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Self-Harm Awareness Day

Tomorrow is Self-Harm Awareness Day, an occasion to educate the public about self-injury and to decrease the stigma associated with this behavior. According to one study, 17% of people will use self-harm behaviors at some point in their lives, and only 50% of people seek help for this behavior. The study found that most people who use self-harm seek help from friends instead of mental health professionals.

If you or someone you love engages in self-harm behaviors, it’s important to seek professional help. A therapist can help you or your loved one figure out the reason for self-harm behaviors and identify alternative coping strategies to use in place of self-injury.

People engage in self-harm for a variety of reasons. Some people use self-harm in response to very intense emotions, while others use self-harm to feel something because they’re emotionally numb. Knowing the reason for using a certain behavior is necessary to find a more adaptive behavior to use in its place.

Some skills from Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) can be helpful when targeting self-harm. I recommend the TIPP skill to jolt you back to the present moment: using cold temperature on your face, engaging in short bursts of intense exercise, focusing on paced breathing, or using progressive muscle relaxation. All of these strategies can help bring the volume down on intense emotions and the acronym makes them easy to remember!

Additionally, I often recommend “urge surfing”, or riding the wave of an urge. Urges to use a behavior like self-harm can be really intense, but like any other urge, they will eventually pass. If you’re feeling an urge to self-harm, allow yourself to step back and observe that urge as it rises and falls. After about a half an hour (or even sooner), you may find that the wave has passed.

Finally, there are plenty of crisis resources available to those who self-harm. If you or someone you love needs help managing self-harm, you can text “HOME” to 741741 and message with a crisis counselor.

This month, Looking Glass Counseling will make a donation to Crisis Text Line the non profit organization referenced in this post. Crisis Text Line provides free mental health aid via text.


Bethany Kriegel, LMHC, earned her master’s degree in mental health counseling from Boston College. She has experience working with adults in residential treatment settings, helping those struggling with eating disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder, among other issues.

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