“Harm Reduction”

It has been an electronic adventure here since the last time I wrote.  I am now two laptops further in my life and finding my way.  Hint: cheap is sometimes too cheap and not useful.

In the meantime life has changed for all of us as a virus demands our attention and change ripples throughout the world.  Many of us are mandated to stay home as much as feasible, at least those of us who have homes.  Some of us in institutions, whether psychiatric facilities or prisons or group homes, are feeling more trapped and unsafe than ever.  Many have lost their jobs, their incomes; others are working in conditions that are exposing them to illness yet they need the income from their work.  Stress abounds.  For those with histories of some form of trauma this is a very challenging time as connection to others has been altered and there is a smell of helplessness in the wind much of the time.

What do we do?  We do whatever we do, often going back to ways of being that helped us survive.  As a society we are asked to reduce the potential harm, the loss of life as a result of an overwhelmed medical system, by reducing the impact of the corona virus as it makes its way through our communities.  We are doing this by staying apart from each other, sometimes at a very high cost. We are practicing “harm reduction” as I see it.

I learned the phrase “harm reduction” initially in the substance abuse community when compassion dictated that we provide people who were injecting themselves with drugs clean needles so that they would not become ill and possibly die.  Needle exchange programs were created to save lives.  We encouraged people who are addicted to alcohol and not able to abstain from the drug to reduce harm by not driving under the influence.  Thus the designated driver and free ride programs were created.  Now we hope that the Narcan we distribute will bode survival for the person addicted to opiates.  Harm reduction is based in a wise and compassionate understanding of human suffering.

How does this pertain to living with Self-Directed Violence (SDV)?  It’s the same principle: if you need to self-injure, are you interesting in reducing the harm?  That might mean learning anatomy for some so that wounds are not more harmful than intended, or resulting in permanent damage beyond a scar or two.  For others it might mean analyzing who is safe to speak with about SDV and who is not given how the responses of others affect our lives.  Want to get admitted to a hospital?  Tell a mental health clinician that you are cutting or burning yourself and the odds are increased that you will be admitted.  Don’t want to end up in a hospital?  Be cautious about whom you trust.  Not sure?  Write to us here, you will find a safe place to express yourself.  I have learned over the years that having a place to feel free to speak my mind is a lifeline.  If you are someone who is determined to never self-injure again and are afraid that you will, we can listen.  If you are someone who is determined to choose what it is that you do to your body and will cut until you don’t choose to anymore?  We can listen.  Stress levels are high almost everywhere now.  One thing I know?  Living with overflowing challenges is not a new experience for those who live with SDV.  We survive.  We cope.  How lovingly can we do this is my question…

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