Thursday, February 17, 2011

Self Injury, Self Harm, Cutting and Pain

I. Am. So. Impressed.

Mishpacha Family First tackled the issue of SI.

SI standing for self-injury. Meaning those people who cut, burn, hit or otherwise harm themselves due to the pain they feel which they turn inward.

This is a topic that has been severely under-addressed (or not addressed at all!) in our community. I am so incredibly impressed that Mishpacha Family First chose to tackle it. Unfortunately, only the beginning of the article is published online, but read it here and if anyone has the magazine and wants to scan the rest, I'd really appreciate it.

This is a taboo topic I have long felt needs to be properly addressed in our community. I'm really excited Mishpacha is breaking the silence.


When Pain Reaches a Boiling Point
Debbie Braun

“How many of you have experienced a problem with cutting in your institution?” asked renowned psychologist Dr. David Pelcovitz at a seminar offered to a wide-ranging group of American educators in Jerusalem.

Every hand in the audience went up.

Thoroughly shocked at the unanimous response, Dr. Pelcovitz thought for a moment, and then it dawned on him: these principals believed he was referring to the widespread issue of students “cutting” class.

After clarifying his intent and the misunderstanding, only two principals bashfully admitted they’d encountered the awful phenomenon in their schools. But Dr. Pelcovitz knew better: he waited a minute longer, and slowly, hand by hand, about half of the educators in the room acknowledged they’d faced the behavior.

Dr. Pelcovitz’s suspicions were confirmed: cutting, a self-injurious behavior infinitely more deleterious than playing hooky, is prevalent in significant numbers in the frum community.

Self-Injury: An Overview

Defined as any intentional injury to one’s own body tissue without conscious suicidal intent, self-injury (also referred to as self-harm or self-mutilation) occurs in an estimated 4 to 10 percent of Americans. Though it most commonly appears in the form of cutting, self-injurers have also been found to inflict pain through burning, scratching, hair-pulling (trichotillomania), hitting, head-banging, biting, or interfering with the healing of wounds.

“I started off using noninvasive things — like my own fingernails, which would just raise welts on my skin. But eventually I turned to anything that would inflict pain,” recounts Esther,* who began self-harming while in high school. “Over the course of my experience I used safety pins, kitchen knives, wire, broken glass, and razors. I would also prevent my scabs from healing (even those from accidental injuries), and sometimes, if I was really frustrated, I would bang my head or bite myself.”

Sufferers like Esther often inflict wounds on the wrists, upper arms, and inner thighs; many prefer to wound themselves in places that will be undetectable to others.

“I do have some faint scars lower down on my arms where I wasn’t careful enough,” admits Esther.

Psychotherapist Marcia Kesner — adjunct professor at Yeshiva University’s Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology and clinical director of Darkah, a Flatbush residence for young women with mental illness — notes that the location of the cuts can be a good indicator of the underlying emotions.

“If the lesions are in a visible place on the body, it’s most likely that the individual has resorted to this behavior in a desperate plea for intervention. If not, it’s possible that the individual is only self-harming as a method of self-soothing in the face of pain.”


You'd have to buy the magazine to read the rest.


Anonymous said...

Sad that in our community talking about problems rates a shout out - I guess it's like Dr. Johnson said it' a dog's walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all."
Joel Rich

Anonymous said...

Joel Rich,
today we have many highschool and college students who are either lost or come from dysfuctional homes with little to no support and who turn to SI. I applaud the effort of the individuals addressing the problem directly and feel that it will help many individuals to understand the root cause of the issue.

layah said...

@ Anon 2:07

One does not have to be from a dysfunctional home to turn to self-injury. There are many, many reasons why people choose to hurt themselves, and saying that it is only people who come from "that kind of family" who SI is flat-out wrong.

Anonymous said...

As a child I used to enjoy testing my pain threshold levels. I was also inspired by some kung-fu movies to believe that the more pain I felt the more I could overcome that pain and thus become stronger/faster/etc.

I am just curious... Does this fall under the SI phenomenon today, or is this recognized as something different?

I certainly didn't have any childhood pain issues, and most certainly pricked/cut myself with a sort of curiosity of a technician. Sadly, I was never able to fully become a ninja.

inspireme. said...

I agree. This topic needs to be talked about more, otherwise people that self harm will continue to live in shame and secrecy.
It's self harm awareness day on the 1st of march. Hopefully someone will try and send out a message to people and stamp out society's misconceptions.