TW: Discusses SH, please read on with caution.
I’m sure a lot of you are aware that there was an article featured in BBC News Scotland yesterday about the huge increase in the number of young people admitted to Scottish hospitals for self-harm (SH) related injuries. The article I’m referring to states that this number has more than doubled in some parts of Scotland (Ayrshire & Arran, my own area, being one of those) in the last 5 years and that 563 under-18s were admitted to Scottish hospitals in 2014 alone.
I don’t mean to slate this article, nor do I deny that these are horrendous statistics and that something needs to be done. Indeed, parts of the article are encouraging, suggesting that these figures are so high because young people are now less afraid to ask for professional help and, furthermore, know how to access such help. That young people are more forthcoming about MH issues is good, this must not go unsaid.
But here is my problem. This is yet another article on SH that concentrates on young people. There is a common misconception in society that SH affects only adolescents, that it is a phase. The most ignorant among us adopt the presumption that it is a habit adopted by kids who sport black clothes, hair and make-up.
It is NOT a problem affecting only young people, it is not a ‘phase’ that one goes through, it often doesn’t stop in adulthood. It is a symptom of many other conditions: Anxiety, Depression, Personality Disorders…it often goes alongside Eating Disorders. These are all illnesses that affect people from all walks of life, no matter how old. It can become an addiction in itself. Just as one might develop an addiction to alcohol, or drugs, one can develop an addiction to SH. I am 31 years old and have been embroiled in a vile cycle of self-destructive behaviours for about a decade (so I didn’t SH as an adolescent). Only 5 days ago, I found myself in A&E having self-inflicted wounds stitched closed.
MH is already a hugely stigmatised subject, with SH being one of the more misunderstood aspects. So while I commend the above article for attempting to raise awareness, I equally condemn it for feeding the stigma surrounding SH. It encourages the chronic misapprehension that SH is a problem of the young, something to grow out of. Well, I’m an adult, and I self-harm…let us get that in the news.