Self-harm: a dangerous beast

By The Beacon | February 27, 2014 1:39am

Rebekah Markillie |

March 1 is Self-Injury Awareness Day. It’s a day where people across the globe wear orange ribbons, draw butterflies and write ‘love’ on their arms to bring light on the issue of self-harm.

I’ll start with a personal anecdote. I’ve never written about my experience with self-harm, but I figured I might as well start now. I first self-harmed midway through my sophomore year in high school after a considerably difficult week. I continued off and on until the end of my junior year. I stayed clean from the blade and my fists until I relapsed during fall break last semester and as of right now I’ve been harm-free for about a month.

There are a lot of misconceptions about what self-harm is and what it means. According to Lifesigns, an online network devoted to raising awareness about self-injury, self-harm is a non-suicidal behavior that inflicts physical harm on your body. It can come in all kinds of forms including hair pulling, burning, eating disorders, cutting, promiscuity and drug and alcohol abuse.

There is a key word there: non-suicidal. Self harm is a coping mechanism that people use to feel internal, emotional pain physically.

The Canadian Mental Health Association website says, “People who self-injure are not trying to kill themselves. Usually, they are not trying to end all feeling; they are trying to feel better.”

I agree with that. I harmed myself because I found it was a way to relieve pressure that was building up inside of me. I wanted this intense pressure to go away so I could be normal and not have to worry about breaking down.

However, self-harm is only a temporary fix that over time only causes more problems.

Self-harm is addictive. Once you relieve the pressure once, you’ll want to do it again. According to the Center for Disease Control, repetition increases about four percent after every event.

Self-harm is dangerous. People are hospitalized for “cutting too deep,” needing blood transfusions and stitches, drug overdoses and alcohol poisoning.

Self-harm is unhealthy. The point is to love our bodies and who we are, as trite as that sounds. It can also be symptomatic of larger underlying problems like borderline personality disorder and depression.

But self-harm is not something to be glorified or encouraged. Self-harm is a beast. It warps the way you think and it festers in your mind. It can ruin relationships and can hurt people who are close to you.

And to students who are also facing a battle against self-harm, my heart goes out to you. My advice is that you tell someone you trust about it. That’s scary and impossible sounding, I know, but telling someone was the best thing I could have done. Once you do that it’s really up to you to find healthy coping methods. Our campus has resources, counselors and resident priests who are available to help and listen. Your friends and family are also there to support and encourage you. Every time you stop yourself is a fight you’ve won.

The ball is in your court. You are in control. You can keep that butterfly alive.

Rebekah Markillie is a freshman nursing major. She can be reached at