Friday, December 17, 2010

MINDFULNESS AND SELF-HARM

On 12 December 2010 SBS presented a documentary called The Silent Epidemic about self-harm. The documentary specifically looked at the use of Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) as a treatment for people who use self-harm (which includes such things as self-injury and self-poisoning) as a coping mechanism.

Here is a link to the program, and here is the trailer.

By way of background, in 2008 Professor Graham Martin OAM (pictured below), the Director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at The University of Queensland, and Clinical Director of RCH Health Service District Child and Youth Mental Health Service, conducted The Australian National Epidemiological Study of Self-Injury. The results of the study showed that 1.1 per cent of the Australian population in the 4 weeks before telephone contact with the researchers and 8 per cent of the population in their lifetime had engaged in deliberate self-harm.

Now, there is already considerable scientific evidence in the form of brain scans, MRIs, etc, that Mindfulness can change the wiring (neural pathways) of the brain in relation to problems such as depression, substance abuse, eating disorders and so forth. I have referred to those and other issues in previous blogs.

The SBS program referred to brain scan evidence of the positive use of MBSR in cases of self-harm. However, it needs to be stressed that the evidence in question related to a person who had done an 8-week course of MBSR and who had been treated regularly by a psychiatrist for some 6 years. Nevertheless, it’s all very interesting, and the result comes as no surprise to those familiar with the use and practice of Mindfulness techniques generally.

Self-harm ordinarily begins with thoughts of self-loathing, self-blame and self-criticism and feelings of inadequacy. Often, there is a desire to feel better and experience a "high" from the act of harming oneself. Ultimately, those thoughts, desires and feelings, unless otherwise restrained or given positive expression, will manifest themselves in a negative way ... and sometimes in various forms of self-harm.

In order to end self-harm, one needs to change one’s whole relationship with oneself, and how one sees oneself. A good starting point is with one’s thoughts. Mindfulness keeps one fully grounded in the present ... in the presence of the action of the present moment. Mindfulness helps one to observe and note thoughts, positive or negative, without feeling the need to act upon them.

It’s only the beginning.

(This blog sets out a simple form of mindfulness sitting meditation.)


RELATED POST

MINDFULNESS AND TEENAGERS' BRAINS



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