotten help when we first started dating, and stopped cutting for a while, but then started doing it again toward the end of our relationship. Only a few friends and family knew.”

What did you do in response to finding out about his self-harm?

Em: “I supported him. I understood how he felt and how difficult it could be. One of the things that caused him to self-harm was a bad relationship with his mom. I respected him for getting help and tried to take care of him and be there for him.

“He was too afraid to tell his family that he was cutting because of his mom, so he blamed it on me. He needed more help than I could give him and offer him. The blame he put on me instead of his mom strained our relationship and ultimately ended it. He wasn’t being honest, and he was pushing me away by making me feel guilty for something I hadn’t done. He took his anger towards his mom out on me.”

This was seven years ago. Have you heard anything from him recently? Do you know how he’s doing?

Em: “He seems to be doing well now.  He took a break from school after he graduated high school. Last I know, he was doing well. He got help after we broke up (I think it was a wake-up call to him). He was hurting his life in more ways than the cuts and scars.”

As someone from the outside, what do you think the misconceptions that society has about cutting/self-harm?

Em: “A lot of people see it as a method of seeking attention, but I know that in many cases, people will cut because it makes the person feel better. Instead of shaming people for it,  help that person find help and a different way to cope.

Also, many people think that this is just something that female teens/pre-teens do. There’s an equal playing field in teens for men and women. People seem to be surprised when they see a male self-harm. I think there’s a higher rate of self-harm in college, just not the type that people automatically assume (drinking, drugs, etc.)

What did you learn from this experience?

Em: “Everyone has hard times. For some people, those hard times are harder to manage than others. It doesn’t make them weak, everyone just deals with things in different ways. As much as it’s important to help those people, you also have to stay strong yourself. It’s easy to get caught up in their mind set, and that can hurt you. The best way to help them is to step back from the situation by finding a variety of outlets for them to use.”

 Advice to any other people who have a loved one that self harms?

Em: “Support them. Stay optimistic. Just because that person is going through a rough time right now, doesn’t mean you’re losing them or that they’re changing. They’re not changing who they are. It’s just a place where they are in their life;  but it’s not a place in their life where they’ll always be.”


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