Self Harm... We Need To Talk

self_harm.jpgSelf-harm is a difficult subject.  No-one really wants to talk about it.  That's because it makes people uncomfortable and it's easier to pretend it doesn't exist or it isn't really an issue.  The reality is that it is far more common than we think and it is often misunderstood.  Here are 10 common self-harm myths… 

 

 

 

 

 

1.  Self-harm isn't that common...

Actually it's far more common that you think - around 1 in 10 young people have admitted to self-harming at some point.  That's likely to be an underestimate as many people don't speak up.

 

2.  Self-harm only affects teenagers...

Self-harm can affect anyone - regardless of age, gender, background, job, race, religion.  It is more common in teenagers, but we know that some children (as young as 8) and adults self-harm too.

 

3.  Self-harm is attention-seeking behaviour...

Most people who self-harm do it in private and don't tell anyone.  They do it for various reasons, but it is related to experiencing high levels of inner stress and pain, and the self-harm is a way of 'letting it out'.  It can be related to difficulties with relationships, bullying, abuse, sexuality, drug and alcohol problems, mental health issues, work, unemployment and many other things.  Most people who self-harm won't seek help because they are embarrassed, ashamed or feel guilty.  In reality, it isn't the sufferer's fault.

 

4.  Self-harm is 'deliberate'...

We used to refer to it as 'deliberate self-harm' because the action was considered intentional.  However, many people who self-harm do it because they don't know any other way of coping with difficult feelings or emotions.  They aren't doing it 'deliberately' or for attention.

 

5.  Self-harmers want to kill themselves...

Self-harm is not the same thing as suicide.  In fact, the majority of self-harmers do not want to kill themselves.  However, we do know that they are at a much greater risk of doing so which is why they need help and support.

 

6.  Self-harm is a mental illness...

This isn't true.  Most people who self-harm don't have a mental health problem.  However, we know it can be related to an underlying mental health issue (like anxiety or depression), which is why getting help is so important.

 

7.  Self-harm is just a phase...

Most people who self-harm will stop doing it as they get older.  However, some people will carry on doing it for the rest of their lives unless they seek help.

 

8.  Self-harmers are weird...

Actually, self-harm can affect anybody in all walks of life.  You'd be surprised at the number of people that have experienced it and lead perfectly 'normal' lives, have successful careers, or are famous.  Did you know that Drew Barrymore, Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, Megan Fox, Dame Kelly Holmes, Angelina Jolie, Demi Lovato and Princess Diana all self-harmed?

 

9.  Self-harmers can just stop if they want to...

Unfortunately, this isn't true.  Self-harm is complex and the reasons behind it can be difficult to understand.  It's a symptom of an underlying problem, but that problem might be extremely difficult to deal with.  Often, self-harmers don't know how else to cope, don't believe there is any other way, or the self-harm becomes habitual or addictive, meaning that stopping it is really difficult to do.

 

10.  There is no help for self-harm...

Actually there is a lot out there for people that want help.  First and foremost, talk to someone you can trust (e.g. friend, family, doctor, teacher, youth worker, online) and get your feelings out.  There are lots of websites that offer information and support too - details are below.  If you have harmed yourself then it is important to have treatment if it is bad, and often you will be put in touch with a local service that can help you deal with the underlying problems.  If you are experiencing abuse and it is causing you to self-harm then speak to someone and get help.  For longer term treatment, counselling, talking therapies (e.g. CBT, psychotherapy) and medical treatments (e.g. medication) for people that need it can be very effective.  Parents with children that are self-harming can also get support too (see below).

 

When you get help, you deserve to be treated with compassion, understanding and respect and it is important for you to be open with the people who are trying to help.  

 

Always remember: you are not alone and there are lots of people that want to help.  

 

If you want further information, advice and support then check out (click on links):

TheSite

NSPCC Childline

Young Minds

Young Minds - Parent Helpline

SelfHarm.co.uk

Mind

 

Guidance on self-harm management for professionals is available here:

RCPsych Guidelines

NICE Guidelines