Archive for the ‘Self Harm Help’ Category

Would You Respond To Physical Illness Like This?

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

What if we treated mental illness like we did physical illness?

Imagine an individual with severe flu and some people responded as they would do to a mental health issue:

“Why don’t you just try…not having the flu?”

“How come you are not normal like everyone else?”

“It’s just a phase, it’ll pass”

“I don’t think its right to take so much medication for your flu. Go out, socialise and exercise, that will make you better”

“Just change your frame of mind and things will change”

Sadly these common responses to mental health issues such as anxiety, depression or self harm are not the result of insensitivity but rather lack of understanding. Hospital trained-Chaplain Diane Weber Bederman condemns these kinds of reactions. She compares a man who crashes his car due to a heart attack but kills people in the process to a man who shoots people whilst suffering from an acute psychotic break. Her diagnosis, ‘In truth, neither one is to blame for their illness or the tragic unpredictable event’. Bederman ltMentalIllnessbelieves less sympathy will be held for those experiencing mental health issues who then harm others as a result of their problems ‘”Mental” illness drags behind it a heavy bag of ignorance and confusion that has led to the stigma of shame and prejudice for those with the illness as well as their families, and continues to promote fear in the public square.’ Indeed high profile cases in recent years can be seen to fuel people’s fear of the mentally ill and hinder understanding.

Nick Watts a campaigner against eating disorders who recently spoke at a school, was shocked at the responses he received when asking students opinions on self harm. A student’s response, “Self Harm, but no-one here worries about that, only stupid people do it.” This lack of empathy particularly amongst young people worryingly delays help for self harm due to the lack of education on self harm and other cases of mental illness. Watts is adamant ‘We should be working with our young people to bring up a generation that understands the complexities of these issues and can have these difficult discussions openly’.

According to a study, we generally get our impressions of mental health and what they are, for instance, depression, anxiety and stress as they are more widely known as it is universally believed everyone experiences them. Suicide and attempted suicide on the other hand, tend to be more widely known through the media and its large coverage of teenage suicide for example. Precipitators such as the media and school are therefore the common possible roots to helping those who self harm through information and facts on mental health and re-education.

It may also be important to take into account cultural context. Brandon Knettel a doctoral student in counselling psychology observed the differing attitudes to mental health in non western countries such as Tanzania. For instance, due to poverty, diseases such as malaria take priority before attention can be drawn to mental health issues. Interestingly however, those who experience severe mental health issues are more visible in Tanzania, whilst those with such diagnoses in Western countries are not as visible as they tend to reside in hospitals and treatment facilities. Knettel acknowledges this cultural divide and concludes “Oftentimes, rather than try to understand the cultural discrepancy, we’ll immediately try to solve everything as if it is a Western problem requiring a Western solution.”

We cannot tackle the issue of self harm and mental health without a clear understanding of the distinction between visible and invisible health problems. Just because we cannot see it does not mean it is not a priority, as Bedeman warned in her previous example with the contrasting diagnoses.

It is noticeable that the BBC and ITV have just recently started to encourage the general public to simply talk to someone that they suspect of mental ill health. Talk to them about their condition rather than avoid them. Just talk to them! Maybe next time someone opens up about self harming behaviour more people will respond with sensitivity and understanding rather than refusing to take it seriously until we ‘see’ the scars.

Can Drinking Be Classed As Self Harm?

Friday, December 6th, 2013

Self harming does not necessarily need to be physically painful, it can in fact occur without the individual knowing what they are doing to themselves. Ordinary behaviour such as over eating, smoking or working long hours can all help numb the pain an individual is going through. This can however be categorised as self destructive behaviour, one of the most fatal being drinking excessively. Although alcohol consumption is an everyday activity for some it is important to raise self harm awareness in relation to alcohol consumption.

According to the National Suicide Research Foundation there is a direct link between self harming and excessive drinking. Reinforced by professor Arensman, director of research, self harm is a “direct effect of the depressive effect of heavy drinking”. It is reported that 38% of 12,010 self harm cases were related to alcohol consumption. They even suggest that by ending heavy drinking amongst adolescents and young people they could reduce self harm by 17% in 2-3 years. It is also interesting to point out that this behaviour peaks during holiday season where people are admitted to the emergency department from self harming after consuming alcohol, requiring increased help for self harm. Dates like New Year’s Day and bank holidays show self harming and alcohol consumption is “very strongly associated with public holidays”.

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It is no surprise that harmful consumptions of alcohol can count as self harm and not the traditional cutting that many would assume, since self harm is a means of relieving pain and negative emotions. As there are healthy ways to reduce stress such as exercising and relaxation there are unhealthy ways such as drinking or smoking. People who suffer from Bipolar or mood disorders for instance are more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs than those without such disorders. In order to provide self harm help it is therefore vital to inform individuals of safer methods of reducing stress and managing emotional discomfort.

Additionally, alcohol can lead to impulsive actions such as self harm or suicidal behaviour by removing inhibitions and making an individual behave in ways they would not normally behave. According to NHS Scotland for example more than half of hospital attendees who self injured claimed to drink before or during the act. 27% of men and 19% of women gave alcohol as the reason behind their self harming.

Helping those who self harm seems a daunting task due to the serious nature of self harm according to those not fully informed, but even the most common actions can be detrimental to one’s health. Over consumption of cigarettes, food, work, reckless behaviour and ultimately alcohol can provide temporary escape from negative feelings but could soon become a dangerous addiction and ultimately lead to physical harm to the body and mind. Adding to this, by self harming under the influence of alcohol an individual is less likely to be aware of their actions and less likely to stop. For many individuals it is easy to choose fast relief for pain, which is why we must push for healthier and safer means to reduce negative feelings and ultimately self harm.

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.