First Aid For Self Injury

Trigger Warning: My blog piece offers first aid for self harm and I talk about personal experiences, therefore might be upsetting for some people. Read with caution.

Shocking and disturbing Statistics suggest that each year, 1 in 5 females and 1 in 7 males engage in a form of self destructive behaviour which could possibly include, cutting, burning, punching or hitting walls, individuals and objects, hair pulling, overdosing and deliberately starving yourself.

Self harm can be very difficult to cope with and discovering a friend or loved one has been engaging in this behaviour can be challenging and difficult to accept.

Self-harming is associated with a contrast of all diverse issues such as anxiety, loneliness, depression, stress, bullying, pressure, health conditions and rape and sexual abuse. Self harm for some people is a way to cope with issues that are causing distress negative thoughts and feelings from the past or the present day.

Sometimes it’s not really clear why people harm themselves making it extremely difficult to make sense of and people might not understand the reasons for self harming, this is ok though, you are never alone and will always be supported, just ask for some help, we all need it from time to time.

I understand as i have inflicted extreme pain on myself through cutting and burning. I don’t regret, have any guilt or shame towards self harming, but rather disappointing with my self though.

Personally for myself self injury was a way to relieve the build up of pressure from all the negative and distressing thoughts and feelings that I was experiencing. I used my body to express the overwhelming worry, upset, anger and distressing feelings that I was faced with every day, I couldn’t say my feelings aloud so i took it out on my body and because of this i am alive today, telling my story and providing support and encouragement to individuals which I am proud about.

There isn’t any shame to self harm, however and I can’t stress this enough. It’s exceptionally vital and essential that you look after and care for your injury’s and yourself after each time you self harm.

When you feel the need to self harm please find a safe, peaceful place where you will not be disturbed and that you feel calm in, always use new blades where you can and have your first aid kit ready to hand. I certainly do not encourage the use of self injury, i simply accept that self injury is a coping method for some people at difficult times and I encourage people who are determined to self harm to do it in as safe and controlled way as possible to minimise harm.

The main points when considering first aid after cutting is that you must control the bleeding and prevent any possible infection.

If you lose a great deal of blood, you can go into shock. This can get pretty serious as the brain and heart can be deprived of much needed blood.

Once the urge to cut yourself has passed and you can concentrate on treating your injuries you need to be sure to:

1: Assess the damage. If blood is pumping out from the injured area, in time to your heartbeat then this means you have cut through an artery as blood is under high pressure when pumped from the heart- therefore immediate direct-pressure is needed, and you must not remove pressure at all for at least 3-5 minutes – Please consider calling an ambulance;

2: When the area of the wound is particularly large then try and press the edges together to prevent further damage.

3:The bleeding needs to be controlled to make sure blood loss is minimal. Cover the wound with a clean dressing and apply direct pressure to prevent bleeding.

4: When blood trickles or oozes out of a wound then it is a less immediately serious injury, but veins, tendons and nerves may still have suffered damage.

5: If the area of injury is on a limb then raise the limb to reduce blood flow to the area, reducing blood loss and allowing time for a blood clot to form.

When direct pressure is not appropriate, such as when something is stuck in the would, then you may use indirect pressure by pressing the would together – do not remove the object, but call for an ambulance. Some people suggest using a tourniquet to give indirect pressure and reduce blood loss, but using a tourniquet requires a lot of skill and so you should call for medical assistance.

Support for Burns.

your method of self harm might be burning by scalding or using a heated object then the most important thing you can do is lower the temperature of the affected area. The tissue damage that has been caused can progress very rapidly so you must rinse the area under cold running water for at least 10 minutes.

Do not apply any creams, balms, oils, moisturisers or anything except cold running water.

If there is any clothing surrounding the burn please remove this by either taking it off or cutting it away; this also applies to removing constricting objects such as rings, watches, bracelets; just take it off. This is done because once tissue has been burned or damaged swelling of the area will follow; also the tissue can become sticky and attach to clothes or other things.

IMPORTANT If there is anything that is already stuck to the burn, DO NOT remove it, this could make the situation worse.

The skin can also be burned when it is exposed to certain chemicals. If the chemical you have used is liquid, wash this off with lukewarm water for at least 30 minutes. If the chemical is dry, then brush the chemical off before rinsing the area in water. Please do not try and neutralise the chemical; if you have used an acid DO NOT try and reverse it by adding an alkali.

All chemical burns should be referred to a Doctor, either by attending your local Walk-in-Centre or the nearest A&E Department.

Whatever your going through, don’t do it alone, the following organisations are here to listen and offer support:

Samaritans: 116 123

Breathing Space: 0800 83 85 87

Mind: 0300 123 3393

Young Minds: Parents Helpline: 0808 802 5544

Child line: 0800 1111

Survivors Manchester: 0808 800 5005

Survivors UK: survivorsuk.org

Steven Connelly

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