Self-injury awareness day or self-harm awareness day is an international event observed annually on the 1st of March to raise awareness on the topic. Certain factors and life events or underlying mental health conditions could lead individuals to self-harm and it is often used by individuals in emotional distress to cope and manage the pain. Although self-harm data around the world is not available, studies have estimated that it affects around 14.6 million individuals every year. The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that although self-harm is not done with the intention of killing oneself, it could be fatal or could be a risk factor for suicide.
Self-harm behaviours are complex individual experiences; therefore, it is important to generate awareness around this issue, encourage understanding, and reduce stigma. As family members, friends, co-workers, or members of society, we can extend our support to people experiencing distress by simply reaching out and listening to them. Making the time and space to listen to someone about their experiences with distress or thoughts of self-harm and connecting them to further help is crucial. Sharing our own stories and experiences can also be useful as meaningful and safe conversations around self-harm can help spread the message that self-harm is common and it is okay to talk about it.
While marking this day, it is also important to realize that policies and programmes benefit from the inclusion of lived experience of self-harm and to create a supportive environment to implement the inclusion. However, self-harm and suicide are still criminalised in many countries, thereby making it unsafe for people with lived experience to speak up and seek help. This not only adds to their distress but also promotes stigma and disregards the autonomy of people living with mental health conditions. On this day of global importance, IASP calls for greater understanding and awareness around self-harm and self-injury to enable individuals to seek help free from stigma. For individuals experiencing distress, emotional support is available, which can be accessed through Find a Helpline.