SELF HARM MYTHS
Most of us, when we come across Self Harm for the first time, fail to understand what is happening to the sufferer; I know I did.
In another article I have tried to explain what Self Harm IS, but I think it is even more helpful to look at what it ISN’T.
So let’s pause a moment and examine some of the common misconceptions about Self Harm.
SELF HARM ONLY HAPPENS IN DEPRIVED AREAS OR BROKEN FAMILIES.
Nothing could be further from the truth here. Statistics show that it doesn’t matter where someone is from, what their social or cultural background might be, or how well they perform at school. Young people are not more likely to have a problem with self-harm if they come from a more deprived part of town compared with more affluent areas. It doesn’t matter if their parents are together or divorced, if they come from a single parent family or if parents are employed or not. Young people growing up in care are not more or less likely to self-harm than teenagers who live with their families… it really can, and does, happen to anyone. It is thought that girls from a South Asian background may be slightly more likely to self-harm, but given not everyone comes forward and asks for help, it’s really hard to know for sure.
GIRLS SELF HARM MORE THAN BOYS.
Statistics do show that 4 times as many girls than boys self harm. However it is thought that this figure is misleading as self harm in boys tends to be less obvious. For example a boy may punch a wall or other inanimate object to deliberately injure himself. This action is obviously damaging to the boy but wouldn’t necessarily be reported as self harm, perceived in fact as ‘just a bad temper’. If you recognise that this is happening to your son on a regular basis, though, please look into getting him help.
ONLY YOUNG PEOPLE SELF HARM
Whilst MASH has been formed to help parents whose children self harm, we need to be aware that adults also have adopted this coping mechanism. I was interested in these comments made on the NHS Choices website:-
“I have self harmed since I was nine years old way back in the 50’s when it was unheard of. I am now past 70, still alive, very healthy and still cut / self harm.”
“I self harm, have done since I was at school, I’m 28 now. Last episode was yesterday, my social situation got on top of me,….”
SELF HARM IS JUST ATTENTION SEEKING
This is the most common phrase used when people see self harm.
I suppose that’s because the injuries do attract a lot of attention, once revealed.
Its also true that some self harmers injure themselves so badly that medical attention is required, hence leaving others with no option but to give them attention.
However most sufferers do their best to hide their self harm – and may even be harming themselves because they are afraid to reveal their true feelings.
Self Harm is usually very private and personal. Telling a Self Harmer that you think they are just Attention Seeking will only damage them further, as it will increase the burden of shame and poor self image they undoubtedly already have.
If you have been using this phrase can I encourage you to think like this instead:-
Self Harm is a symptom, a crying out for the answer to an unmet emotional need.
SELF HARM IS JUST A TREND THAT YOUNG PEOPLE FOLLOW.
Youth culture promotes the idea of inclusion and belonging, placing pressure on young people to conform to certain ideals and beliefs concerning what they wear, the music they listen to and how they behave.
There have been cases of schools and youth clubs reporting groups of young people engaging in acts of self-harm collectively. These groups are usually held together by a few strong individuals who have great influence over others.
So on the face of it, the ‘trend’ theory would appear to be true. However we must be vigilant and look at the bigger picture here, as the vulnerable young person who has real problems can be overlooked under these circumstances.
Never assume that everyone in a group situation is merely following the crowd. If your child has been involved in a self harm group, be vigilant.