Monday, March 1 is Self-Injury Awareness Day—an annual day of observance to drive awareness of self-harm. This global event is designed to help people understand why young adults engage in self-injury behavior and how to help them.
What Is Self-Injury?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines self-directed violence as anything a person does that can intentionally cause injury to themselves. The Crisis Text Line lists the most common types of self-harm as:
- Carving words or symbols into the skin
- Hitting or punching oneself (including banging one’s head or other body parts against another surface)
- Piercing the skin with sharp objects such as hairpins
- Pulling out hair
- Picking at existing wounds
Why Is Understanding Self-Injury More Important Now Than Ever Before?
Understanding the signs of self-injury, why students inflict self-harm, and how to provide the necessary support are becoming increasingly critical, as the COVID-19 pandemic and related isolation seem to have taken their toll on students. A CDC report indicated that U.S. emergency room mental health-related visits for children ages five to 11 and 12 to 17 increased approximately 24% and 31%, respectively, from April through October 2020 compared to the same time frame in 2019.
Gaggle has also observed some troubling trends, including a 66% increase in student safety incidents and an 83% increase in the volume of threats of suicide and self-harm in the first three months of the 2020–21 school year when compared to the same time frame in the 2019–20 school year. You can find this data and other concerning student safety trends in our Ring the Alarm: Students in Crisis special report.
What Can You Do to Protect Your Children or Students?
“Monitoring indicators of children’s mental health, promoting coping and resilience, and expanding access to services to support children’s mental health are critical during the COVID-19 pandemic,” states the CDC report. If you’re looking for ways that you can help observe Self-Injury Awareness Day, please consider these actions:
- Read: The Crisis Text Line offers helpful self-harm content, including a definition, the symptoms, ways to deal with it, why people do it, the effects, and recovery.
- Watch: Dr. Lisa Strohman, an expert on student mental health and the founder of Digital Citizen Academy, discusses cutting—a destructive habit that involves self-injury and self-harm—and details reasons why students cut, the various triggers, and how educators can help in our Student Wellness Series webinar on cutting.
- Show: You can demonstrate your support and help educate others by wearing an orange ribbon on Self-Injury Awareness Day. Teen Talk, a youth health education program, suggests drawing butterflies or writing the word “love” on your arm as additional ways to show your support.
Given the uptick in mental health-related ER visits and the volume of suicide and self-harm threats measured by the CDC and Gaggle, it’s important that we understand self-harm, reduce the stigma associated with it, and help students obtain the mental health assistance they need.