'Self-Harm' describes a wide range of actions by which people cause deliberate harm to themselves. In the vast majority of cases, self-harm is a secretive behaviour that people to go great lengths to hide. Therefore, it can go on for a long time without being discovered.
Self-harm may involve, amongst other things:
Self-Harm is a major health issue amongst young people in the UK. According to the Mental Health Foundation, it affects an estimated one in fifteen people between the ages of 11 and 25.
Why Do People Self-Harm?
In 2006, the Mental Health Foundation and the Camelot Foundation published the results of a two-year-long inquiry into self-harm in young people. Most of the young people they heard evidence from said they used self-harm as a way of dealing with intense emotional pain. When asked about the issues which lead them to self-harm, the most common answers were:
Self-harm offers only temporary relief, and it doesn't address the underlying problems which lead up to it, so people often end up in a cycle of repeatedly harming themselves to try and cope. Many people who self-harm are afraid to talk about it or seek help. They tend to feel that self-harm is their only coping strategy, and that if they tell somebody, it will be taken away from them. Many are also worried about not being taken seriously.
Myths about Self-Harm
There are many negative stereotypes attached to self-harm, mainly because most people don't understand it very well. Some people think self-harm is something people do 'to get attention', as if therefore it ought to be ignored. Most people actually try very hard to keep it a secret, but although some people do self-harm as a cry for help, they deserve to be taken seriously, not ignored.
Other myths include the idea that self-harm is used to manipulate other people, that it's something only teenagers do, or that it's not serious unless the injury caused is severe. It's also important to distinguish between self-harm and attempted suicide, because they are not the same thing. People who self-harm do not necessarily want to kill themselves.
Coping with Self-Harm
If you are worried about a friend or loved one who self-harms, try bringing it up with them by explain that you are concerned, and if they are prepared to talk about it, just listen and allow them to talk. Don't try to force somebody to stop self-harming, they need to do this in their own time. Finding out somebody you care about is harming themselves intentionally can be very distressing. It may help you to talk to a counsellor or a member of the welfare committee.
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