The UK has the highest rate of self-harm of any country in Europe. It is estimated that

400 in 100, 000 people self- harm. However, this figure is likely to be a lot higher as

many cases go unreported each year. Self- Harm can affect anyone, however the

majority of people affected are between the ages of 11 and 25.

(Mental Health Foundation)

 

I was 12 years old the first time I self-harmed; little did I know what a destructive habit this would turn in to. My worst years in terms of self-harm were between the ages of 12 and 15. Sometimes I would self-harm daily, at points it would be multiple times a day. At my worst I would at every opportunity I had on my own, somewhere private; the bathroom at home, school toilets and the garage just being a few of the places I found. To this day I couldn’t tell you the exact reason I used to do it, I just know it it made the overwhelming emotional termoil I was going through that little more bearable.
There was such little understanding around self-harm when I was teenager, and I can certainly see there has been an improvement since my younger years. However there is still a very long way to go.

Self-harm was never just a behaviour to gain attention;

it was a release, a behaviour that put into action what I was unable to say in words.There are so many stereotypes around self harm, stereotypes that mean more and more people suffer in silence, too afraid to come forward for help for fear of being judged. The main one being:

“People self-harm for attention.”

I can tell you this is categorically not true. The emotional pain someone has to be in to harm themselves is unimaginable and most people go to extreme lengths to hide it.
Sometimes people may not mind too much if someone does notice but more often than not it will be because they are desperate for someone to notice, desparate for someone to care and help, not because they want to be the centre of attention.
Another stereotype is that people that self harm are emotional females, dressed entirely in black, hiding in a corner. I can once again tell you that this is not true.

Self-harm does not discriminate, it can affect anyone.

Males, females, those as teenagers, those in their 40s, they are all susceptible to succumb to self-harm.

These stereotypes made my school-life hell and even professionals often didn’t take my self-harm seriously. My peers had no understanding of mental illness or self-harm so I can’t really blame for the way they acted, but it doens’t mean that it was not painful. I was openly laughed at and friends often left me. I felt like an animal in a zoo, people would point and stare and I knew I was known as the ‘crazy one that cut herself‘.
I have one particular memory from High School which sticks with me. I was waiting outide before a French lesson when a boy came over to me. In front of the whole class he tried to get me to pull up my sleeves, knowing full well there was a reason I wouldn’t want to. When I refused he demanded to know why, the whole class looked on, no one came to my rescue.

I felt embarrassed and ashamed.

More than anything I frustrated at myself, frustrated that I couldn’t stop this habit and pull myself out of this hole. However, I now know that it could never be that simple, but I am hopeful that through sharing my story and raising awareness people will become more accepting and begin to understand the suffering which lies behind self-harm.
I am now 23 years old, I work full time and undertake a multitude of sports. To many people I look like one of the happiest people they know. Furthermore, with the right

medication and a good support network,

My depression is the best it has been in years.

However, I can’t sit here and say that self-harm is something I am completely free of and no longer have to rely on, as it would not be true. I am nowhere near the point I was as a teenager and self-harm is now a relatively rare occurance but I still know that self-harm is a coping mechanism I can use that will instantly relieve any emotional suffering when nothing else works. I hate to admit this, but I am not the only one for which it is true. If anyone you know is self harming, please take them seriously, please endeavour to help them in whatever way you can.
I look back at that moment 11 years ago when I decided to self-harm for the first time and I really wish something had stood in my way, something which prevented me starting off that downward spiral. I cannot change the past, but I can change the future for those that come after me and that is what Hope at Hand is all about.
Thank you for reading.
Sophie (Founder – Hope At Hand)
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