Should we be talking about self harm?

I’m really worried that me talking about my experience with self harm openly may plant the seed of an idea in the mind of a vulnerable person.
I was recently on The Wright Stuff…I’ll just say that again…I was recently on The Wright Stuff! The question was posed to me “what if there’s a link between the the increase in media coverage of self harm and the concerning rise in incidence of teenage self harm?”
What if, someone in distress comes across a blog or article I’ve written and, even if I say “I’ve been left with scars” and “there are other options”, what if just seeing that it’s something that people do, gives them the idea to try it?
Yet, we need to talk about self harm, to raise awareness about the issue in order to:

  • Stop the stigma related to self harm – people who don’t understand self harm make assumptions when they see the wounds or scars, they think the individual is unstable, unable to cope, maybe incapable of holding down a job, being a decent friend or even dangerous. Some people apply the unhelpful term of “attention seeking” – read my blog on what I think about that term!
  • Stop the discrimination – due to the assumptions above, people experience not getting a job or promotion, losing friends or being excluded from life in general! I have even experienced less than satisfactory medical care…

People do not need to be told about self harm to think about doing it. When I started, social media didn’t exist, the internet had only just been born (I didn’t really use it) and I definitely didn’t hear about self harm at school or amongst friends.
My mental state meant I didn’t need to hear about it or read about it to think about doing it.
Initially I did it in relation to the hatred I felt for my body, I wanted to damage it as a form of punishment. Unfortunately I became gripped by positive effects, it helped me manage the distressing emotions.
But I have an incredible simple but important message:
Self harm does not work.
Harming yourself, whether through cutting, an eating disorder, drinking to numb feelings or deliberately persisting with thinking errors is not the answer to managing difficult feelings.
Self harm leads to guilt, shame and adds to the existing turmoil.
There are numerous other ways to manage mental distress. If you’re in a position of thinking that self harm might help, instead of looking up triggering material on google, instead try looking up ‘healthy coping techniques’ and you’ll find numerous other solutions, for example, this website Get Self Help.
I say “my scars are part of my story” and I shouldn’t be ashamed of them but that does not mean I’m glad I have them, if I didn’t have them, I could still be proud of my journey.
If you’re currently self harming, I cannot stress enough how important it is to seek help. I know it’s a secretive, hidden thing but it doesn’t need to be, there are ways to break free from it, you deserve better.
I’m glad the media are highlighting the issue but it needs to be thoughtfully and sensitively balanced; we need to raise awareness but not even hint at the idea of it being something everyone does, it is certainly not a group activity (as shown on Hollyoaks) nor is it in any way a good, fashionable on ‘in’ thing to do!

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