Cutting, injuring, harming, or scratching oneself deliberately is a major issue that affects youth. In the majority of the cases, it is an indication of sorrow or deep misery. This negative behaviour pattern is because of a plurality of factors, such as loneliness, loss of a loved one, being a victim of abuse, school or college pressure, arguments or problems with friends or classmates, mental health issues, difficulties at home, peer pressure, and much more. It can even be considered a common act of some personality disorders. Self-harm can be non-suicidal, but it is life-threatening because we never know how deep the person will cut him/ herself, or how lethal the intake of drugs is. Self-harm can increase the chances of suicide for the individual because of more pressure, ignorance by people around, and unbearable emotional pain.
Blades, needles, scissors, knife or any pointed metallic object is used by victims of self-harm as a tool to scratch or cut themselves. It is a common belief that self-harming is an attention-seeking behaviour, but most of the self-harmers are conscious of their injuries, cuts, and scars, which makes them feel guilty for what they are doing.
Suicide is forbidden under Islamic law, according to evidence from the Qur’an, Sunnah, and Muslim scholars. The Qur’an urges believers to trust in the Almighty, have faith in His mercy, have patience, and not to destroy one’s own life. “Nor kill (or destroy) yourselves: for verily Allah hath been to you Most Merciful!” The Qur’an, An-Nisa (4:29)
What can be the cause of self-harm?
We cannot paint everyone with the same brush; hence, a general reason cannot be quoted as to why people harm themselves. There can be different reasons for different individuals. It may be because of a lack of understanding or communication, some may think that it is the only way to relieve anxiety and depression. Such people try to overcome their mental pain by physically hurting themselves, making them feel numb, the pain that makes them feel suicidal, and the pain that they feel is unbearable emotionally. Any recent traumatic experience, bullying, breakup, sexual assault, or feeling that one cannot take all the sadness anymore, can be considered among the reasons that push people to harm themselves physically. People may have difficulty being social or sharing their emotions with people around, or they may feel lonely even amidst a crowd; the feeling of being separated is what makes them hurt themselves. There may be a history of self-harming, which becomes an addiction later on.
Self-hatred can also be one reason for self-harming. The victim might develop hate for himself/ herself for being different than other people, underestimating themselves for not being capable of doing things like other people, or feeling uglier than other people.
How can we at a personal level
help such people?
In the first place, we have to stop shaming, blaming, making people in our day-to-day lives feel guilty for the small mistakes they make because we never know what one might be going through emotionally. Try to socialise with people, listen to them, and understand what they are going through instead of making fun of other peoples’ emotions. Being a confidential listener without sharing their personal issues in public will make them feel better. If self-harming has become an addiction for them, take them to a psychiatrist or a professional person who has gone through the same, who can really help them.
We can encourage them by reminding them of their capabilities and responsibilities, which might make them feel responsible and capable of being alive. Make them busy by indulging in productive activities like learning a new language, cooking, baking, crocheting or any stuff that they like, or take them out of the station where they can forget all their worries or a place where they feel they are equally important, like volunteering activities. If you find anyone talking about self-harm or they have attempted to kill themselves, do not take it lightly. Try to approach that person personally and try to offer the best kind of help.
How did I overcome the habit of
Years ago, when I was in higher secondary school, I had become habitual to self-harm. It had become a habit to harm myself physically after every emotional pain. The main reason for my scars used to be social networking sites, where I found people hurting themselves in different ways to get over emotional traumas. The more emotional pain I had, the more physical pain I gave to myself to become numb and cancel out the pain. Fighting with friends, colleagues, parents, or loneliness used to terrify me and make me hurt myself more. Eventually, all these scars drifted me to end my life in 2019; I couldn’t resist the sudden feeling of being away from home and the college pressure. I consumed a handful of medicines to end my life. It was a near-death experience. I woke up after 24 hours, and I couldn’t believe I was alive after eating so many medicines. I was saved because my friends rushed me to the hospital, where doctors washed my stomach.
I was gifted with a new life. When I woke up, I realized what actually should matter and what not. This incident taught me that life is full of happiness, which we usually deny. After the incident, everyone began to point at my character. The ones who didn’t even know me started tagging me with baseless labels, which made my vision clearer: it taught me who really loves me and who is just showing fake love. Things turned out well after this incident, and I came to realize that sorrows are not the end of life. After overcoming anxiety, depression, and pain, I realized these are just the part of life that gives you some opportunities to change your life, giving you ample time to think about what is going wrong and how to fix it.
Believe in yourself that you can overcome any period of your life with these simple tips. Set your goals, don’t let your emotions control who you are, choose everything wisely, stay calm and focus on yourself. Most importantly, listen to what people have to say but don’t let people interfere in your decisions. Stay in the company of motivating people, people who make you realise your importance. Also listen to yourself and understand your needs.
There is a specific day for Self-Harm Awareness, on March 1, but instead of creating awareness on one day, as an individual we should help our friends as well as our close ones every time. It’s important to understand that we won’t always feel the way we do today. Remember that change is the only constant, and the difficulties that are leading people to self-harm can, with assistance and support, become more bearable over time and go away. Things can and do get better.
(Various self-harm helpline numbers in India: 7893078930, 18005990019, 18602662345, 09820466726, 18002333330, 18002333330)
—The writer is a student of B.E Civil Engineering at SSM College of Engineering. [email protected]