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Across the Genders

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008 Across the Genders

A revealing report by the BBC (16 12 08) identifying that it is not just girls who self-harm, boy’s do it too.

Sane carried out a survey using approximately a 1,000 candidates with a history of self-harm. It was established that over 10% were actually male. However researchers suggest the possibility that boys were better concealing their condition.

In addition it could be argued that because it is widely seen as a female issue, boys who self-harm feel even more inadequate so therefore will inevitably hide their condition.

Even more startling was the fact that some respondents said they did not start harming themselves until they were in their fifties.

By contrast, others admitted to self-harming as young as four.

For reasons of clarification, there is a fundamental need to evaluate what is self-harm. In its broadest sense, self-harm describes “a wide range of things that people do to themselves in a deliberate and usually hidden way, which are damaging.”1 It includes cutting, burning, scalding, banging heads and other body parts against walls, and hair-pulling, biting, and swallowing or inserting objects as well as self-poisoning. According to See Me.

Notwithstanding, self-harm is an indicator of emotional distress and that something is seriously wrong. There are numerous reasons why people self-harm, for some it is an outlet towards being able to cope with overwhelming feelings of despair and helplessness. Yet for others self-harm can temporarily fight against feelings of numbness within their surrounding environment.

With reference to the recent survey, evaluating the evidence is crucial to offer a better understanding of the nature of self-harm. With reference to the report almost half of the 532 people who were still self- harming when they answered the survey had been harming for more than five years, and a quarter for at least 11 years.

Moreover, 20% of those hurt themselves on a daily basis and a further 30% were self-harming on a weekly basis. Clearly these statistics reveal the extent of the problem.

What has become clear is that far from trying to seek attention, self-harm is generally hidden out of fear for what family and friends may go through if they knew. This is bourne out when 84% of the participants attempted to hide their behaviour from their family, and 66% tried to hide it from friends.

Also revealed was the fact that many indicated that they chose to damage a part of their body that was easy to conceal from others, or where the injury could be most easily explained away as an accident. This is echoed by the organisation See me when it says “Self-harm is a deeply personal thing. Individuals are likely to have a preferred method and part of the body for self-harm. Because of the complex feelings involved, people often keep self-harm well hidden from friends and family and they may go to great lengths to avoid showing the area of the body that they harm.”

Indeed, Reports show that 1 in 10 teenagers self-harm, but the true figure could be even higher as most incidents of self-harm are treated at home and will not reach the attention of services or professionals. Although some very young people and some adults do self-harm, rates are much higher in and young people.

Graphically one participant in eight suggested that their first act of self-harm was motivated by a desire for others to take notice and care, and this figure dropped to one in 12 for subsequent acts of self-harm.

The majority of the respondents also indicated that they did not expect those closest to them to understand why they had self harmed.

Those who self-harm are also likely to more at risk from suicide and yet it is suggested that in-actual fact for the respondent self-harm will ease suicidal thoughts.

Hitherto with reference to Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of Sane, said the study showed a wide mix of people harmed themselves.

She said: “What is alarming is the numbers of those taken to A&E departments who are sent home without any follow-up help.

“We need doctors and teachers to be more alert to the potential risks, and many more therapists available, to prevent the vicious cycle of relief by painful self-harm.”

Mental adviser for the Royal College Of Nursing Ian Hewlitt welcomes the report in relation to the focus was how to care for people who have indeed harmed themselves. He states “Self-harm remains a challenging and often unspoken subject.”

Research suggests the UK has the highest rate of self harm in Europe.

The number of children admitted to hospital due to self-harm rose by a third in five years to 2007.

Much needs to be done for these people.

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