G2SI: Introduction

Self-injury

Self-injury (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Self injury is a serious, and relatively common problem. Women and men, children, teenagers and adults self injure, and it can happen to anyone, from any race, background or culture. A study suggested that between 4.6% and 6.6% of the UK population had self injured although this may be an under-reporting as another study showed that 15% of children aged 15 or 16 had self injured, with 7% of them having done so in the past year. [1]

This Guide is meant to engage with self injury from a Christian context. There are few resources around for Christians who want to understand self injury – I will be pointing out those resources I have been able to find – and the church remains a place where the self injurer (or anyone with a mental disorder) is likely to face stigma and discrimination based on our understanding, not only as members of our society, but as Christians, of self injury.

I myself self injured, starting at age fourteen and continuing for a number of years. I would describe myself as being in recovery from self injury – I have gone some time without doing it, but I wouldn’t describe myself as “recovered” at the present time. I still have urges to do it, and I bear numerous scars from the cutting I did.

I hope this Guide is useful, as I will engage with some Christian misconceptions about self injury (that it is forbidden in the Bible, that it is a sign of demonic possession/oppression) as well as describe what I know about it, why it happens, and things that can be done.

This is intended for everyone, whether a sufferer or not, and I welcome suggestions for how it can be improved. Either leave a comment on a page or email me at believersbrain[at]yahoo.co.uk

A note about terms: common terms for self injury include self harm, self mutilation, intentional self harm, deliberate self harm, parasuicide, attempted suicide and non fatal suicidal behaviour. Most self injurers (and many professionals) would not use terms referencing suicide when describing self injury, as part of the definition of self injury that I am using, and that most people use, is that it is without suicidal intent. The terms ‘self harm’, ‘self injury’ and ‘self mutilation’ are frequently used in books and websites. Most self injurers dislike the term ‘self mutilation’ as it gives the impression of very serious self injury, provokes negative reactions from others and does not take into account the self injury of those who do not damage the body (for example, they may bruise themselves, or otherwise cause pain without permanent damage to themselves.)

I use the term “self injury” most frequently, although I occasionally use the term “self harm”. This is simply because when I was first learning about self injury, when I first began doing it myself, most websites by sufferers used the term “self injury” rather than any other.

A note on abbreviations: I will try, in these posts, to explain abbreviations in those posts, but there are some words I am likely to abbreviate frequently. I use “SI” as an abbreviation for “self injury,” and the only other regular abbreviations I am likely to make are for the Bible version I use, where NIV stands for New International Version (2011).

References

[1] NICE, Self Harm, Guideline number 16, http://www.nice.org.uk/nicemedia/pdf/CG16FullGuideline.pdf

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Comments

  1. I just recently learned from my daughter (who is now 19) that she was cutting herself for some time a few years ago. I’m still not sure how long it went on or when she stopped. It sounded like she felt angry because the signs were right in front of us and we just “ignored” them, that she was trying to reach out for help but we didn’t respond. I tried to explain to her that I honestly had no clue she was doing that and that I felt bad that we didn’t know she was hurting. I told her it would be like someone talking to you in a strange language that you don’t know, and you just hear noise but don’t recognize it as a language or know how to interpret it because it is a language that is not familiar to you. Now that this has come out it has opened the door for us to start to repair our relationship with her, for which we are very grateful. We told her we were really proud of her for telling us and were glad she did.

    • I agree – self harm can be a sort of silent communication, there is a famous bit of verse which says ”
      How will you know I am hurting,
      If you cannot see my pain?
      To wear it on my body
      Tells what words cannot explain.”
      ~~ C. Blount
      Things get a lot better once it is out in the open, and the issues that caused it can be addressed. I haven’t self harmed anywhere near as much since I became open about it.
      Thank you very much for commenting.
      Emma

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