What Does Self Harm Teach us About Safety and Risk

Originally posted on March 17, 2013 @ 5:56 AM

Another very interesting article by Dr Robert Long about the nonsense non-human goals, like Zero Harm, that CEOs set in safety and risk. If you liked this article then you should read the whole series: CLICK HERE. I highly recommend you check out Rob’s new book “RISK MAKES SENSE”

What Does Self Harm Teach us About Safety and Risk

I was on a plane last week and sat beside a woman who was fidgeting with her phone, I noticed all the scars on her wrists and it reminded me of what I learned from years of work in Galilee. Galilee is a school I founded for high needs young people (12-25 years of age) in Canberra, Australia. The woman on the plane obviously had a history of self harming, in Galilee everyone self harmed.

Self harm is about intentional harm with or without suicidal ideation. It was first described in 1913 as self-mutilation, we have since dropped the pejorative expression as we know that such language is not therapeutic or helpful. Self harm varies in intensity from picking, biting, cutting, ingesting, self flagellation, puberty rites, genital mutilation, head banging, body pain marking and constricting. The worst case we had in Galilee was a young woman who used to cut up razor blades with scissors and swallow the pieces and cut up her stomach and intestines. She regularly required hospitalization for internal bleeding and critical mental health care.

It may be hard for some to understand but many forms of self harm are associated with pleasure and satisfaction. The causes are related to depression, anxiety, distress, guilt, eating disorders, bereavement, self-loathing, perfectionism, workplace victimization and harassment and abuse. Self harm is often treated by the acceptance of replacement ‘medicated’ toxins, prescription drugs. In adulthood we often ‘self medicate’ on a range of accepted substances of choice most commonly, alcohol and tobacco. The truth is that mental health issues, anxiety and depression are at high levels in our society, as is self harm. Many of us self harm

Self harming is often associated with young people (aged 12-35) but in reality there is an evolution to adulthood in self harming which progresses to various forms of accepted self harm. There are a range of self harming practices which our society approves, some are: religious rites (including genital alterations and flaggelation), alcohol and substance addiction, smoking and obesity. Anyone in the health and welfare industry knows that only harm minimization and tolerance work. People with addictions, psychological concerns and disorders are not motivated by nonsense goals and language of zero. Small measurable and achievable steps are the key to improvement and motivation. When it comes to self harm we know to set SMART goals and also when to be silent about the attraction of self harm. We know counterintuitively that talk about self-harm needs to be strategic and thoughtful because of psychological by products.

What is most amusing about the nonsense non-human goals that CEOs set in safety and risk is that they promote unrealism and mythology. People preach such nonsense goals (with their own inbuilt psychology of skepticism and cynicism) then leave at morning tea to self harm on cigarettes. During the day organisations sing the hymns and sermons of nonsense goals then after hours their stressed executives hit the bottle to cope with the pressure of having to work under such nonsense goals. Prescription and ‘self medicated’ substances are also in high use. And what is the philosophy and values exhibited towards this behaviour, tolerance not intolerance.

Once again, nonsense goals always seem to be good for other people.

Author’s Resource Box

Dr Robert Long

PhD., (UWS) BEd., (USA) BTh., (SCD) MEd., (Syd) MOH (La Trobe), Dip T., Dip Min., MACE, CFSIA.

Executive Director – Human Dymensions Pty Ltd

Rob has a creative career in teaching, education, community services, government and management.

Rob is engaged by organisations because of his expertise in culture, learning, risk and social psychology. He is a skilled presenter and designer of learning events, training and curriculum.

Web Link: www.humandymensions.com



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