Program discusses self-injury

Chris Wilcox

Allie Douglass/The News

Staff writer
With the fall semester coming to a conclusion, many students are finding the usual stress of final exams and class projects.

The Murray State’s Women’s Center held a program called “Cut It Out,” Monday in Mason Hall to inform students of self-injury.

Jane Etheridge, director of the Women’s Center, said the workshop was designed to shed light on the grim issue of injuring oneself from external stress and pressures.

“This program was generated by the students that work for the Women’s Center,” she said. “They believed it was essential to show other students how to understand and respond to self-injurious behaviors.”

There are three categories of non-suicidal self injury, including major self-mutilation, stereotypic self-mutilation and superficial self-injury, which is what the “Cut It Out” event focused on.

According to the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injurious Behavior, self-injury, also known as SI, typically refers to an assortment of behaviors in which an individual intentionally inflicts harm to his or her body for purposes not publicly recognized and which lack suicidal intent. Etheridge said SI can affect anyone.

In November 1995, the BBC did an interview with Princess Diana of Wales, in which she disclosed a history of cutting her arms and legs. Another example of SI was revealed by ABC in an interview of Demi Lovato, who admitted to intentionally self-mutilating her wrists in an effort to cope with her emotions.

Etheridge warned SI not only affected women, but men as well. She said the need for self-injury crosses all racial, age, ethnic, gender and socio-economic lines.

The CRP reports SI can include a variety of behaviors but is most commonly associated with intentional carving or cutting of the skin, burning bodily tissue, pulling hair out, swallowing non-deadly toxic substances, self-bruising and breaking of bones.

Hurting one’s self is most commonly done as a coping mechanism, the CRP reported, but the reasons for the extreme need to cope vary. Reasons someone could be pushed to cope in a self-mutilating way include difficulties in family relationships, physical or emotional abuse, to express and experience feeling, work and school place stressors or to avoid the final act of suicide.

Possible reasons for SI to manifest include decreased serotonin function as well as many other associated mental health issues. Yet, there is no direct correlation between mental health issues and SI reported the CRP.

Etheridge said in an effort to treat people who cope through the use of SI several steps may be taken. Some treatments include medication for associated mental health issues, several types of therapy and skill building groups.

“People who use SI to cope are not crazy,” Etheridge said. “They just don’t know how to cope with the stresses they are facing.”

Etheridge said SI is becoming an ever more pressing concern with the amount of pressures children are facing, but with awareness they can be helped.

“The main point of this program was to teach that SI is not done to seek attention,” Susan Lawhead, senior from Glen Carbon, Ill. said. “It is purely a coping mechanism for those who are overburdened with stress.”

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