The Butterfly Project
Self-injury, also known as self-mutilation and cutting is defined as the intentional, direct injuring of body tissue mostly done without suicidal intentions wikipedia.
Self-injury is unfortunately a very common issue among teenagers. According to research, it mostly effects women from ages 13 to 30.
In a typical year at the high school I work at, I usually only see about one case of self-injury a year. Not to say that there’s only one person at the school that cuts themselves, chances are, the rest are just hiding it better. This year however, I’ve had so many instances of self-injury that I actually have a group comprised mostly of “cutters”, as they refer to themselves. Coinciding with research, three out of the four people in the group are female. Most of them cut on their arms and one cuts on her arms and thighs. All of them cut out of anger, frustration and depression. They express to me that it helps them feel alive and/or that it helps them take out their frustrations on themselves. For all of them, it has become a form of addiction.
During my last meeting with this group, one of the newest members told me about The Butterfly Project. The Butterfly Project basically is a way to try and help those who self-injure and those who know someone who self-injures. It has seven rules.
1. When you feel like you want to cut, take a marker, pen or sharpies and draw a butterfly on your arm or hand.
2. Name the buttery after a loved one, or someone that really wants you to get better.
3. You must let the butterfly fade naturally. NO scrubbing it off.
4. If you cut before the butterfly is gone, you’ve killed it. If you don’t cut, it lives.
5. If you have more than one butterfly, cutting kills all of them.
6. Another person may draw them on you. These butterflies are extra special. Take good care of them.
7. Even if you don’t cut, feel free to draw a butterfly anyway, to show your support. If you do this, name it after someone you know that cuts or is suffering right now, and tell them. It could help.
I thought that this was a very creative and safe alternative to self-injury so my entire group is trying this and maybe it will help others out there who self-injure so definitely pass this on.
The above picture is an actually picture I took of a previous client of mine who self-injures. She actually did much more damage to her arms a few days after I took this picture and required psychiatric hospitalization.