Video » Self injurers help selves

Thirteen per cent of adolescents in Canada admit they cut, hit and burn themselves, pull their own hair, or insert objects into their bodies to cause harm to themselves. And most self injurers do not admit to it.

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) says self injury is a growing phenomenon and usually starts around puberty. It can last for 10 years or longer if left untreated. The CMHA says self injury, also called self harm or self abuse, is a result of not being to handle emotions effectively.

Looking for an outlet and to find others that are going through the same thing, self injurers are turning to social networking sites run by other self injurers. Christie Stewart, 25 and a self injurer since she was 13, has YouTube and Twitter accounts she believes fill a void left by professional sources.

“So often on professional mental health sites and at meetings, there is an impersonal feeling, like a bunch of facts being directed at you but no personal support. Forums offer the human connection, the chance to learn from each other and not rely on a list of facts or one person’s story or speech for support,” said Stewart, who does not have professional training and relies on her personal experience with self injury to help others under the online moniker of xsullengirlx.

Most self injurers are adolescents

Lillian McCrohan is a thirteen-year-old who said Stewart’s advice has helped her friend.

“She helped my friend by basically saying in her videos that the only one who can make you stop is you. Also, my friend realized people are going to treat her like she is a freak, yet you can't fight opinion with opinion. And she isn't wrong,” said McCrohan.

Stewart, who has done public speaking on the issue at youth groups and schools, realizes there can be a danger in offering amateur help to people with mental health issues.

“I do not give out just general tips on treatment, medication, therapy or resources. I tell people about what I have tried, what has worked for me and what hasn't. I also never post triggering content, especially depictions of self-injury or images. I think it's important to tell people you aren't a professional, and these are just your own experiences. I have referred many people to mental health professionals in situations I was not equipped to handle,” said Stewart, who plans to expand her reach with a website that is taking donations and should be up and running by May.

“I always wanted to reach out to people, now I know this is the direction my career path is headed in, and I am excited about it,” said Stewart.

What can I do?

The CMHA has this advice:

If you are concerned about a friend or family member, it’s OK to ask. Just talking about self injury won’t cause someone to begin hurting themselves. Before you ask, learn more about self injury. It can be shocking to find that someone you care about is deliberately harming themselves, and it can be difficult to hear what they have to say.

Offer support without judging or criticizing. Try not to blame, or react as though their behaviour is impossible to understand.

The path to good mental health may be a long one. Having realistic expectations can help both you and your loved one manage what may be a slow pace of change.

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Chris Gareau

  • User since Nov 2nd 2009, 09:03