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Self-Harm Awareness Month (also known as Self-Injury Awareness Month) is an annual global awareness event and campaign where people make special efforts to raise awareness about self-harm and self-injury. The goal of the people who observe this event is to break down the common stereotypes surrounding self-harm and to educate medical professionals about the condition.

According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, self-harm or self-injury means hurting oneself on purpose. One common method is cutting with a sharp object, but any time someone deliberately hurts themself is classified as self-harm. Some people feel an impulse to cause burns, pull out hair or pick at wounds to prevent healing. Extreme injuries can result in broken bones.

Hurting oneself is a sign of emotional distress. Self-harm also causes feelings of shame. The scars caused by frequent cutting or burning can be permanent. Drinking alcohol or doing drugs while hurting yourself increases the risk of a more severe injury than intended. Self-harm is not a mental illness, but a behavior that indicates a need for better coping skills. Several illnesses are associated with it, including borderline personality disorder, depression, eating disorders, anxiety or posttraumatic distress disorder.

Self-harm occurs most often during the teenage and young adult years, though it can also happen later in life. Those at the most risk are people who have experienced trauma, neglect or abuse. For instance, if a person grew up in an unstable family, it might have become a coping mechanism. If a person binge drinks or uses illicit drugs, they are at greater risk of self-injury, because alcohol and drugs lower self-control. The urge to hurt yourself may start with overwhelming anger, frustration or pain. If a person doesn’t feel many emotions, they might cause themself pain in order to feel something “real” to replace emotional numbness.

Self-harm is not the same as attempting suicide. However, it is a symptom of emotional pain that should be taken seriously. If someone is hurting themself, they may be at an increased risk of feeling suicidal. It is important to find treatment for the underlying emotions.

The Curry County Suicide Awareness and Prevention Council meets monthly to coordinate services and resources related to suicide in our area. If you need assistance or request more information, go to www.SuicideAwarenessandPreventionCouncil.org or consult with your medical provider or trusted person immediately.

Tim Wilson is the superintendent of Central Curry School District 1 and member of Curry County Suicide Awareness and Prevention Council

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