Self harm in itself has become a taboo subject when discussed in society. This is widely due to the lack of knowledge on the subject and general self harm awareness. It is therefore vital to understand what self harm is in order to take the right steps towards diagnosing, understanding and ultimately helping someone who self harms.
Self harm is more of an expression of internal emotional distress. The self harming however, generates a barrier between the individual and the rest of society as certain misconceptions and stigmas are attached to the issue which proves unhelpful to those who self harm. Self harm is not limited to age, ethnicity, gender or social status.
Anyone can be susceptible to this habit and recent statistics state that the UK holds one of the highest self harm rates within Europe with 400 people per 100,00 populations exhibiting self harming behaviour. Consequently, by labelling self harm as just another ‘mental illness’ we are ignoring the depths of the situation and the simple techniques which can be implemented by ourselves in order to offer self harm help.
So to answer the question, is self harming a mental illness? No it is not, but mental illness is a proven catalyst for self harming behaviour and is joined by a range of factors which are common to the everyday person. Methods which help to prevent self harm include seeking professional help such as counselling, targeting the triggers and channelling negative emotions into alternative, healthier activities. Different methods are suited to different people and can be explained by a GP or counsellor. These practical methods which people can responsibly use are far more effective than throwing individuals into the mental illness category, leading to stigmatisation. No one wants the label ‘mental illness’ attached to them unnecessarily, especially when it is not justified nor properly diagnosed, which is why it is important to properly research and talk to the right people in order to understand what self harm truly is and for you to be in a position you offer appropriate and/or relevant self harm help.