Today is self-harm awareness day. Self-harm is a widely misunderstood issue and a bit of a taboo subject but I think it is incredibly important that we talk about it and the truth behind it.
Self-harm is often seen as attention seeking but in many cases it is quite the opposite. Often people who self-harm do not want to share their feelings and problems with others and so bottle up feelings that lead to them self-harming. I’ve self-harmed for many years and often when I was at my worst with self-harming people would see an overly happy Claire, I did not want people to know I wasn’t okay. I did not want their attention. If I wanted attention I would’ve done it a completely different way, I would’ve shouted or worn eccentric clothing, I wouldn’t have put myself through physical pain and scarred my body.
There are some people who self-harm as a cry for help but that is not the same as attention seeking. We are sociable creatures, we need one another and sometimes when we are really not okay we scream “please help me” in different ways. If someone is self-harming and showing someone their self-harm they probably really need some help and care, to call that person an attention seeker is completely wrong.
I see worrying amounts of pro-self harm posts, particularly on the recovery hashtag on instagram. The problem with pro-self harm is that it isn’t just dangerous on an obvious level (telling others how to self-harm etc.) but it’s dangerous and damaging on a bigger scale. It reinforces the idea that self-harming is attention seeking. It adds to stigma. Don’t hurt yourself, take a picture and post it on social media. It is damaging and dangerous for everyone.
Because self-harm has the ‘attention seeker’ tag stuck onto it, it makes it very difficult for some people to speak out. People are worried that they will be seen as an attention seeker or as a bad person and often cuts and scars and inner turmoil are hidden away from everyone. Nobody should have to be in such a lonely and isolated place.
It isn’t just mental illness that causes self-harm, many people adopt it as a coping strategy, particularly in the younger generations where there is a worrying culture of self-harm. It is important to acknowledge that it isn’t just teenagers who self-harm, anyone and any age can struggle with self-harming. I self-harmed in primary school and I know women in their 50s who battle with self-harm too.
I have many scars and I used to be ashamed of them but they will be there forever, I cannot spend the next 60 years of my life in long sleeved tops. I do not romanticise my scars, they are not a good thing but they are a part of me and I have to accept that. Wearing a t-shirt and having scars on show that were made 3 years ago does not make me an attention seeker, it makes me human and accepting of my flaws.
It can be very lonely battling with self-harm. I used to feel overwhelmed with my secrets, with hiding things from everyone else and I felt on my own with it, like I was the only person in the world to be this way. I was so ashamed of myself, of what I was doing. I felt like the weird one in my family. Now I know you’re never alone, just because something isn’t spoken about it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen. This self-harm awareness day speak out about self-harm, let people know that they aren’t on their own and that it is okay to talk about self-harm.
If you are struggling with thoughts of self-harm, or are self-harming, you may find the following links helpful: