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Stigma around self harm (Possibly triggering)

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Well-Known Member
I'm currently reading a book about self injury and how to overcome it. Whilst I was reading this book something in particular stood out:-

''Most of you watch emergency room medicine and open heart surgery on television while eating dinner or sitting on the couch. Here (self injury) we are talking about minor cuts, lacerations, and burns that most of you have experienced without getting very upset. Perhaps what makes the concept of self harming so difficult to cope with is the feeling that the person doing this to him - or herself is suffering from some dreadful madness that they may accelerate until they damage themselves terribly''.

Yes, I think the 'dreadful madness' part is harsh and uncalled for, but doesn't that stem from the ignorance of society? Why does the issue regarding self injury remain taboo? Why does it scare people? Is recreational drug use and alcoholism classed as 'self harm'? Why is the latter more acceptable than cutting, when in actual fact, it's probably more harmful?

Personally I have mixed views on this subject. Part of me thinks that it's a sign of distress, and at the same time part of me thinks that it's simply a 'coping mechanism'. Part of me also thinks that everyone, in some way, is self destructive. If a man suffering from obesity attended the hospital suffering from a heart attack, the medical doctors would treat him like a 'normal' person. They wouldn't say ''Oh this guys brought it on himself''. It's totally different for cutters who require stitches. Why is that?

/End pointless rant :laugh:
Why was this post ignored?

Anyway Ruby, to answer your question -

Society (as a whole) tends to regard certain behaviors as social stigmas or taboos for many reasons. Of course it's illogical behavior, and it's prevalent in humans because (unfortunately) a majority of humans are genetically prone to favoring instinct-based behavior over logic. (hence the critical need for renovation of social environments and education) Here are a few right off the bat that I can think of.

Family / Culture: Many "authoritarian" families teach their children not only to avoid behavior and certain types of people who exhibit the behavior due to their own fear, bigotry, ignorance, etc. They're passing on traits from one generation to the next, and the children adopt the traits through observational learning. It's the same reason why many American whites (especially in the south) lynched blacks and enforced segregation in schools. In the modern context, many people will look at drug users, cutters, and those with mental problems in disgust. It is one of today's social stigmas.

Religion: Similarly, many people brought up in conservative, fundamentalist religious lifestyles (depending on the extremity of such) will look down upon drug users, suicidal people, and many of those with liberal political inclinations as well. It's not uncommon for people to avoid discussing their past drug use, depression, religion, philosophy, controversial political issues (such as abortion) or an independent political stance for fear of provoking fundamentalists and other close-minded people prone to offense.

Media: Not a surprise, the popularity of mainstream news sources, media, entertainment, corporate marketing has a major impact and influence over all who are exposed, who grow up in our societies. As with all observational learning, some are far more prone to the effects than others. I'm sure you've seen for yourself how much drug users have been criticized and scapegoated in the past few decades due to the billions of U.S. dollars spent on heavy anti-drug campaigning from 1980's onward. It is the same with those who are suicidal and exhibiting self-harm; not everyone understands the behavior, and (sadly) some ignorant people even categorize victims of self-harm as criminals who are also capable of domestic violence, rape, or even murder.

Now, returning to the specific context of today's self-harming behaviors (commonly alcoholism, substance abuse, cutting, etc) it's thankfully becoming more acceptable to address these issues in a mature manner. You may find some popular forums which focus on harm-reduction education (bluelight.ru, forums.lycaeum.org, for example) to be refreshing, finding a wide audience of people who are supportive and amiable in addressing some otherwise socially-unacceptable behaviors.

Humans aren't perfect. Still, a little activism can go a long way. Spread optimism, advocate study of logic & semantics, support what you believe in, and try to approach ignorance or bigotry in a diplomatic (and not antagonistic) manner, when confrontations between opposing parties are inevitable. Though of a liberally inclined perspective on most issues, I tend to support moderatism these days, due to the fact that the objectivity of compromise in order to advance social progression is worth some sacrifice of my personal political ideologies.

"You get back what you give" so to speak.
I'm not sure there is much to add, Syd pretty much covered it all.

Food, drugs and alchohol are easier for people to grasp. These things provide pleasure, they provide an escape. Even though the abuse of these things is self-harming, there is a pay off that the user is receiving.

What benefit is there to self injury? It doesn't make sense to people that hurting yourself physically can make you feel better emotionally. Most people do not realize that cutting releases endorphines, it's calming and has all the same potential to become an addiction.

I also believe people do not take cutting/SI seriously. People who hurt themselves are not trying to kill themselves. There is this false mindset that if someone were truly suffering, they would have committed suicide. They see SI as attention seeking behavior, manipulation or a cowardly way of getting what you want. Granted, it's definitely a cry for help, but it's no different than the other issues you explored in your post.

(on a side note I disagree with the assessment that things such as obesity or drug addictions do not face similar disdain, but are simply more common.)

In some ways our society is more open to the issues of mental illness. We have more access to information and more resources for help than ever before. On the other hand, our society is also weary and resentful. We view such individuals as weak, ungrateful or spoiled. When so many people work so hard to survive, it disgusts us to see someone work so hard to destroy themselves.


Antiquitie's Friend
It's very easy for someone to say, it's ok to drink but my drinking got out of hand, it's ok to take mild drugs but my drug use got out of hand, it's ok to enjoy eating but my eating got out of hand. However, if you then say it's ok to cut myself but my cutting got out of hand, then rightly or wrongly, people are going to start questioning that.

I think it's easier for the non-cutters to say I didn't intend that to happen, it was something bad that happened to me, the drink, the drugs, the food is what you should blame, not me. However the cutting business appears to most people as quite intentional from the outset, you can't blame the blade.
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