Archive for October, 2013

Does Bullying Lead to Self Harm?

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

Bullying is a challenging and on-going aspect of life which anyone from children, adults and teenagers can experience. Forms of bullying have also evolved throughout the years with fewer limits to the ways in which an individual can be bullied, including the internet and mobile phones. Escaping from this problem has become increasingly difficult. That being said, there is evidence to suggest that bullying particularly aimed at children and teenagers can lead to self harm. Bullying can lead to depression, a known precursor to self harming or it can exacerbate already tense emotions an individual is feeling. Recent cases and statistics show a link between self harm awareness and bullying and how accurate this relationship is.

So what is bullying? There are many definitions, and common factors include: Using aggression or strength to intimidate or harass someone on repeated occasions. Now comes the question, how does this lead to and increase risks of self harm? Self harm can be a means of releasing tension and negative feelings which can be brought about by the mental and physical impact of bullying, as stated by Psychology professor Dieter Wolke, “A common perception is that those who self-harm do this because they are depressed or mentally ill. We found that being bullied, in particular chronically in primary school, directly increases the risk of self-harm.” Additionally, bullying can also lead to depression which then culminates into self harm and calls for increased help for self harm.

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Another form of bullying, cyber bullying, has led to a rise in suicide and self harm amongst adolescents, with cases hitting the headlines recently after repeated online abuse. accessing the site ask.fm a website where users can share anonymous questions and answers, was highlighted as a contributory facator. Scott Freeman, founder of The Cybersmile Foundation stated “It’s very easy to get carried away in this circle of online self-abuse when you’re alone in your room. Children check it, and keep checking, and it evolves into a kind of self-harm.” Help for self harm may therefore need to be adjusted according to the rapid growth of social media.

A study was carried out at Kings College London where approximately 1000 pairs of twins were monitored from the ages of 5-12. Following interviews with the children’s mothers, 62 children had self harmed up to the age of 12 and half of these children had experienced bullying. So it can be deduced that bullying is a possible precursor to those who self harm. That being said, the researchers also acknowledged that this is not a black and white issue as many findings showed it is much more complicated than we think. This included:

 

  • Whether the child already self harmed before bullying
  • Children who chose not to disclose bullying
  • If a child had a history of mental health problems.

 

These are just some of the factors which make the connection between self harm and bullying a very grey area.

In order to provide help for self harm we need to identify the catalysts for self harming behaviour and bullying may be one of them. Although bullying is a stepping stone towards self harm in some cases, assumptions cannot be made at this point. Types of bullying need to be identified such as cyber bullying and how this affects individuals, whether self harming can alternatively lead to bullying and also the long term effects on children entering adolescence. By investigating these issues we are one step closer to helping those who self harm.

 

Is Self Harming A Mental Illness?

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

Self harm in itself has become a taboo subject when discussed in society. This is widely due to the lack of knowledge on the subject and general self harm awareness. It is therefore vital to understand what self harm is in order to take the right steps towards diagnosing, understanding and ultimately helping someone who self harms.

Self harm is more of an expression of internal emotional distress. The self harming however, generates a barrier between the individual and the rest of society as certain misconceptions and stigmas are attached to the issue which proves unhelpful to those who self harm. Self harm is not limited to age, ethnicity, gender or stickysocial status.

Anyone can be susceptible to this habit and recent statistics state that the UK holds one of the highest self harm rates within Europe with 400 people per 100,00 populations exhibiting self harming behaviour. Consequently, by labelling self harm as just another ‘mental illness’ we are ignoring the depths of the situation and the simple techniques which can be implemented by ourselves in order to offer self harm help.

So to answer the question, is self harming a mental illnessNo it is not, but mental illness is a proven catalyst for self harming behaviour and is joined by a range of factors which are common to the everyday person. Methods which help to prevent self harm include seeking professional help such as counselling, targeting the triggers and channelling negative emotions into alternative, healthier activities. Different methods are suited to different people and can be explained by a GP or counsellor. These practical methods which people can responsibly use are far more effective than throwing individuals into the mental illness category, leading to stigmatisation. No one wants the label ‘mental illness’ attached to them unnecessarily, especially when it is not justified nor properly diagnosed, which is why it is important to properly research and talk to the right people in order to understand what self harm truly is and for you to be in a position you offer appropriate and/or relevant self harm help.

Self harm in Black and Asian communities

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

Individuals from Black and Asian communities, experience higher rates of self harm relating to their ethnicity for specific reasons. For men and women born in the UK or immigrants there are a range of factors which contribute to self injury, such as cultural conflicts, language barriers, limited access to help, socio-economic factors and even racism are just some of the roots to self harming amongst Black and Asian communities.

Although broad reasons for self harm can be attributed to Black and Asian communities, research shows specific causes for self harm amongst Black and Asian groups individually. Within the South Asian population for example, and in particular the female population, are known to have higher self harming and suicide rates compared to their white counterparts. A study carried out in Manchester emergency services over a 4 year period showed a 1.5 times more risk within the South Asian 16-24 year age group. Statistically the Asian population has higher rates of suicide and self harm compared to the white population which ultimately begs the question why? The issues lay mainly with culture and the negative effects it can have on individuals. Arranged marriages and forced marriages can lead to marital problems and possible domestic abuse as well as disputes with in laws. Immediate family can also apply pressure in terms of performing well in school, finding appropriate employment and general behaviour. These cultural and socio-economic pressures can eventually lead to self harm in order to cope with the expectations and stress of family disputes. Young people are of no exception as adolescents born in the UK may wish to integrate into British culture yet still be expected to conform to the culture of the previous generation. Restrictions on behaviour and life choices can lead to isolation and negative feelings for young people and possible self injury in order to cope. Ideas such as honour, shame and a sense of community spirit are taken more seriously within the Asian population and can have serious negative implications if people go against the grain.

 Additionally, there are communication barriers with the health department which are disadvantageous to individuals. Not knowing the English language and failing to communicate their needs to GPs can delay the recovery process. Additional obstacles include reluctance to tell a GP their concerns for fear that they will relay the information back to the family due to a community grapevine of sorts. These issues can lead to feelings of isolation and fear of nowhere to turn for help for self harm.

In terms of the Black community a recent study was carried out in three cities (Oxford, Derby and Manchester) and showed that young Black women are more likely to self harm than any other race. The rate displayed cases of 10.3 per 1,000 compared to 6.6 per 1,000 for the white population. The research further suggests that is due to Black population experiencing more social problems than their white counterparts, including unemployment, racism or housing problems. It also highlighted that larger members of the Black population are more likely to be students leading to academic pressure and possible self harm. Interestingly, the rates for white men and black men in the three cities study showed similar rates of self harm, with rates lower for older black men compared to their white counterparts. The Black community are also reported to be disillusioned with the healthcare system making them less likely to seek treatment or wait until the last minute to seek treatment. On seeking the treatment, research shows that they are less likely to be referred to ‘talking therapies’ which has been shown to have a positive effect on assisting individual’s recovery.

Overall, an individual’s ethnicity and culture can play a huge part in their health and well being. Socio-economic and political problems can act as catalysts for self injury in regards to racism, employment and financial issues. Identity confusion such as alienation from one’s culture and family expectations can lead to the desire to rebel or belong, lending oneself susceptible to self harm.

In order to reach out to Black and Asian communities, organisations and help lines need to be made available for individuals. There is a need to be ‘culturally sensitive’ in offering self harm help as practitioners must be aware of the cultural and social issues affecting differing members of the community, in order to properly help people who self harm. By mending the communication block and providing confidential and easy to reach assistance, we can heighten self harm awareness in the Black and Asian community and persuade people to step forward for self harm help.