Day 529

Self-harm. What is it?

UK has the highest rates of self-harm in Europe. Why?
1 in 10 young men and 3 in 10 young women have self-harmed. (Youth Index 2014)
The percentage increase in the number of young people being brought to hospital for self-harm has increased by nearly 70% in10 years (Young Minds 2011).

Many professionals do not understand self-harm and react inappropriately to it making it harder for young people to ask for help.

It is often a secretive, private act and NOT attention seeking.
It is a way of coping with severe emotional pain.
It is a way of communicating feelings of distress.
It is a way of regaining some sense of control.
It is self-punishment for feelings of guilt or shame.

We all engage in self-harming behaviour to some extent. For example, smoking, driving too fast, unhealthy eating, drinking too much alcohol, not getting enough exercise and engaging in risky sexual behaviour despite knowing all the facts. At what point do these behaviours become harmful?

Mostly self harm presents as cutting with sharp objects, burning with hot objects, hair pulling, hitting oneself, punching walls, head-banging, provoking fights and drinking harmful chemicals or objects. Alcohol and drug use increase the risk of self-harm.

Why does it happen?

Traumatic experiences like Bullying, bereavement, parents breaking up; conflict; physical/emotional or sexual abuse; feeling rejected; having a disability; being in the criminal justice system; pressure to do well at school; problems to do with race, culture or religion; being part of a normalising culture of behaviour.

Young people who self-harm are at a higher risk of suicide.

Let’s talk about what can be done about it tomorrow. Feel free to correct me and add to this topic if you like. Please share useful resources if you know of any. Strengths and difficulties questionnaire is one that is used by psychologists in the UK.


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