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Saturday, 30 April 2011

Forget the social stigma.

I've got my geeky thinking glasses on right now, so you know I mean business when I write this post.


I have never attempted to force my beliefs on you, my wonderful readers, I have never attempted to change someone's life with my words, I have never attempted to inspire someone to make a positive life choice, but I have always wanted you to learn something new, or understand a situation or illness that you were otherwise confused about. A thirst for knowledge is the thing that separates us humans from mere animals after all.


And I know, that as soon as I say what topic the post will be on, many of you will roll your eyes, or start speculating about my own involvement in the topic, or just skip this post entirely. You know what? I'm fine with that. But as said, A thirst for knowledge is the thing that separates us humans from animals, if you are content with being an animal, and judging others for the difficulties and hardships they are going through, then by all means, go ahead. Don't let me stop you. 


For the rest of you, I'd like to clear up a very sensitive and incredibly misunderstood issue that plagues so many in my generation: Self harm.


People really dislike self harm. Mostly, because they don't understand it. Pain is a terrible thing... clearly, it hurts. We have learnt to avoid anything that could result in us having to endure pain, be it thorns, electric shocks, intimidating people or sharp objects. We just avoid them. Pain is bad. Pain is very bad. Why would you inflict pain, an unpleasant experience that our race has been attempting to avoid for thousands of years, on themselves?


To put it simply? There's not really one correct answer. 


Self harm is a very individual thing. Each victim will have their own, specific, method of inflicting pain upon themselves. Most cut, some bite, others burn, and there are a few who will purposely throw limbs off of hard, inanimate objects in order to make themselves bruise. The location of self-harming is also an individual choice. Pop culture has set the false stereotype of self harm as depressed teenagers who cut their wrists for attention. The entire stereotype is focused on the minority of self-harmers. Most DO NOT want anyone to find out about their secret, so they don't cut themselves on their wrists, but self harm else-where on their bodies, where no-one can see. If they do cut their wrists, then they will tend to wear long sleeves constantly, to avoid being discovered.


It's really tragic once you think about it. The self harmers are going through so much trouble to prevent their loved ones seeing their scars because they are either:
  • Ashamed of the mutilation they have carried out on their own body.
  • Do not want their loved ones to worry about them.
  • Do not want to appear as "attention seeking".
  • Do not want to be classed as an "emo" and taunted for their problems.
It's the last point that I am most disgusted about. I cannot understand why this is the social norm, that people are genuinely so filled with hatred towards "emo's" and what they do to themselves. First off, they are clearly not aware of just how big a problem self harm is. 1 in 10 teenagers self harm. That's only the official number, the number that have went to receive help for their problems. The actual statistics are meant to be much higher. I can name seven people, easily, that I know have struggled with this issue. You'll know at least one person who goes through this battle with themselves on almost a daily basis, I guarantee you, even if you are not aware that they partake in such an "idiotic" act. 

Which bring us to our next point: Self harm is not a idiotic thing to do and it certainly isn't a suicide attempt. If you see a friend self harming, don't jump the gun and assume they are suicidal. Cutting, biting, burning and bruising are all coping techniques. Insanely self destructive? Yes. But a coping technique? Absolutely. Self harmers often do not want to die, but want to live, and not feel empty or as if they are merely existing. 

People who self harm are just like everyone else. They smile and laugh, they aim to not only live, but to live a good life, and unless you see their scars, you'd assume they were just "average people". And being "emo" certainly doesn't mean you can't be successful or live a good life. Celebrities such as Demi Lovato, Angelina Jolie, Mary Kate, Johnny Depp and Owen Wilson have all self harmed at one point in their life. They are not the "stereotypical self-harmers", but very few people are.

The main point to focus on is that they have now fully recovered. It's not an easy thing to do. You may wonder why your friend doesn't just "stop it", but so  many cannot fully understand the addictive nature of self injury. As said before, it is a coping technique, and allows the person to feel instant relief from the difficult to cope with emotions that he or she is feeling at the time. In fact, beta endorphins are released in the brain following S.I. In other words? Cutting yourself makes you feel good. It's hard to believe but look it up. It's true.


If you know someone who is a self harmer, do not confront them aggressively, demanding to know why they are doing it, because the likelihood is, they couldn't answer that even if they wanted to. That being said, do not avoid the subject fully. Let your friend know that you are there if they want someone to talk to, and that if you don't bring the subject up again, it is because you respect their privacy, and not because you are avoiding the issue altogether.
Be a distraction. Depression and self injury is something often felt/done in the privacy of someone's own room. If you take them out for a movie, or even a walk, it's likely that the urge to self harm will be dramatically decreased. Pressure, family issues, sexuality conflicts, grief and low self esteem don't seem to dominate your life when you are out, having fun with friends. 


Just don't judge. It's a horrible thing, but I know how many people make fun of self harmers. They call them "emo's", as an insult. There's just so many wrong things about that...

  • Emo is a culture. 
  • You do no have to self harm to be emo, and you do not have to be emo to self harm.
  • Self harm is a coping technique and is often a sign for extreme personal issues. Tormenting a self harmer out of their coping technique by bullying them until they stop could result in them taking their own life.
  • Insulting someone in such a delicate mental state is beneath moral beings such as ourselves. If you've ever called someone an "emo", in an attempt to wound them emotionally, then you should be deeply ashamed of yourself.
Do I expect anything to change because of this post? Most certainly not. It'll be forgotten quicker than it was written. But maybe, just maybe, you've learnt something about this scarily common issue and will know how to re-act if you find out about your friends own self-injury... or perhaps you've realized that you are not alone.

Forget the social stigma. 
Support your friends.
Stop the hatred.

Lauren xxx

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