Self-harm – why we need to talk about it
Last Sunday was Self-Harm Awareness Day – a day to encourage those who self-harm to talk openly and seek help. There are various reasons why someone may self-harm and the more we discuss these reasons, the better according to experts.
According to data gathered from England Health Behaviour in School Aged Children (HBSC), up to one in five 15-year-olds in the UK self-harm. In the last 10 years, the same study says there has been a three-fold increase in the total number of teenagers who self-harm.
So, what is it that causes people to harm themselves? Therapist Jenna Mutlick has personal experiences of self-harm and says it is typically used as a form of self-punishment. Those affected may believe they have done something wrong (even when they haven’t) and believe that they deserve the pain.
Professor Glyn Lewis, the head of psychiatry at University College London, also points out that they aren’t always looking to take their own lives.
“Clearly, there are people who self-harm because they want to take their own lives, but there are also people who want to self-harm because they are in difficult situations or want to relieve stress.”
He goes on to explain that while some forms of self-harm are physically very dangerous, there are those that may be more superficial (such as light scratches) and even though they may not be as dangerous physically, they are just as damaging mentally.
The causes of self-harm are usually very complex, even if the sufferer does not see the issue in that way. Chris Leaman from UK mental health charity YoungMinds says, sadly, self-harm is still considered a taboo subject in British society. He explains that every year YoungMinds and other UK charities work hard to combat stigmas. He also says there is a growing issue for young men in particular.
“There is a definite problem around young men not feeling like they can talk about their issues, which can make self-harm quite a common issue among them.”
The aim is to help society to recognise self-harm as a serious matter and not be dismissed as a form of attention seeking.