What is self-harm?
Self-harm is the intentional and deliberate hurting of oneself that is most commonly done by cutting or picking at skin as well as by burning, hitting or otherwise physically causing bodily harm.
Individuals who self-harm will often have cuts or burns on their arms, legs, thighs, stomach or other parts of their body. They often try to downplay or make excuses for the cuts and wounds and hide them by wearing baggy or loose clothes or long sleeves. Individuals who self-harm may also isolate themselves or avoid social situations. They may spend extended periods of time locked in the bedroom or in the bathroom.
Self-harming is a form of coping. People who self-harm use it as a way to deal with their overwhelming emotions and/or problems. Self-harming can often be confusing for the individual doing it. Commonly they don’t want to be harming themselves but know no other way to deal with their emotions and/or situations.
Self-harming feels like it helps for different people in different ways. Self-harming behaviors stimulate the body to produce endorphins or “feel good” chemicals. For some, it relieves them of their anxiety. For others, it reassures them that they are alive as they experience the pain. For still others, it brings them back to reality when they have felt disconnected or out of touch from reality. And for others, it is a way to stop feeling their overwhelming emotional pain and instead focus their attention on the pain they feel when they self-harm.
How can Chantal Kayem help self-harm?
It does not help to ask someone to simply stop self-harming. As mentioned, the reason they are self-harming is because that is the only way they know how to deal with their emotions at the time.
First, Chantal Kayem encourages the individual who is self-harming to talk about their thoughts, feelings and behaviors, providing a safe, empathetic and understanding listening ear to express themselves. She teaches them strategies to help them to understand their emotions and why they occur and gives them alternative strategies to deal with their distressing emotions or situations. The result is that the individual learns to use other more effective behaviors to cope with their difficult emotions and the self-harming as a result decreases.
Suicide and Self-harm
Many people think that if one is self-harming, they are also at risk of committing suicide. Suicide and self-harm are however completely different and do not typically go hand and hand. Rather, people who self-harm actually use it as a form of coping, an attempt to deal with life and to survive rather than to escape from life as is the case of suicide.