March the 1st is self injury awareness day (SIAD) but what does this mean and what can you do about it?

Much like most other health awareness days (Disability awareness, AIDS awareness, Stress awareness) SIAD is the one day of the year devoted to raising the awareness of self injury around the globe. Of course we can raise awareness every day, but it’s nice to have a day to focus on, particularly for things like getting the media involved.

Some things which can be done to help promote SIAD include:

* Write a letter/e-mail to your local politician telling them about SIAD (see below for a draft letter)
* Write a letter/e-mail to your local newspaper.
* See if you can appear on local radio or TV.
* Hold an event at your school, university or workplace.
*Show your support by wearing orange clothes (orange is the colour for self-injury awareness), or make a SIAD T-shirt.
* E-mail all your contacts to let them know about SIAD.

Draft Letter
Around the time of SIAD people often like to send letters or e-mails in order to raise awareness about self-injury. The more people who write letters to those in their local areas then the more awareness can be raised!

There are various different types of people that you could write to:

• Local newspaper or radio station
• Local doctor’s surgeries/therapist’s offices – this could be one that you go to, or another one in the local area
• Your local schools, further education colleges or university
• Places of employment
• Places of worship and social groups
• Your local MP (I’m not sure what the US equivalent is).
Below is a downloadable draft letter which you can adapt to suit your needs, or you could write a completely new letter yourself! It doesn’t matter what country you live in. I live in the UK, so some of the things I write sometimes might sound a bit funny to those outside the UK, so you’ll probably want to change some bits. It would be great if people across the world in the rest of Europe, USA, Australia and NZ, and basically anywhere (!) could write letters or send emails to people near where they live.

Things to think about:

• One letter can’t suit everyone’s needs. A letter which you write to a local newspaper or radio station would need to be different from one you are sending to a local school. For instance, are you wanting them to publish a the letter from you, or do you even want to be invited to speak on local radio?
• Whether to give your contact details – do you want a reply from the person (remember that even if you want a reply a LOT of people will not reply)? When writing to a newspaper they usually require an address of some sort. If you’re writing to your local MP it would certainly be good for them to know that you live in the area they represent.
• Whether you want to e-mail or send a ‘real’ letter. E-mails don’t normally cost anything, and you can potentially contact more people. But sometimes people take more notice of a letter on paper.
• Emphasise what will be important to the person you are writing to. For instance if writing to a place of employment, emphasise the fact that self-injury does not just affect young people. If you are writing to a place where most people are male, emphasise the particular problems which males who self-injure face. If you’re writing to a healthcare professional talk about any negative experiences you might have had, and how you think things can be improved in the future. Are you starting to get the idea?!
• Think about websites or further information which you can link to. It would be great if you can mention scar-tissue – in the near future we’re going to have a lot more self-injury information up in here, and links to other sites which people will find useful.
• You might want to include a poster or leaflet – we have some stuff up on Scar Tissue that you can use, or you could make your own.
Below are three template letters that you can use. You will almost certainly want to take some bits out, and add others, but this will give you a general idea of what to say. If you need any help (or have any ideas you’d like to share) please e-mail me and I will be happy to give as much help as I can.

Tell Someone 
Self Injury Awareness Day is just one day in the year, but we hope it helps everyone to focus on raising awareness about self-injury, which can be very difficult matter to discuss. We know it’s hard to raise the subject, especially around family and friends, but if you’re brave enough to, then try telling them this month. The Scar Tissue newsletter has some great advice if you’re thinking of doing this.


What else can I do? 
If all these ideas still aren’t enough there is a lot more you can do to promote self injury awareness day. I’m sure you’ll be able to think of more ideas than we have here (and if you do please email us to let us know!), but off the top of my head you could also:

* make up SIAD t-shirts (involves a bit of creativity and group work so that might be useful if you’re doing this at a school or youth club). Plain t-shirts are pretty cheap and easy to buy, and if fabric paints can be bought from any good craft shop so you’ll be on your way in no time;

* create a self injury awareness day mural. Again this is a cheap and easy one to do (A3 sheets of paper stuck on a wall always works well) and you’ll get the people you’re creating it with to think about self injury as they go along;

* have a group discussion about SI. This could be a great one to do in a PSHE lesson where you ask the students for ideas of what they think self injury is, what it covers and why people do it then talk about their responses;

* make a short film or perhaps a photo project about SI (this means you can cover things like triggers as well) and self injury awareness day. Most schools and youth clubs have access to PCs for editing and at least one digital camera or video camera. You could perhaps show a couple of internet videos (try YouTube) or photography projects (PostSecret is a great place if you’re thinking of doing something like that) to get people talking and thinking about SI as well;

* do an assembly at a school near where you live explaining what self harm is and what support is there;

* go into youth clubs and run some sessions on SI;

* get together with a group (youth group, 6th form, colleagues, friends) and run a letter-writing session;

* or if you’re with a trade union get in touch with them; write a letter about self injury (see our draft above) and send it to your local reps as well as the union magazine.