, , , , , , , , , , ,

Dear Readers,

As much as I wish to educate people on what self-harm is really about, I must argue that the topic has become much more prevalent.  Despite more attention, self-harm is not a new problem.  Although documentation of historic self-mutilation isn’t abundant, what exists has very similar characteristics to the behavior we see today.  The Greek Playwright, Sophocles, alive four centuries before the common era, wrote of a son, Oedipus, blinding himself out of immense guilt.  Self-injury can also be a part of religious rituals.  Whether to be taken literally or not, the gospel chapters of the Holy Bible state that any portion of one’s body that leads him into sin should be cut off or gouged out.  Some Christians would cut or starve themselves during the middle ages.  And it’s hard not to recall the infamous tale of Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh amputating his own ear.

So it’s been a problem that has never quite died off.  But what exactly is it?  It comes with an array of titles: self-harm, self-injury, self-mutilation, self-inflicted violence, self-injurious behavior, self-abuse, and anything that pertains to hurting one’s own body. Cutting is the most common form of self-injury, but it is only one of its many manifestations. Individuals have been known to cut or scratch themselves with any type of sharp object, burn themselves with cigarettes or fire, interfere with the body’s natural healing processes, hit oneself directly or other objects, insert objects into skin such as staples or needles, purposely break bones, and even, as insignificant as it sounds, pull hair.  The definition has wandered back and forth, but commonly self-harm is classified as suicidal or non-suicidal.  As the name states, suicidal self-injury would be harm deliberately done to kill oneself.  On the flip side, non-suicidal self-harm often serves as means of coping.  Unfortunately, those who engage in non-suicidal may accidentally kill themselves.

In my next post I will discuss motivations for self-harm and those who engage in this behavior.

Until next time,

The Empathetic Activist