According to the World Health
Organization, depression is one of the leading causes of disability, with
approximately 121 million people suffering with depression worldwide. The National
Institute of Mental Health states that approximately 18 million people suffer from
depression in America alone. Depression does not discriminate across age, race,
gender, or class. Among teenagers it is estimated that 20 percent will suffer from
depression at some point by the time they reach adulthood. There are also as many as
8.3 percent of teens suffering from depression for at least a year at a time,
compared to 5.3 percent of the general population.
Self-injury is also
termed self-mutilation, self-harm, or self-abuse. It can be defined as the
deliberate, repetitive, impulsive, non-lethal harming of one’s self, including but
not limited to; 1) cutting 2) burning 3) picking or interfering with
wound healing 4) infecting oneself 5) punching/hitting self or objects 6) inserting objects in to skin 7) bruising or breaking bones 8.) some
forms of hair pulling.
While these behaviors pose serious risks, they may
be symptoms of a problem that can be treated.
Between 20% and 50% of
depressed kids and teens have a family history of depression and children of
depressed parents are more than three times as likely to suffer from depression.
(U.S. Surgeon Generalís Survey, 1999)
Depression often co-occurs with
anxiety disorders and substance abuse, with 30 percent of teens with depression also
developing a substance abuse problem. (NIMH) 2/3 of those suffering from depression
never seek treatment.
Untreated depression is the number one cause of
suicide, and suicide is the third leading cause of death among teenagers. (NIMH)
While not always the case, often untreated depression and other struggles lead to
unhealthy ways in which we try and deal with the hurt and pain we are feeling. We try
and find anything that we can do to take away the hurt, painful feelings, or negative
thoughts we are experiencing. Often the things that we turn to seem to help at first,
appearing to provide some of the relief that we need so badly. But, even though they
may seem like they help, often they are unhealthy themselves, eventually becoming
even greater struggles like addictions such as drugs, alcohol, eating disorders, or
Self-injury remained very much a mystery until 1996 when
Princess Diana revealed that she had struggled with it. It has become much more
visible in society within the last ten years.
Experts estimate that
4% of the population struggle with self-injury. It has the same occurrence between
males and females, even though in popular culture it can appear to be more prevalent
Those who struggle with self-injury may have many different
reasons for their behavior, some of which may be feelings of emptiness, inability to
understand or express what they are feeling, loneliness, fear, past abuse,
depression, as well as many others. As self-injury, like many addictions, is often a
coping mechanism to deal with some manner of internal pain, many who struggle with it
also struggle with other issues such as eating disorders and alcohol and drug abuse.
While self-injury may be someone’s way to cope with or relieve painful or
hard-to-express feelings and is generally NOT a suicide attempt, relief is always
temporary, and usually only perpetuates a destructive cycle that continues the
struggle. This cycle often means that those who do not get help can become more
depressed and shameful, adding to the pain and need for relief, thus perpetuating the
Dangers: While self-injury may not
be about attempting suicide, the damage done while harming oneself ALWAYS carries the
risks of inflicting serious, and even lethal, harm to oneself regardless of whether
suicide is intended or not. Also the continued cycle of addiction and self-harm, as
in substance abuse and other eating disorders can have a destructive effect on
one’s health both physically and mentally, and struggles worsen as time continues
(*Self injury facts from SAFE alternatives, online.)
Self-injury, like alcohol and drug abuse and eating disorders, is
addictive, and thus not something that is easy to simply ‘stop’.
Help and treatment are
available, though at times may be hard to find.
However, while all
addictions are very difficult to overcome, help and treatment are out there and
available, and recovery and freedom are possible.
We believe this is true whether
someone’s struggles may be self injury, depression, drugs and alcohol, body image
issues, sexual addiction, or other areas of brokenness.
We at TWLOHA
believe that rescue is possible, and are committed to communicating hope to others
who know the daily struggle of living in a broken world.