*The following post discusses self harm. Please ensure that you are in a safe place mentally before reading. If you are feeling unsafe please ask for help. Lifeline 13 11 14, a friend, your GP.*
People with struggle with self harm urges often use various distraction techniques to help ward off the distressing thoughts. Sometimes it is about getting through the next minute, then the next. One of those techniques is often social media. However social media, and the internet in general can also hinder efforts to distract yourself.
When I was actively self harming, I didn’t really care too much about triggering images. I wasn’t always actively trying to stop, so I didn’t see the point in protecting myself from self harm images. I even contributed to those images a few times, something that I am not proud of. I was a regular use of pro self harm websites, I was destroying myself and sought out those who understood that desire.
However now that I am focusing on not engaging in self harm, I have experienced first hand the impact that those images and descriptions have on other people. I know what it’s like to be scrolling through my social media and be confronted with images of the very thing that I am trying to avoid.
Sometimes though, these images are shared with the intention of raising awareness and that is where I have the biggest problem. These images aren’t created by people who are hell bent on destroying themselves, people who don’t know better. They are shared by people who think that they are doing the right thing. They are shared to shock people into realising the impact that their self harming has on others.
Not all of these images are shared by those who don’t know better though. I have noticed an increase of Mental Health Awareness social media accounts sharing articles with these images. The articles are shared without disclaimers, there is no warning that the article contains images which may be distressing. In some cases these images are even posted as the preview image, meaning there is no barrier. It’s confronting to scroll through your social media and see an image of a razor held against someones skin.
These social media accounts have a duty of care to their followers, and in reality one would think they would know first hand the impact these kinds of images have on people struggling with self harm. Surely they can’t be so short-sighted?
To be completely honest, I’m not really sure that these images are necessary. I think that the images take away from the message that the article or personal story is trying to share with others. I also wonder how many of these articles use these images to shock and repulse rather than create a place of understanding. I wonder too if someone sharing their personal story would receive less negative feedback without the image? A picture might be worth a thousand words but at what cost?
Have you noticed an increase in self harm images?
Do you think these images help or hinder the stigma?