March 1st is self-injury awareness day. But not a lot of people seem to know that. A fair amount of people know when suicide awareness week is, or when sexual assault awareness week is, or that this week is eating disorder awareness week. Every year, these awareness weeks are recognized, as they should be. They address important issues and work towards the de-stigmatization and increased awareness of important mental health issues.
But self-harm awareness day? It just isn’t talked about. And that’s an issue.
1 in 5 women self-harm.
1 in 7 men self-harm.
1 in 6 teens self-harm.
You may not think you know someone who struggles with self-harm, but you do. I promise you. So why aren’t we all talking about it?
As someone with a history of struggle with self-harm I know how hard it is to talk about it. It is a scary subject and opening up about it is pretty damn hard. I can imagine that opening up about an eating disorder or sexual assault is no easier. But why do we cover those subjects in health class and sweep self-harm under the rug? What is it about self-harm that deems it unworthy of a conversation?
As a society, we don’t really know how to talk about mental health. I think that a lot of people are so scared of saying the “wrong” thing that they stay out of the conversation all together. But quite honestly, I would rather everyone get involved in the conversation and trip over their words from time to time than to not have a conversation at all.
The conversation surrounding mental health and mental illness can always and should always be being improved and built upon. In other words, I mean not to say that since eating disorders and depression are discussed in health class that we have tackled them or de-stigmatized them. What I want to emphasize is that it is time we start including self-harm in the conversation. Self-harm deserves a seat at the table.
Days after sharing my own story I received many messages. Messages from close friends and messages from people I hadn’t spoken to in years. They thanked me for sharing my story and opened up to me about their own struggles. Talking with these people changed something for me. I had heard “you aren’t alone” countless times and I knew the statistics – I knew that I knew other people who self-harmed and was just unaware of their identities. But “you aren’t alone” didn’t really hit home for me until I talked with those people who messaged me after I published my article – until I actually started to talk about self-harm. Until we started a conversation.
And so it is undeniable – everybody knows somebody who struggles with self-harm. It is a problem that touches everyone in one way or another. Leaving self-harm out of the mental health conversation isn’t benefitting anyone. We need to talk about it. And we need to start today.