Self-harm is when someone purposely hurts themselves, usually in order to cope with intense emotional distress. How common is self-harm? It is difficult to know how common self-harm is, as many people describe it in
Self-harm is when someone purposely hurts themselves, usually in order to cope with intense emotional distress.
How common is self-harm?
It is difficult to know how common self-harm is, as many people describe it in different ways and many will never ask for help. However, it is estimated around 3.8% of the population self-harm.
What are some of the myths and misconceptions about self-harm?
Unhelpful and false beliefs about self harm can prevent people from taking their own, or other’s, problems seriously and make people feel ashamed. They can stop people getting the help they need and lead to the loss of friends, family relationships, jobs, homes and even lives.
Some common misconceptions include:
Self-harm should be ignored
Some people, including friends, family and even health professionals, describe self-harming as ‘attention-seeking’ or a ‘cry for help’ and think that caring or supporting someone who does this only makes them more likely to do it again. But in many cases this is completely untrue. Many people will do all they can to hide the fact they are self-harming; the opposite of attention-seeking.
It is true that some people self-harm as a way of showing how badly they feel inside, but this is often because they lack the ability to articulate it or because no one has taken them seriously. To dismiss people for this reason is unkind, callous and leads to serious harm or even loss of life.
Only young women self-harm
Although there is a higher proportion of young women who self-harm, it is something that can affect people of any age or gender.
How does self-harm affect people’s lives?
Self-harm can bring short-term relief from difficult thoughts and feelings. However, in the long run it usually makes things worse. People become used to the pain they feel and require increasingly extreme methods of self-harm, which can get more and more dangerous. Some people have to deal with permanent physical health consequences due to self-harming including scars or internal injuries.
People who self-harm often feel a lot of shame about what they are doing and can become withdrawn in order to hide their behaviour. This may lead to isolation and loneliness, which can cause the person to feel they need to harm themselves even more.
Data Source: Time to Change