Self-harm: the cause, the facts, the support

Over the last five years the number of youngsters who are self-harming has risen and the figures continue to increase significantly. The seriousness of the problem came to light after figures revealed that over twenty-five thousand under 25’s are rushed to hospital each year as result of self-harming. The UK now carries the highest rate for self-harmers in Europe.

There is no single element that defines a self-harmer. It can happen to anyone of any age, race, and background, regardless of the life they appear to lead; it can happen to the most extrovert person and you may never know.

The Linc spoke to Sasha*, a lively and outgoing twenty-one-year-old, who sought comfort by cutting herself after a tough childhood:
“I think everything from my childhood had been suppressed. My dad left and I was being bullied at school, I had no self-confidence and was cripplingly shy. I don’t remember exactly how old I was, I think about sixteen, maybe fifteen,” she says.

There are many reasons why youngsters turn to self-harm as a form of comfort, but it’s more common among young people who are feeling stressed, isolated, alone, or angry about issues in their lives.

The statistics recently released by the “Truth Hurts” report have led to concerns by psychiatrists who claim this is merely the tip of the iceberg.

Mental health charities are now encouraging school teachers and emergency rooms to have a better understanding of how to help self-harmers.


Self-harmers are encouraged to seek help and support. Photo: Anneka James

Many believe that cutting is the only form of self-harm, but whilst it’s the most common, it isn’t the only one. Other forms include burning, biting, pulling hair, breaking bones or swallowing poisonous substances.

Sasha used the most common form of cutting and used razors: “I used razors most of the time. I used to get the razor head and pull out the blade so that it would cut deeper. I had a box in my room where I used to keep it in, and until about two years ago I still had it there if things got too difficult to handle,” she says.

A new campaign to ban images of self-harm on the internet has been set up to try and reduce the number of youngsters currently being admitted to hospital. Images and videos of youngsters cutting themselves can easily be found on websites such as YouTube and are seen by parents and school teachers as a way of glamorising the topic.

Dr Margaret Murphy, chair of The Royal College of Psychiatrics’ Child and Adolescent faculty, said: “The Royal College of Psychiatrics is seriously concerned at the recent growth in the number of internet sites featuring images and video footage of young people engaging in self-harm and, in particular, websites which appear to promote self-harm.”

The RCP suggests that these websites should be advertising sites that offer help and support.

There are many websites available to young people who are suffering from self-harm, such as Samaritans, who offer help, advice and support to those who are seeking help.

Dealing with self-harm is different for each individual and there’s no quick fix to help harmers stop, but sharing the burden will almost definitely help.

Sasha had stopped harming by the time she told the people around her what she was doing, but the experience made her stronger: “It’s a part of who I am and a part of what makes me [who I am]. I do sometimes have relapses and I could never say I won’t ever do it again. But I’m not afraid of it anymore and I would never let it control me again to the extent it did before,” she says.

If you find yourself in a position where you are hurting yourself or considering harming yourself, visit the following website to seek help and advice: http://www.thesite.org/healthandwellbeing/mentalhealth/selfharm

One Response to Self-harm: the cause, the facts, the support

  1. Hailey says:

    I used to do the same things. when ppl noticed my wrists I started cutting my legs. I got some kind of high from it. I quit once I met my bf who I’ve been with for 4 years now. I was so depressed before I met him. My moods were a constant change by the minute. But I went to a doctor and got diagnosed with a severe anxiety/panic disorder and have been on medication for it since I was 14. I am now 17 and a senior in highschool.I feel like my boyfriend is the reason I got help but kids need help with self harming. its happening more and more everyday and it could kill them. I cut for a year and a half and I am stronger today because of it but there are other ways out there than to cut or hurt yourself and I encourage ppl who do self harm to get help. its the first step to recovery and changing your life