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Part 2: Caregiving & Coping with Disturbing Behavior: Non-Suicidal Self-Injury: 3 Tips!

WARNING: This blog topic: Non-Suicidal Self-Injury (NSSI) may be difficult for some. Please read at Your Own Risk and Discretion.

FYI: My Husband has given me His Permission to publicly discuss this private topic of self-injury. 

Goal: Shed light on a dark topic and help others! Hope this is Helpful and Encouraging to You!:)

Thank You for Reading Part 1 Caregiving & Coping with Disturbing Behavior: Non-Suicidal Self-Injury and coming back to read Part 2: the continuation of the first blog and this sensitive topic.

(This is one of my favorite photos of my hubby, Chato Stewart, who at times in his life has struggled with NSSI, Suicide Ideation and Bipolar Disorder. i LOVE this photo…it serves as a visual reminder that captures the essence of His personality and helps me distinguish the “real” person from the “symptoms” of his mental illness. For context, check out: Suicide Prevention – Constant Vigilance and Ongoing Education.)

Chato Stewart and bulldog

Sadly, self-injury and self-injurers are misunderstood by many including caregivers, partners and parents. 

Here’s a definition and information from: The Self-Injury Foundation (a 501(c)(3) Michigan nonprofit organization.) Crisis Line Numbers for immediate help:  800-273-TALK (8255) 800-SUICIDE (784-2433) 800-334-HELP (4357) Please call NOW for help.

Self-Injury is also known as:
Parasuicide, Deliberate Self Harm, Self-Abuse, Self-Mutilation, Self Inflicted Violence, Cutters
NSSI is the most recent term is Non Suicidal Self-Injury (NSSI). This term was coined in an effort to distinguish Suicidal Self-injury (e.g. self harm designed to end one’s life) from Non suicidal Self-Injury (e.g. self-harm designed as a coping strategy). This term is consistently utilized by researchers and will most likely become the predominant term for this class of behaviors.
The definition of NSSI is the deliberate harming of one’s body, resulting in tissue damage, without the intent of suicide, and  is not culturally sanctioned by the society in which one lives.

Self-Injury can include but is not limited to the following behaviors:

  • Scratching (Excoriation)
  • Cutting
  • Burning
  • Hitting or Biting Oneself
  • Ingesting or Embedding Toxic Substances or Foreign Objects
  • Hair Pulling
  • Interfering with the Healing of Wounds

It is not uncommon for self-injurers to engage in more than one form of self-injurious behavior(Briere & Gil, 1998)

A recent research study of 2,875 college students showed a lifetime prevalence of 17% (Whitlock, 2006)


Here’s insightful Q & A (i read from the Self-Injury Foundation):

Q: What’s wrong with self-injury? It makes me feel better!

A: The true issue is that self-injury is not the real problem.
The real question to ask yourself is, “To feel better from what?”. Self-Injury is a coping strategy, but an unhealthy one, similar to putting a band-aid on a festering wound. Unless you understand and work on the underlying cause, it will just keep coming back, which is why most self-injurers keep injuring. It might make you feel better temporarily, but it is not actually helping you to get healthier.

It’s  best to view an impulse to injure as a “clue” that you are not wanting to “feel or deal”; that is, to feel an uncomfortable feeling such as anger or sadness, or to deal with a difficult situation.

Q: What am I supposed to do when I have an impulse to self-injure?

A: It  is important to recognize that impulses to self-injure are actually “clues” that you don’t want to feel or deal with something. Many people who injure are afraid to feel specific emotions such as fear and anger. The goal is to learn to identify those feelings and understand and face the fears you have about those emotions.

i read this very helpful on-line article interviewing young people entitled: Why do I cut Myself?  Here’s what 2 young people had to say:

Did hurting yourself make you feel better?

Kathy: It’s almost like a form of crying. I felt better after I cut myself the same way that some people feel better after a good cry.

Lorena: Self-injury was like puncturing a small hole in the balloon of negative emotions inside me. It wouldn’t pop; it would just leak and let all the negativity out slowly.

What was a turning point for you?

Lorena: I told my mom what I had been doing. I also got help from a doctor, who helped me control my negative emotions…I had a few setbacks[…]

Perhaps I will always struggle with occasional feelings of worthlessness, but when they arise, I try not to let them rule me.

Kathy: I eventually confided in her (a friend 10 years older). To my surprise, she too had once struggled with cutting. I didn’t feel awkward talking to her because she had been through it herself. I also got help from a doctor, who helped me and my parents to understand what I was going through.

i found it Noteworthy that these “young” people (interviewed in the article: Why do I cut Myself?) mentioned something “ancient” that aided them in learning healthy habits:

Diana: The Bible has helped me to realize that I can’t fight this on my own.

Kathy: Reading the Bible—and knowing that its message comes from God—gives me such deep comfort!


Here’s 3 Helpful Tips for Caregivers, Partners and Parents:

  • Please Watch for Signs! For example, is your loved one always wearing long-sleeves or hiding parts of their body? Could be hiding marks and scars. My husband would cut, burn/brand his upper arm or thigh. (We lived in a cold climate which made it easier to hide behind layers of clothing.)
  • Don’t be afraid to open up dialogue! MANY times self-injury is a desperate call for help to deal with emotional distress. Talk things out. Talk about self-injury with the person and discuss ways to stop the behavior. Discuss alternative, healthy ways to manage strong emotion. Encourage the person to…
  • Seek treatment! My hubby, Chato Stewart, has successfully learned healthy coping skills and I am very proud of his progress!! The coping strategy that worked for him wasn’t poem writing. Rather, it was the mental health cartooning he began in 2008 that helped him–you can check out his blog: Mental Health Humor. It’s been 5 years, 1 month and twenty-nine days and counting! He claims it was the cartoons and drawing them about mental health issues that helped free him from the malproductive coping skill NSSI. Your loved one can do the same–SUCCEED with help and support! (Does your loved one need a creative outlet to help manage emotion such as drawing or painting, etc.?)

Don’t We All Need Help and Support including Caregivers and Partners?

Reaching out Creative Commons License photo credit: andrew and hobbes

You can make it through the dark if someone’s holding your hand…Take the hand! Hold onto it!

During dark times when I felt all alone with a problem unique to my circumstances, this scripture was comforting:

“For I, [Yahweh Your God], am grasping your right hand, the One saying to you, ‘Do not be afraid. I myself will help you.’” (Isaiah 41:13)

As Caregiver and Partner, we don’t have to be afraid or frightened by disturbing behavior. We can get help! We can get educated and take action to encourage our loved one to recover. We all have stuff to learn…me too! Some of us have learned positive, healthy coping strategies for stress, distress and problems. Some of us have not yet learned these skills. If we know something someone else does not–this does not make us superior. We are just at different learning stages in life. With more knowledge comes more responsibility. A responsibility to teach and help those who are in need of learning life-saving skills. (When one chooses compassion, one chooses to humbly assist others wherever the need may be.)

Let’s not hinder the learning process for others by being unkind or unsympathetic. Those who use self-injury to cope may have very low self-esteem or are dealing with self-hatred. PLEASE let’s: show love, be gentle, build them up and not tear them down!:)

For example if someone is illiterate, you teach them to read! You don’t insult them, degrade them about it. Loving, compassionate, patient teachers are effective! As Caregivers and Partners in Wellness, we have a lot to teach one another. One subject worth learning well is changing unhealthy behavior like non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI).

Remember: “We got each other and that’s a lot for love…Whoah, we’re half way there…livin’ on a prayer…Take my hand, we’ll make it!!” Hoping this Bon Jovi” tune will encourage You to HOLD ON and “Keep Livin’ on a Prayer”…:)

Baby, it’s OKAY…we’ll make it: TODAY!:)…that’s the key: one day at a time….minute by minute, hour by hour…HOLD ON EVERYONE!!🙂


photo-q-amp-a-cloud-wordavailable at Shutterstock

photo-solution-buttons-set-d-illustration available at Shutterstock


Part 2: Caregiving & Coping with Disturbing Behavior: Non-Suicidal Self-Injury: 3 Tips!

Joan Winifred

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APA Reference
Winifred, J. (2013). Part 2: Caregiving & Coping with Disturbing Behavior: Non-Suicidal Self-Injury: 3 Tips!. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 26, 2020, from


Last updated: 29 May 2013
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