Saving yourself from self-harm

Sharp is an interactive group session led by individuals who have recovered from self-harming behaviour for people still struggling with it. SUPPORT for people that self-harm can be sought at the Self-Harm Addicts Recovering Power (Sharp) group sessions facilitated by the Wits Transformation office.
Tish White, who is the programme coordinator for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Advocacy, said Sharp is one of the first support groups in South Africa that is led by individuals who have recovered from self-harm. The initiative started in January.
“I wanted to start a supportive space that was not led by counsellors, but by people who self-harmed, for people who self-harm so, very much a social support group,” White said.
Sharp, with support from the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), provides training to individuals who have recovered from self-harming behaviour, to ensure that the space for dialogue and interaction is safe and comfortable.
Social Development MA student Yumna Mattian has recovered from self-harm and works with Sharp as an assistant to help those struggling with self-harm.
“I want to help people and I’m going to do that through what I’ve been through – to say look at my scars, look at them, they’re still there, I’ve contemplated having laser to remove them but I haven’t, so I can say look at them and look at where I am today. You can be like this,” she said.
Mattian said the importance of such sessions is that people who self-harm know that this behaviour is normal and that they are not alone.
White said the aims of Sharp are to “have advocacy work recognised, verbalised and normalised”, to break down the stigmas surrounding people who self-harm.
According to White, one of the major stigmas is attempted suicide. She said self-harm is not necessarily an attempt at suicide.
“Stigmas attached to self-harm are that this person is just going to pull their stitches out and this is ultimately based on a broad lack of knowledge, an ultimate disrespect of a patient that needs help and support. The assumption really is that you did this to yourself and you don’t deserve, care, support or my respect.”
“The first component is that people who self-harm have their rights as patients in a healthcare system challenged,” she added.
White said the behaviour can be addictive and the space provides tips on how to move forward.
The Sharp sessions are held at the Wits Disability Rights Unit on the first floor of Solomon Mahlangu House on the last Tuesday of every month.

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