*The following post talks about self harm and may be triggering. Before reading, please ensure that you are in a safe place mentally. If you or someone you know needs help then please speak to your GP or head to emergency if treatment is urgently needed.*
I was 14 when I first started to self harm. I remember what I used, but I don’t remember how I felt. More importantly I didn’t know where I got the ‘idea’ that self harm would help in any way. This seemed to be one of the most prevalent question when I first saw a Dr. Where had I ‘learned’ to self harm, because clearly this was nothing more than a teenage peer pressure issue.
I grew up in a small country town, I’m talking population of around 300 people here. The town where I went to high school had more, at a small 1800. I was the only person at my high school who engaged in self harm. It was uncharted territory for those around me. So, it was also decided that I obviously had an influence on those around me, and in some people’s eyes, I was a bad influence. A girl who I went to school with started harming herself, it was my fault, clearly.
Anyone who has self harmed will tell you that they wouldn’t wish the feelings on anyone. It’s like an addiction. You have to keep doing more and more to get that same ‘hit’. I have written about self harm and the myths surrounding it here, here, here and here.
Statistics (page 108) show that there has been an increase in the rate of hospitalisations for self harm from 1990-2011. Some people believe that the reason for this increase is because it is now more in the open, and teenagers are exposed to it more often. I call bullshit. Firstly, I believe that the reason for the increase is because it’s something that is more widely accepted, and so young people are seeking help for self harming behaviour earlier. I must also point out that of the 26,000 self harm cases that resulted in hospitalisation, there is most likely another 10 cases where the person did not seek hospital treatment.
The first point I would like to make is that self harm is more than just the action of harming oneself. Self harm is not a disorder on its own and is often response to something deeper that is causing the person distress. It is this thought that leads me to believe that self harm, in its true form is not something that teenagers can ‘catch’ by observing one of their peers engaging in the behaviour.
I also believe that actions of self harm that are performed in order to fit in with a peer group will often peter out once its no longer deemed cool to do anymore. Remember the ‘smilies’ created by placing a lighter against your skin to create a smiley face? Those would be the perfect example. If a teen continues to self harm after their peers have moved on, then I believe that there are deeper issues that need to be addressed.
In saying that, the way that teenagers access support and interact with their peers has dramatically changed over the last 10 years. There are places that teenagers are able to go who romanticize the act of self harm and turn the scars into something to be desired. However these kinds of sites have been around for a long time, for different self harming behaviours (pro eating disorder sites for example) and I just think that this generation are lot more tech savvy than those before them. I also don’t think that it’s fair to lump all people who self harm into one basket of people who think that the behaviour is something to aspire to.
Lastly, and from a completely emotive point of view, it royally pisses me off that people believe that someone seeing my scars, or when I was actively engaging in self harm, bandages and wounds, would lead them to think that harming themselves would be awesome to do. Do people think the same about those who have broken their arm or leg through non self harm activities? Would you shield your teen from hanging out with someone because they broke a bone on the school holidays?
Linking up with Jess for IBOT.