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Few people will forget the image of Vancouverite Bethany Storro at a news conference after allegedly being the victim of an attack in which a stranger threw a cup of acid in her face. Fewer still will forget the news that followed a few weeks later — the attack never actually happened. A “pretty black woman” had not thrown the acid in her face in front of her local Starbucks. No one else was involved. She had injured herself.

The news left many people in the community shocked and saddened. Her parents say they don’t have answers. And people around the world wonder why a young woman would do this to herself. Many experts describe this as a sort of self-injury or self-mutilation. According to the Mayo Clinic:

Self-injury is the act of deliberately harming your own body, such as cutting or burning yourself. It’s not meant as a suicide attempt. Rather, self-injury is an unhealthy way to cope with emotional pain, intense anger and frustration.

The American Self-Harm Information Clearinghouse, based out of Seattle, reports that one percent of the U.S. population “has, at one time or another, used self-inflicted physical injury as a means of coping with an overwhelming situation or feeling.” Some reports suggest that number may be dramatically higher among teens.

What causes a person to want to harm, injure or mutilate themself? Have you ever done it? What did you do? And, more importantly, why? What result were you hoping for? Do you know someone who has chosen to injure themselves in any way? How did you try to help?

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