By Boris Esono Nwenfor
The 2022 edition of the Self-injury Awareness Day has been commemorated with the call to remove the stigma attached to self-injury and to encourage parents, educators, family members and healthcare professionals to recognize signs of self-harm.
The celebration across the world takes place every March 1 and has been going on for the last eighteen years. And in Cameroon, medical personnel have advised individuals in society to take proper care of themselves and consult often when they feel like harming themselves.
Archille Fabrice, an epidemiologist, who has researched a lot on this aspect said he found out that most people do not even know what it means by self-injury. He went further to advise those who may be thinking of committing harm to calm down “as when you are in a panic state, you can aggravate the situation which will lead you to commit an even bigger harm to yourself.”
“Individuals too need to be aware of the dangers that such self-injury can cause so they will know the consequences of their actions if they decide to self-harm.”
The most common methods of self-harm are related to skin cutting, headbanging and burning. This may also include excessive scratching to the point of drawing blood, hair pulling, and punching oneself or objects. The issue of self-harm affects people from all walks of life, irrespective of age, gender, ethnicity or personal strength.
According to Enow Egbe, an anthropologist, the aspect of self-harm can be looked at it from various angles and added that due to cultural biases and other family-related pressure, individuals may be forced to commit harm to themselves.
People who self-harm common report that they feel empty inside, overstimulated and are unable to express their feelings and are sometimes lonely. Individuals will prefer to commit self-harm to themselves as a mechanism of relieving painful experiences and hard to explain feelings.
Although self-injury is diagnosed without the intent to suicide, this harmful and dangerous behaviour has a strong association with suicide. Approximately forty per cent of individuals who self-harm have experienced suicidal thoughts during this behaviour, and around fifty to eighty-five per cent of these individuals have a history of suicide attempts.
“My mom accused me of stealing money in the saloon. With that anger, I decided to harm myself by drinking L’eau d’Javel,” Cynthia who wanted to harm herself said. “I was later rushed to the hospital where it was flushed out.”
To Therese Mukete, another individual who wanted to harm herself, she said: “I sat in the house and something just stroke me to go into the kitchen and pick up a knife. I entered the kitchen and wanted to cut myself when my mom entered and the knife fell off. I didn’t know what happened and I could not explain the whole situation.”
Self-injury thus has an immediate effect, that of creating instant relief, but it is only temporal – the underlying emotional issues remain. In time, self-injury can become a person’s automatic response to the ordinary strains of everyday life and both frequency and severity of self-injury may increase. According to medical personnel, if you are feeling let down, confide in someone close which will make you stop thinking of self-harming.