Today’s news round contained a veritable feast of disturbing stories, including locally to do with the challenges our town’s hospital and police force face, but the one that struck out, even though it is something I was previously aware of and one where I have had firsthand experience, despite not being anything I think about a great deal even though perhaps I ought to, given the importance of the issues raised, had the title: “Schools ‘struggling to cope’ with students self-harming“. The report began: “Schools are struggling to deal with rising numbers of students self-harming, two major teaching unions say. The number of pupils hurting themselves is said to be at a high. NHS figures obtained by BBC Newsbeat show a 20% rise in the number of 10 to 19-years-olds admitted to hospital because of self-harm injuries across England, Wales and Northern Ireland“.
The report gave examples, including that of a 13 year girl self-harmer who recounted her story, and it speculated on some of the reasons why youngsters self harm and what might be done to prevent this and help those who may be drawn into self harming. When I began community work in the mental health sphere, I soon became aware there were those who do self harm, more than I had thought would be the case. Just like any mental health issue, it affects those of all ages, genders, sexual orientation, races, religions, abilities, social backgrounds, present circumstances etc. Some have even showed me the physical scars to prove it. The ultimate form of self-harm is taking one’s own life. Sadly, I know some who have done this. Even now, I am aware of those who do self harm, unsurprising perhaps given the circumstances being endured, and being able to assist is one of my priorities as a community activist.
Personally, I have never self harmed by inflicting physical harm on myself but my mental state and low sense of self worth has been such that I have self harmed in other ways, particularly allowing pain and distress to continue because of the hurt I was experiencing at the time, suffering in silence and not resolving to break out of this depressing cycle when logic demanded that I could and should do so with immediate effect. This is not just something that was linked to my youth, when among other things I was bullied and I was low in confidence, and when my own dad also had low self-esteem and turned to drink, but it has been a reoccurring theme since then. A point I would make is self harm is a bigger problem than realised, if hospital admittance is what we go by, and while statistics suggest girls self harm more than boys, boys may respond in other ways.
The point of this short article is not to come up with profound thoughts, certainly no more profound than that in the article cited above or many others found by a simple search on the Internet, but to raise awareness, and without being patronising or pontificating when unqualified to do so etc. suggest in religious neutral language what those thinking of or actually self harming and those linked to such folk, especially if there to help, might care to consider. I am mindful that there are triggers that drive people to self harm e.g.: bullying, rejection and low self-esteem, which points in part to what we can all do in creating a better world that goes some way toward eradicating these things. I reflect on these matters, not as an expert, but as a compassionate human being wanting to make a difference.
To the self-harmer and potential self harmer:
- You are a precious, unique human being whose life is worth living.
- There are those who will help you if you let them and who you can turn to, and they will glad if you did.
- Look after your body and mind; for by doing so you can go on to achieve the most good.
To those who know those who do self harm or may do so, especially if you are wanting to help:
- Be sensitive to those around you – some of the least likely are those who do or will self harm.
- Be mindful that all persons have worth and have something only they can give; respond in a way that affirms this.
- Look out for those who do or might self harm; act as any true friend (or good neighbour) would, and do your bit to make the world a better place for those who might act in this way.