Saturday, March 31, 2007

Families and Friends: Self-Harm

Your best friend calls you up crying hysterically. You try to ask her what's wrong, but she gets flustered and ends up telling you she has to go. The next day she confides in you that she cut herself again last night. You feel so helpless! You wish you could do something to help her. The good news is, you CAN do something to help.

Here are some things you can do to help your self-harming loved one:

1. Offer a chance for him or her to talk - Some self-harmers are trying to communicate through cutting, burning, hair pulling, and so forth. Given a chance to talk, some self-harmers will be more than happy to talk. Others may not know how to express how they feel. Still others may be reluctant to talk about what's going on. No matter what the case, be patient and don't push. Simply let him or her know that you are there to listen if he or she wants to talk about anything with you.

2. Nurture and care for them no matter whether your loved one has recently self-harmed or not. Some self-harmers feel that they can only get your attention when they hurt themselves. It's important to nurture your loved one regularly. Here are some ideas of caring things to do:
-Send your loved one a paper or e-card.
-Bring her a flower.
-Set some time each week where you and your loved one do something fun together.
-Take her to lunch or a movie.
-Hug her (if she likes hugs).

3. Offer distractions. Sometimes self-harmers merely need a distraction from their feelings for a while. Offer to go to a movie or dinner with your loved one. If you can offer her to spend the night at your house or offer to come stay at her house for the night.

4. Set some boundaries. Tell your loved one that you can talk up until 10PM at night, but if you don't want her to call at 3AM, let her know that. You might also tell her that you care about her, but you don't want her to hurt herself while she is actually talking to you because it hurts you to see her do this.

5. Be available. You can't be helpful if you're not available to your loved one.

6. Be patient. Sometimes families and friends of self-harmers expect them to stop self-harming right away. This may not, and in fact, often does not, happen. Stopping self-harming behavior can take months or years. It requires consistent support from loved ones and professional help for a self-harmer to break this unhealthy coping mechanism.

7. Get support for yourself. If you need to, talk with a therapist about your own feelings regarding someone who self-harms. Sometimes it is important to get help for yourself when you are supporting a loved one.

8. Educate yourself. The more you understand about self-harming behavior, its causes, and other related mental illnesses, the better off you'll be. This is one of the best sites I've ever found on self-harm.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

When People Say, "Enough"

This topic will probably cause some controversy, but I'm taking the plunge!

Tonight on 20/20 the show aired a segment on a restaurant owner who said "enough" with children who misbehave. 20/20 apparently hired two children actors to misbehave in the restaurant in order to see what other customers', waitresses' and waiters', and the restaurant owner would react.

Several customers were very irritated with the children. A few of them even asked the "parents" if they could better control them because they were in a public place. Several other customers also complained to the manager and waiters and waitresses.

The owner of the restaurant decided to let the "family" finish their meal, but asked them to never return to her restaurant. She proceeded to post a sign on the restaurant door saying that misbehaved children will not be tolerated in her place of business.

I have often thought about when it is appropriate to step in and ask parents to keep a better eye on their children. Sometimes it really irritates and saddens me that some parents don't seem to care about how their children behave. Nor do they seem to care about how their children's behavior affects other people.

Of course, the restaurant owner received a lot of criticism about the sign she posted on her door.

What do you think? Was this restaurant owner responding to out of control children appropriately?

Feel free to discuss in the comments section!

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Important Sexual Assault Legislation Meeting in Minnesota

I realize this is tomorrow (Monday) morning and I am sorry for the short notice. I just found out about this tonight myself. I hope a lot of people can go and testify to the importance of this legislation at the meeting.

From the Sexual Assault Prevention Network:

I just wanted you to be aware of a hearing that was scheduled late Friday regarding legislation to clarify Minnesota's statute of limitations for victims of childhood sexual abuse and provide funding the department of Public Safety, in coordination with the National Child Protection Training Center for work on mandatory reporting.

THIS IS CRITICAL LEGISLATION to empower victims of childhood sexual abuse with rights under civil law to HOLD THEIR ABUSERS ACCOUNTABLE.

**** The hearing is in Room 10 of the State Office Building, tomorrow morning, at 8:30 AM in the Public Safety Finance Committee chaired by Rep. Michael Paymar, one of our strong supporters.

**** This has all come about rapidly so my apologies for the short notice. However, the opponents have wasted no time in coming up with a line-up of witnesses AGAINST our bill:

The following witnesses would like to tesity regarding HF2134 Grace Schwab, Minnesota School Boards Association Valarie Dosland, Minnesota Childcare Association Father Kevin McDonough, Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul Reverend Karen Bockelman, Northeastern Minnesota Synod -- ELCA Dan Connolly -- Faegre & Benson Phyllis Willerscheidt


Saturday, March 17, 2007

Why Do They Self-Harm?

One of the things I've discovered throughout my psychology and social work education and training is that people do things for reasons. These reasons may not always be clear to observers, however. And like any other coping mechanism, people self-harm for various reasons.

These are some of the reasons self-harmers commonly give for their self-inflicted violence:

-To numb feelings or to escape depression, dissociation, or emptiness.
-On the contrary, some self-harmers self-injure to escape numbness; they want to feel something.
--To prevent suicide (please see my post below for more information).
-To escape tension or overwhelming feelings.
-To communicate their emotional pain.
-As a way of continuing abusive patterns (many self-harmers have experienced abuse).
-To validate emotional pain.
-To gain control over something, their bodies.
-To punish oneself for being "bad".
-To cope with feelings of anger, alienation, depersonalization, depression, or disassociation.
-To get grounded or to escape a flashback.

Self-harmers have found that hurting themselves is a way in which they can cope with their feelings that seem to painful to just sit with. While the behavior may successfully prevent suicide, once the self-harmer is "hooked" on it, it is very difficult to stop. Learning new, healthier coping mechanisms is hard work and takes a lot of time and practice. For this reason it may take self-harmers months or years to completely stop self-harming.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Self-Harm and Suicide

Most people think self-harm is an indication that someone is trying to kill oneself. I have known several colleagues who have even thought this about their mental health clients. However, contrary to the belief, self-harm is not a suicide attempt, nor is it necessarily an indication that someone wants to kill himself or herself.

Self-harmers often have to use this unhealthy coping mechanism to SURVIVE their circumstances. Self-harmers often come from abusive, neglectful, or otherwise traumatic backgrounds.

It is vital that you talk with a self-harmer about their intentions when they self-harm before assuming that they want to kill themselves.

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Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Who Self-Injures?

The typical self-injurer is female and is in her mid-twenties to her early thirties. Self-injurers typically begin hurting themselves in adolescence, but some individuals begin harming themselves before or after this period in their lives as well. Self-harmers are generally intelligent, middle to upper-middle class, well-educated, and has suffered from sexual and/or physical abuse. Many self-harmers also have at least one alcoholic parent.

Certain personality characteristics are also typical of self-harmers such as an inability to accept rejection, tend not to plan for the future, tend to hate and invalidate themselves, tend to have poor emotional regulation, are usually angry at themselves, may be suicidal or self-destructive, suffer from depression and anxiety, do not feel as if they have much control, and tend to be avoidant. These individuals also tend to lack healthy coping skills.

Self-injurers may engage in other unhealthy coping mechanisms such as eating disordered behavior, substance abuse, reckless driving, unnecessary risk taking, and/or shoplifting.