“Is Cutting a Cry for Attention?”

Just as a warning to anyone in a sensitive time, I am writing about suicidal thoughts and self injury. I even triggered myself writing this so please take care of yourself.

Last week at work we had a suicide prevention seminar. A client killed herself in our building earlier this year so my boss thought it was appropriate to have one of the local universities bring their special suicide prevention team over to do a presentation.

Being someone who has been suicidal and being relatively active in the mental community, I had my critic hat on. I didn’t expect to learn much because I know the signs that somebody is suicidal. I lived it for many months.

So the presentation went fine, I had no qualms or anything to be pissed off about. Until…

For some reason that I don’t have the answer for, two of our organization’s board members were present. I had no idea why they were there but they were. It all went to shit when the one woman raised her hand and asked:

“So what about cutting? Do people cut themselves as a cry for attention? Are they suicidal?”

I rolled my eyes so hard I nearly fell over. I was hoping the speaker would say something intelligent, to show that she actually knew what the hell she was talking about. Instead her response was outdated and she was entirely misinformed.

She said yes to both of her questions. I immediately became silently angry. I couldn’t believe that somebody who is an alleged expert about this is telling my coworkers that people who cut want attention and want to die.

Here’s my response to her question:

You can’t lump every person who self injures into a shallow explanation like that. As someone who has struggled with self injury for 8 years, I never once did it for attention. I have always work diligently to hide my cuts and scars from people. The last thing I ever wanted was for someone to see what I did to myself. For me, it’s always been embarrassing.

Some people are suicidal and cut but use self injury as a coping mechanism. Not as a means to kill themselves. During my severe depression where I had constant thoughts of suicide, I cut myself daily. But that’s just my experience, not everyone’s.

Responses to questions like that only perpetuate the falsehoods about people who self injure or are suicidal.

What are your thoughts about this? What would your response be to that woman?