We've all seen them, be it in town, school/work or on TV, they are always there. The emo's, the "attention seekers", dressed head to toe in black with big colorful hair and more black around their eyes than your typical panda. Those cuts and scars up their arms are totally gross right? How desperate do you have to be for a little bit of attention? It's disgusting isn't it? Although the social group of "emo's" are often associated with self injury, it is certainly not an activity solely adopted by them. Many people use self injury as a coping mechanism to help them get through some kind of emotional distress, admittedly not a very good or efficient one, but one that the sufferer feels they have to rely upon to simply get by in life. Anyone, from any background, race, religion, sexuality or age group can self harm - it is by no means just a teenage thing that people will simply "grow out of". Nor is it just women who self harm, this is a common misconception as males more often than not tend to lash out by hitting walls etc and this is often not considered self harm.
Self harm is a way people can chose to cope with problems in their lives, it is often turned to when no other way out is seen, when there is nothing else to loose and the sufferer has lost hope for themselves. When a person simply cannot manage their emotions, this can often lead to them feeling "numb" or rather zombie like, where nothing from reality really seems to hit home or register with them. There's nothing, they feel nothing and often turn to self injury to actually feel something again, to feel part of the world once more.
More worryingly, we can not possibly know how many people are suffering from self harm as it is often regarded as a very secretive behavior and the individual can appear to be coping perfectly well to the outside world. Most people who use self harm as a coping mechanism go through a lot of trouble and effort to hide their scars and/or wounds to anyone in the outside world, they are often ashamed of what they have done to themselves and don't want people to think less of them for it. "Coming out" about a persons self harm to their loved ones can be an extremely difficult and emotional thing for them to do, and is often only ever approached when the sufferer feels things are getting out of hand and they really need to seek some help.
Although self injury and suicide are not linked (i.e. not all sufferers of self injury will want to kill themselves), suicide can be the end result if the individual continues without the right kind of help and support. Self injury is most certainly NOT a failed suicide attempt. The sufferer may want to kill the feeling or the emotion or troubling thought that is controlling their emotions - but not themselves. It is a way for them to survive life, and act like nothing negative is happening to them.
A person who uses self injury does not get anything out of the pain they cause themselves, they do not enjoy it. They may feel like they deserve pain, and need to be punished for their failings in life and as an individual however that does not make them a masochist. Self injury is not done to manipulate other people, nor is it performed with the desire to control others. The danger in self injury is that it too often goes unnoticed and untreated, so that the wounds become slowly more severe over time as a little is no longer enough. First aid to wounds is extremely important as it can prevent infection and reduce the risk of permanent scaring - a permanent reminder of the suffering they are going through.
People who threaten suicide will never really go through with it, they just want attention and should never be taken seriously right? Of course not. In fact the majority of people who attempt suicide do not want to die; they just do not want to carry on living the life they live and see no way out of it. Although suicidal intent is not necessarily attention seeking it can be a cry for help, it can be the only way for a person to reach out and show that they are serious about how they are feeling. Never ignore a person who is suicidal or using self injury as a coping mechanism. You cannot possibly know what the individual is going through be that in reality or in their own minds. You can be the one to help them out of the black pit they have fallen into, they just need a leg up.