Fursonas are representations of ourselves, and when we express pain, anger, and sadness with these characters, it's a constructive, creative release, and sometimes an escape, if only for a little while. It becomes a different story when there is clear self-mutilation involved, transferring from the artist's personal emotions. And it becomes dangerous if the person in question is suicidal. When we accept works into the group's gallery, we are inadvertently endorsing its subject matter, and inadvertently telling people "this is okay." Self-mutilation is a serious issue. We will not be endorsers of this behavior, and we do not want to host an environment that may expose emotionally vulnerable people to graphic images of self-mutilation. While we have never accepted such images into the group in the past, we felt that it was finally time to seriously address this issue. We'd like to make it perfectly clear that we will not accept deviations involving self-harm, even of one's fursona or characters, into the gallery.
With that being said, we'd like to address the issue of self-harm itself. If you could take just a moment to read through the text below, it may help you, or it may empower you with the knowledge needed to help someone who self-harms.
Self-harm is the deliberate, non-suicidal injuring of one's body. Thousands of people struggle in silence with self-mutilation as a result of deep distress and emotional pain. Some feel as if they have no choice, and no other way to cope. And while it does provide an outlet for feelings like sadness, rage, emptiness, guilt, and self-loathing, the relief is temporary, and damaging in the long run. People who struggle with this often do it in secret, and feel that they can't tell anyone for fear of not being understood, or being judged. Hiding your feelings is a heavy burden, and the guilt and secrecy will take it's toll on your relationships with friends and family, and your feelings about yourself. It can make you feel even more lonely, trapped, and worthless.
Myths and Facts
Myth: People who cut and self-injure are trying to get attention.
Fact: Most people who self-harm generally do so in secret. They aren't trying to manipulate others or draw attention to themselves. Shame and fear can actually make it very difficult to come forward and ask for help.
Myth: People who self-injure are crazy and/or dangerous.
Fact: Many who self-harm suffer from anxiety, depression, or previous traumas—just like millions of others in the general population. While most people form non-destructive coping mechanisms, self-mutilation is theirs. Labeling them as "crazy" and "dangerous" is neither helpful, nor accurate.
Myth: People who self-injure want to die.
Fact: Self-injurers usually do not want to die. When they self-harm, they are not trying to kill themselves—they are trying to cope with their pain. In fact, self-injury may be a way of helping themselves go on living. However, in the long-term, people who self-injure have a much higher risk of suicide, which is why it’s so important to seek help.
Myth: If the wounds aren’t bad, it's not that serious.
Fact: The severity of a person's wounds has very little to do with how much they may be suffering. Don't assume that because the wounds or injuries are minor, there's nothing to worry about.
Clothing can hide physical injuries, and a calm disposition can hide emotional turmoil, so self-harm isn't always easy to detect. There are still signs you can look for, and you should never hesitate to reach out to those you are worried about, even if they aren't displaying any signs.
Unexplained wounds or scars from cuts, bruises, or burns, usually on the wrists, arms, thighs, or chest.
Blood stains on clothing, towels, or bedding; blood-soaked tissues.
Sharp objects or cutting instruments, such as razors, knives, needles, glass shards, or bottle caps, in the person's belongings.
Frequent "accidents." Someone who self-harms may claim to be clumsy or have many mishaps, in order to explain away injuries.
Covering up. A person who self-injures may insist on wearing long sleeves or long pants, even in hot weather.
Needing to be alone for long periods of time, especially in the bedroom or bathroom.
Isolation and irritability.
How does self-injury help?
Self-harm does help those who do it—otherwise, they wouldn't do it. Some of the common reasons for self-harm:
Expressing feelings you can't put into words.
Releasing the pain and tension you feel inside.
Helping you feel more in control.
Distracting you from overwhelming emotions or difficult life circumstances.
Relieving guilt and punishing yourself.
Making you feel alive, or simply feel something, instead of feeling numb.
Once a person understands why they injure themselves, they can learn ways to stop, and find resources to support themselves through their struggles.
If it helps, why stop?
Self-harm provides temporary relief, but it comes at a cost. In the long term, it causes far more problems than it solves.
The relief is short lived, and is quickly followed by other feelings like shame and guilt. Meanwhile, it keeps you from learning more effective strategies for feeling better.
Keeping the secret from friends and family members is difficult and lonely.
You can hurt yourself badly, even if you don’t mean to. It’s easy to misjudge the depth of a cut or end up with an infected wound.
If you don’t learn other ways to deal with emotional pain, it puts you at risk for bigger problems down the line, including major depression, drug and alcohol addiction, and suicide.
Self-harm can become addictive. It may start off as an impulse or something you do to feel more in control, but soon it feels like the cutting or self-harming is controlling you. It often turns into a compulsive behavior that seems impossible to stop.
Quitting, step 1: Confide in someone
If you're ready to get help for cutting or self-harm, the first step is to confide in another person. It can be scary to talk about the very thing you've worked so hard to hide, but it can also be a huge relief to finally let go of your secret and share what you're going through.
Deciding whom you can trust with such personal information can be difficult. Choose someone who isn't going to gossip or try to take control of your recovery. Ask yourself who in your life makes you feel accepted and supported. It could be a friend, teacher, religious leader, counselor, or relative. But you don’t necessarily have to choose someone you are close to.
Eventually, you'll want to open up to your inner circle of friends and family members, but sometimes it's easier to start by talking to an adult who you respect—such as a teacher, religious leader, or counselor - who has a little more distance from the situation and won't find it as difficult to be objective.
Tips for talking about self-harm
Focus on your feelings. Instead of sharing sensational details of your self-harm behavior—what specifically you do to hurt yourself—focus on the feelings or situations that lead to it. This can help the person you're confiding in better understand where you're coming from. It also helps to let the person know why you're telling them. Do you want help or advice from them? Do you simply want another person to know so you can let go of the secret?
Communicate in whatever way you feel most comfortable. If you're too nervous to talk in person, consider starting off the conversation with an email or letter (although it’s important to eventually follow-up with a face-to-face conversation). Don't feel pressured into sharing things you're not ready to talk about. You don't have to show the person your injuries or answer any questions you don't feel comfortable answering.
Give the person time to process what you tell them. As difficult as it is for you to open up, it may also be difficult for the person you tell—especially if it's a close friend or family member. Sometimes, you may not like the way the person reacts. Try to remember that reactions such as shock, anger, and fear come out of concern for you. It may help to print out this article for the people you choose to tell. The better they understand self-harm, the better able they'll be to support you.
Quitting, step 2: Figure out why you self-harm
Learn to manage overwhelming stress and emotions. Understanding why you cut or self-harm is a vital first step toward your recovery. If you can figure out what function your self-injury serves, you can learn other ways to get those needs met—which in turn can reduce your desire to hurt yourself.
Identify your self-harm triggers. Remember, self-harm is most often a way of dealing with emotional pain. What feelings make you want to cut or hurt yourself? Sadness? Anger? Shame? Loneliness? Guilt? Emptiness? Once you learn to recognize the feelings that trigger your need to self-injure, you can start developing healthier alternatives.
Get in touch with your feelings. If you’re having a hard time pinpointing the feelings that trigger your urge to cut, you may need to work on your emotional awareness. Emotional awareness means knowing what you are feeling and why. It’s the ability to identify and express what you are feeling from moment to moment and to understand the connection between your feelings and your actions. The idea of paying attention to your feelings—rather than numbing them or releasing them through self-harm—may sound frightening to you. You may be afraid that you’ll get overwhelmed or be stuck with the pain. But the truth is that emotions quickly come and go if you let them. If you don’t try to fight, judge, or beat yourself up over the feeling, you’ll find that it soon fades, replaced by another emotion. It’s only when you obsess over the feeling that it persists.
Quitting, step 3: Re-learn to cope
If you harm to express pain and intense emotions: Paint, draw, or scribble on a big piece of paper with red ink or paint; express your feelings in a journal; compose a poem or song to say what you feel; write down any negative feelings and then rip the paper up; or listen to music that expresses what you're feeling.
If you harm to calm and soothe yourself: Take a bath or hot shower; pet or cuddle with a dog or cat; wrap yourself in a warm blanket; massage your neck, hands, and feet; or listen to calming music.
If you harm because you feel disconnected and numb: Call a friend (you don't have to talk about self-harm); take a cold shower; hold an ice cube in the crook of your arm or leg; chew something with a very strong taste, like chili peppers, peppermint, or a grapefruit peel; or go online to a self-help website, chat room, or message board.
If you harm to release tension or anger: Exercise vigorously—run, dance, jump rope, or hit a punching bag; punch a cushion or mattress or scream into your pillow; squeeze a stress ball or squish Play-Doh or clay; rip something up (sheets of paper, a magazine); or make some noise (play an instrument, even bang on pots and pans).
Substitutes for the cutting sensation: Use a red felt tip pen to mark where you might usually cut; rub ice across your skin where you might usually cut; or put rubber bands on wrists, arms, or legs and snap them instead of cutting or hitting.
Seeking professional help
You may also need the help and support of a trained professional as you work to overcome the self-harm habit, so consider talking to a therapist. A therapist can help you develop new coping techniques and strategies to stop self-harming, while also helping you get to the root of why you cut or hurt yourself.
Remember, self-harm doesn’t occur in a vacuum. It's an outward expression of inner pain—pain that often has its roots in early life. There is often a connection between self-harm and childhood trauma. Self-harm may be your way of coping with feelings related to past abuse, flashbacks, negative feelings about your body, or other traumatic memories. This may be the case even if you're not consciously aware of the connection.
Helping a self-injurer
Deal with your own feelings. You may feel shocked, confused, or even disgusted by self-harming behaviors—and guilty about admitting these feelings. Acknowledging your feelings is an important first step toward helping your loved one.
Learn about the problem. The best way to overcome any discomfort or distaste you feel about self-harm is by learning about it. Understanding why your friend or family member is self-injuring can help you see the world from his or her eyes.
Don't judge. Avoid judgmental comments and criticism—they'll only make things worse. The first two tips will go a long way in helping you with this. Remember, the self-harming person already feels ashamed and alone.
Offer support, not ultimatums. It's only natural to want to help, but threats, punishments, and ultimatums are counterproductive. Express your concern and let the person know that you're available whenever he or she wants to talk or needs support.
Encourage communication. Encourage your loved one to express whatever he or she is feeling, even if it's something you might be uncomfortable with. If the person hasn't told you about the self-harm, bring up the subject in a caring, non-confrontational way: "I’ve noticed injuries on your body, and I want to understand what you're going through."
If the self-harmer is a family member, especially if it is your child, prepare yourself to address difficulties in the family. This is not about blame, but rather about learning ways of dealing with problems and communicating better that can help the whole family.
U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255
International Crisis Helpline Finder
If you are in the middle of a crisis, REACH OUT!