Self Harm


Who & Why Self Harm?

  • Self-harm is much more common among girls and teenagers. Research shows that the most common age group for self-harm is 15-19 year olds, although some children may start to self-harm as young as 11.Self-harm can also be linked to other mental health conditions, such as depression. As depression can occur at any time, self-harm may affect people of all ages.

    Self harm is a way of people coping with whatever is going on in their lives and gives them control over at least one thing and in some cases it might be the last thing they have control over. No one will know why someone self harms and in some cases even they do not know. It can be a combination of things in their life not necessarily one specific experience. It is seen as a coping mechanism attempting to alter how they feel by inflicting enough harm to release the body’s natural endorphins giving a “natural high”. This momentarily provides the release/experience of feelings needed/wanted which is why it is often a way of dealing with anger and stress. The feeling however is quickly replaced with the negative feelings of upset, stress, guilt, shame etc which causes the vicious cycle. In the same way a smoker will turn to cigarettes when stressed, a self harmer will injure themselves because they can become dependent on this being their method of coping mechanism.  A volunteer at Opal described the feeling as “It is like when you are bursting for a wee - The feeling of cutting is like the release when you finally go for a wee but it is then followed by all the negative feelings making you want to do it again”. The reason a young person self harms will be different for everyone. Some common reasons are: the relief of anger, escape from emptiness, depression and feelings of unreality, easing tension, providing relieve, escaping numbness and preventing suicide.

    Stereotyping is one of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to spot someone who self harms. The typical groups associated with self harm are teenager Goths, Emos and those who dress or listen to music in accordance with these groups but common self harm groups in the past have been females of some ethnic origin and a recent quote in the Nursing Times indicated that the rate of self harm among young Black women is Manchester was 10.3 per 1000 people, compared to 6.6 per 1000 in the white population indicating that stereotyping self harmers is very much a myth. The ages of self harmers are now recorded as being much more diverse counting up from as young as 5 years old. The stereotypes are counterproductive as not only do they make people biased or judging toward these groups in society but also it trivialises self harm. Recent research has shown that many young self harmers are very bright, intelligent students who have never been in trouble in school.