Tag Archives: self harm

Myth#4 If someone harms themselves they’re just attention seeking

Trigger warning – this blog focuses on self harm, if you think you may be adversely affected by the content, please turn away before reading any further.
This the forth in a series of myth busting blogs. You’ll find links to the others at the bottom, please read and share – we need to break down this misunderstanding and stigma!
If someone harms themselves it’s because of some inner turmoil, people turn to self harm when other forms of coping have failed. Self harm is on a wide spectrum from drinking every night (to dull stressful feelings) through to parasuicidal behaviour such as taking an overdose.
The self harm may be a way of relieving the mental pain, sometimes it’s a form of punishment, sometimes it’s a way of converting the mental pain into physical pain that’s more manageable. Some people do it because words are beyond reach, some because words just don’t feel enough.
People who self harm are not deliberately seeking attention, most do not want attention at all and will do anything to hide the results of their self harm. However, although they do not want attention, the likelihood is, they need it – we are all human beings who need love and attention in order to survive – someone with mental illness is no different.
This phrase ‘just attention seeking’ has become dismissive and prevents the sufferer getting the support and treatment they need. It may be a difficult and scary behaviour to encounter but we need to see self harm as a symptom, just like low mood, insomnia or decreased appetite in order to ensure anyone who self harms gets the treatment they need.
It is common for people with borderline personality disorder to harm themselves but people who self harm can have any diagnosis (or none). It is a common misconception, even amongst mental health professionals that people who self harm automatically have a diagnosis of BPD, misdiagnosis is unhelpful and even dangerous.
I’ve struggled with various forms of self harm, at times it’s attracted unwanted attention, I’ve been judged and have been badly treated by people in authority. At the time I thought I deserved it, but now I realise it was very wrong.
Just like suicide is a death caused by mental illnesses (not a crime that has been committed) self harm is a symptom of mental illness, we need to change our language to break down the stigma and discrimination that all too often seen in Emergency Departments, within mental health services and in the general population.
Myth#1 – Mental illness is a sign of weakness
Myth#2 – Men need to get in touch with their feminine side to show their emotions
Myth#3 – Bipolar is more serious than depression and it’s preferable to have anorexia over bulimia

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!

Me, my self harm and my scars

I feel incredibly strongly that self harm is an important topic to talk about. Not only because it is on the increase in schools (and talking about it is the only way to prevent it) but I wish to break down the stigma, misundstanding and controversy surrounding the topic.
Don’t get me wrong, I find it a very difficult topic to open up about, I feel sad that I’ve used it as a coping mechanism and I’m gutted that I have to live with my history on show but we have to start talking about it somehow!
Read more about my story here: http://metro.co.uk/2017/06/19/my-history-of-self-harm-has-left-me-with-scars-but-i-see-them-as-a-mark-of-my-survival-6686564/