Self Harm: A Growing Problem

Yesterday, I watched a thought-provoking item on breakfast television that included the alarming statistic that at present, in the UK, one in twelve children are involved in self harming. It was reported on BBC’s Breakfast TV. As I was listening, I could not help wondering about the inner conflict that might be responsible the behaviour.

Looking at the BBC web page on the subject, the following things are all advanced as possible causes:

  • Not Knowing Where to Get Help
  • Relieving Tension
  • A Way of Punishing Yourself
  • A Method of Coping with Denial

They are all very understandable reasons. Not knowing where to turn to get help is understandable in terms of making a cry or plea for help. You might think of it as looking for attention. The TV item did seem to suggest there might be something negative about that, but it is not a negative thing at all. Help is attention!

Relieving tension is understandable too. As the BBC site says, self harm usually occurs when someone is feeling very emotional. Emotions are indeed internal states of tension designed to provoke action; not this kind of action, of course. But with self harm, we are dealing with desperation and, in desperation, people are inclined to take very unusual, perhaps even apparently incomprehensible, actions.

Punishment is also understandable if we think about the difficulties associated with habitually taking actions that are incongruent with our values. A simple example would be resolving to give up drinking alcohol but also continuing to get drunk regularly. That might lead to a point where an individual might feel they ought to be punished.

The final reason may be a bit more difficult to understand, but following a trauma that might leave you numb, self harming can be a way to actually feel more alive. So, in that sense, it can be a method of coping with the normal denial reaction to some traumatic event. It essentially becomes a way of getting back in touch with reality.

Whatever, the underlying reason, self harming is a growing problem for young people and one we need to take very seriously. If you found this article because you were seeking help for yourself or someone else, here are some resources that can help you:

But the best advice you can get, if you are involved in self harming, is to seek qualified professional help. You may not know where to turn but there are people available who genuinely want to help you. So start by going to see your doctor. Tell him or her about what you have been doing. Don’t be too concerned about why; just go to see your doctor and say that you need help and don’t be embarrassed to ask.

We all need a little help from time to time.

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