The Children’s Society has just recently released some shocking, but very real statistics on self harm. They predict that 110,000 children aged 14, both boys AND girls have self harmed over the course of the year in the UK. That’s about 1 in 4 girls who self harm.
The study found that girls were significantly happier with school work than boys, suggesting that social influences are a big part to play in unhappiness.
These figures aren’t really a shock. With 1/4 of us suffering from mental illness at some point in our lives, teenage years are a magnetic point in where many issues manifest and is a huge part of a persons emotional development, which can lead persons scarred.
So, what is self harm? Self harm is a form of physically hurting oneself for a short term form of release. Self harm can be anything damaging to your body, it doesn’t just include the most commonly known cutting (although that is very common amongst teenagers and young people). It can involve binge or under eating, hitting yourself, excessive exercise, poisoning yourself and often, overlaps with substance abuse (both alcohol and recreational drugs).
Many people don’t understand self harm. It can be judged as attention seeking and selfish, but is it really attention seeking if a person really needs help? In some environments, slight slits to the wrist were often branded “cool” and “showing” emotion by persons trying to fit in and wanting attention. There’s two problems with this: not only is this completed undermining the seriousness of self harm, but it can also indicate insecurity within that person themselves.
Self harm is a coping mechanism, where self harmers may not fully understand how it helps them cope, only relying on the short term relief. People have described it as gaining control back in their lives, or expressing something where the words are hard to find. It can also be a form of punishment and a sign of suicidal thoughts, so the seriousness of this shouldn’t be brushed away lightly. A person who is self harming most likely has a negative opinion of themselves, so negative and aggressive comments, especially directly at the person can have a detrimental and devastating consequence.
I personally, have had my own struggles. When I was 16, I used to struggle with self harm. I felt worthless and out of control (this is when I had my first depressive episode) and would get a release from small cuts to bodily parts. I’d cry and cry but I felt a release of physical pain, which I couldn’t get with my mental pain. Over the years, I have on several occasions dealt with my problems and pain with alcohol and in the past year, I’ve through myself down stairs and bashed my head repeatedly against walls, as I wanted to punish myself for my relationship ending. I’ve been to counselling since and with the help of medication and CBT techniques, I’m a lot calmer and can reassess situations more clearly.
Whilst self harm is a serious issue that can only really be addressed by the person themselves (as they are the ones with the true control), you can do things to help support a loved one during their time. Offer them help, but don’t force it on them. Like any mental illness, it’s important to TALK. To talk about problems, any concerns and see if any weight can be lifted from their shoulders. If a person has a reliance on drink, why not agree to go sober with them for a period of time, filling drinking time with other activities and chats to help come to terms with any issues they may have. If they have wounds, why don’t you offer them an antiseptic wipe, or some cooling cream to help with the pain. Go outside with them. Go for a walk, feel the fresh air. Let them feel in control of something again.
It can be difficult if yourself, or a loved one is struggling with self harm, there is help available, but the key is positivity and support. Here is a link to some crucial information on first aid for self harm.
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