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Understanding self-harm: Breaking the stigma.

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Ibiza Calm - Understanding self-harm: Breaking the stigma.
29/02/2024 | category: News

Understanding self-harm: Breaking the stigma.

Each year, globally, March the 1st marks Self-Harm Awareness Day (also known as Self Injury Awareness Day); shedding light on a complex and often stigmatised and misunderstood issue, that can affect anyone, no matter their age or gender.

Self-harm, or self-injury, is more common than most people think. Because of the perceived stigma attached, and the secrecy and shame surrounding the act itself, it can prove difficult to obtain accurate statistics – but it is thought that it could potentially affect as much as 20% of the population at some point in their lives.

By shedding light on the realities of self-harm, we can encourage open discussion, support those affected, and work towards creating a more empathetic and informed society. Self-injury not only impacts upon the individual engaging in the behaviour, but it also has ripple effects on their friends, family, and community. It is essential to recognise that anyone can be vulnerable, and that fostering an environment of understanding and support is crucial in breaking down the associated stigma.

Self-harming is a complex coping mechanism that individuals may use to deal with overwhelming feelings, pressure, or mental health challenges. It’s crucial to approach this topic with empathy and a non-judgmental mindset to better help those struggling.

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What is Self-Harm?

The terms self-harm and self-injury, refer to the act of intentionally inflicting damage to oneself; in order to cope with emotional pain, stress, or internal turmoil. It can manifest in various forms, including cutting, burning, hitting, or any other repeated low and high-risk behaviour that causes deliberate physical harm.

Common methods include –

• Cutting, slicing, scratching, piercing, or burning the skin.

• Ingesting toxic chemicals, taking tablets, or poisoning oneself.

• Pulling out their own hair.

• Abusing alcohol or drugs.

• Punching, biting, or hitting themselves.

• Under or overeating.

• Extreme or excessive exercising.

These behaviours are not normally an attempt at suicide, but a way for the person engaging in the act to deal with intense or difficult emotions – such as pain, frustration, and anger.

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In the immediate term the harm or injury may give the person a sense of relief or peace. However, this is short-lived and is often followed quickly by feelings of shame, remorse, guilt, and fear. Furthermore, the initial feeling they were trying to escape from, returns – often intensified.

Self-harm is widespread, does not discriminate, and can affect individuals of any age, gender, or background. Studies do suggest that teens have the highest rates of self-harming. The behaviour often emerges during adolescence, with the average age of the first incidence being 13 years old. (However, as said before the stigma, secrecy and shame around the condition can affect reporting, so statistics may be distorted.)

Self-injury can be a sign of a separate mental health condition such as anxiety and depression and can often occur in conjunction with these and other disorders such as substance abuse or addiction. It is believed that as many as 55% of people presenting with self-harming behaviours also struggle with an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia or binge eating.

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Potential warning signs of self-harming.

Individuals will often try to keep their self-harming a secret because of guilt or fear. Recognising the warning signs is the first step towards offering help and support. If you suspect someone is engaging in self-harming behaviours, it’s crucial to approach the situation with empathy and sensitivity. Encourage open communication, express concern, and recommend seeking professional help.

Emotional symptoms and behaviours

• Withdrawal from family, friends and loved ones, and once-enjoyed activities.

• Expressing feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, or worthlessness.

• Experiencing difficulties with low self-worth, self-esteem, or self-image.

• Questioning their identity and/or place in the world.

• Mood swings, volatility, and emotional instability.

• Feelings of guilt, shame, or disgust.

• Unpredictable and impulsive behaviours.

• An increase (or onset) of depression or anxiety.

• Spending a lot (or an increased amount) of time alone.

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Physical signs or actions

• Scarring.

• New cuts or scratches.

• Bruises, broken bones, and “unexplained” injuries.

• Patches of missing hair.

• Wearing long sleeves and trousers, especially when the weather doesn’t warrant it.

• In possession of instruments that could be used for burning, cutting, scratching, or piercing. (Lighters, knives, scissors, razors, safety pins.)

• Evidence of bloody bandages, tissues, and plasters.

• Use of alcohol and drugs.

Self-harming behaviours are often a manifestation of underlying emotional pain, trauma, or mental health issues. It is important to recognise that self-harm is not simply attention-seeking; rather, it is often a coping mechanism for individuals struggling to manage overwhelming emotions.

The good news is with therapy or counselling, and treatment for any underlying and co-occurring conditions, individuals can and do recover successfully.

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Residential rehab treatment for self-harm (and other mental health conditions).

Finding effective treatment is essential for individuals dealing with conditions like self-harm, addiction, anxiety, and depression. One comprehensive approach is residential rehabilitation, often referred to simply as “rehab.” Residential, sometimes called in-patient, rehab plays a pivotal role in addressing these and many other psychological conditions and provides individuals with the support they need to regain control of their lives.

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Residential rehab is a structured treatment setting where individuals reside temporarily to receive focused care for their mental health and addiction issues. Unlike outpatient programmes, residential rehab offers a controlled environment that ensures round-the-clock support and supervision.

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On entering an established, well-run, specialised rehab centre, residents undergo a thorough assessment that considers not only their specific mental health concerns but also the underlying factors contributing to their condition. This rounded approach allows both medical and therapeutic professionals to tailor a treatment programme to the individual’s unique needs.

Programmes often involve a combination of psychotherapy, counselling, including individual and group therapy and, in some cases, medication. Building coping mechanisms, improving emotional stability, and addressing the root causes of distress are key components of successful treatment plans.

A rehab centre with round the clock care, including 24/7 support and monitoring, ensures an immediate response to any crisis, fostering a sense of safety and stability for those struggling with self-harm, anxiety, or depression.

For those battling addiction, with a physical dependency, (this can include alcohol, prescription medicine and some street drugs) a specialised residential rehab will be able to offer a supervised medical detox.

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Residential rehab isn’t just about treating the symptoms; it’s about equipping individuals with the skills needed to navigate daily life successfully post-treatment. Life skills training helps residents develop coping mechanisms, communication skills, and strategies for maintaining mental well-being.

The sense of community within a residential rehab setting is invaluable. Residents often find solace in sharing their experiences with others who understand their struggles, fostering a supportive environment that promotes empathy and understanding. Group therapy frequently helps individuals feel less isolated and encourages them to build a healthier community and support network once they leave rehab, thus ensuring a more solid foundation for lasting well-being.

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A crucial aspect of residential rehab is the development of a personalised aftercare plan. This plan includes ongoing support, outpatient therapy, fellowship meetings, and other available resources to help individuals maintain their progress once they leave the residential setting.

Therapy often extends beyond the individual to involve family support. An established rehab centre will provide inclusive family sessions which can enhance understanding, communication, and the overall support system.

If you, or someone you love is struggling with self-harm, or any other psychological condition, asking for professional help is a crucial first step on the path to healing and recovery. Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength, healing is possible, and you don’t have to face this journey alone.

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Mental health and addiction rehab clinic in Spain.

Here at our luxury rehab centre, located on the idyllic island of Ibiza; we have a highly qualified team experienced in a range of therapies for the treatment of a variety of mental health disorders including drug abuse, alcoholism, addiction, PTSD, bipolar, anxiety, depression, and trauma.

For any information about our rehab in Spain, including details on all our programmes and admissions, please contact [email protected]


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