How to Stop Self-Harm | Dr. Stephen Lewis, Ph.D. – Identification and Recovery
Table of Contents
Non-suicidal self-injury, or NSSI for short, refers to the intentional destruction of one’s own body tissue without suicidal intent and for purposes not socially sanctioned.
Common examples include cutting, burning, scratching, banging or hitting. While this is indeed a heavy topic to talk about, NSSI is far more common than most people realize.
Statistics show that about 14% to 24% of teens have reported causing self-injury at least once, and about a quarter of those have done it many times.
Similar rates of self-injury have been found amongst college students. In later adulthood, the occurrence of self-injury seems to be somewhat less prevalent, with about 1 in 20, or approximately 4% of adults indicating they have done self-injury.
Moreover, though it is more common than most people would think, there is still a lot of negative bias towards NSSI. As with any topic that bears a stigma, the stigma against NSSI usually arises from lack of awareness, lack of education, lack of perception, and the nature and complications of the topic.
Therefore, we have invited to The IPS Podcast, Dr. Stephen Lewis, associate professor of the Department of Psychology at the University of Guelph, and invited member of the International Society for the Study of Self-Injury (ISSS), where he currently sits on the Executive Board, to provide more in-depth information on what precisely non-suicidal self-injury is and how to stop self-harm.
Not only is Dr. Stephen Lewis a professional researcher on NSSI and can therefore talk intelligently about the subject, but he himself has personal experience with NSSI as well. Therefore, he also understands emotionally the pain and struggle of people who do self-harm.
It’s clear that NSSI is a grossly misunderstood topic. And it shows in many ways. Far too many people don’t know the main reason why someone causes self-injuries, and thus, they fail to take NSSI seriously and don’t know how to stop self-harm and provide support
Self-harm is hardly as simple as it has been shown to be in popular media. It isn’t always a cry for attention or self-punishment.
In fact, it rarely is. By a wide margin, NSSI most commonly functions to (temporarily) alleviate overwhelming negative emotions.
This misconception that self-harm is done to gain attention is not only terribly incorrect, but it can even be dangerous.
It could, first of all, lead people to not take NSSI seriously because they don’t understand that the person who causes self-harm is going through intense emotional pain.
Thus, people will fail to provide support.
But also, there is a growing body of literature that suggests that NSSI may be an especially crucial risk factor in suicidal behavior.
While Dr. Lewis will talk more thoroughly about this in the interview, you should remember that, if you are having suicidal thoughts, there are people who greatly care to listen and be there for you—even though that’s hard to believe.
The suicide crisis line warmly welcomes anyone willing to have a chat. ‘Here’ you will find a list of suicide crisis lines that you can call; there should be one in your country.
Also, if you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, or if you know someone who does self-harm, have a listen to the interview on The IPS Podcast that we did with Mark Henick, suicide survivor and mental health advocate.
He shares his personal experience with suicide, how to be there for someone suffering from suicidal thoughts, and how to help yourself if you are struggling with these thoughts.
While in this interview Dr. Lewis gives in-depth insights into why people cause self-harm and provides tips and advice on how to help someone, as well to those who do self-harm, for anyone looking to learn even more about NSSI, Dr. Lewis is also the co-founder and co-director of Self-Injury Outreach & Support, an international outreach initiative providing current information and resources to individuals who inflict self-injury as well as their families, friends, teachers, and the health professionals who work with them.
The emotional and physical scars of people who do self-harm are real, and it is therefore not only important but also necessary to take NSSI far more seriously.
Stigma is a risk factor leading to negative mental health outcomes, as people often don’t dare to talk about their struggle for fear of not being taken seriously or not being understood.
This interview with Dr. Stephen Lewis will hopefully help educate and provide better information on self-harm and how to stop self-harm for those who are looking to understand it.
Likewise, this interview is very much aimed for those who do self-harm. It provides pieces of advice and insights from a man who not only knows about the topic and can talk intelligently about it, but who also wears the scars himself.
A Few Recommended Books About NSSI:
EP 018 – Non-Suicidal Self-Injury: How to Cope with It and Provide Support – Dr. Stephen P. Lewis, Ph.D.
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Some of the Questions:
What You Will Learn from this Episode:
- – The Skeletons in My Closet | Stephen Lewis | TEDxGuelphU
- – Self-Injury Outreach and Support ( SiOS provides you resources to help overcome self-injury.)
- – Nonsuicidal Self-Injury (Advances in Psychotherapy: Evidence-Based Practice) (Advances in Psychotherapy – Evidence-Based Practice)
- – Freedom from Selfharm: Overcoming Self-Injury with Skills from DBT and Other Treatments
- – Healing Self-Injury: A Compassionate Guide for Parents and Other Loved Ones
- – List of Suicide Crisis Lines
FOLLOW Dr. Stephen P. Lewis, Ph.D.
Question about this episode: Do you have any more questions about self-harm? Alternatively, do you have a personal story you’d like to share about self-injury to help bring more awareness about this grossly misunderstood topic?