Bullying and loneliness major triggers in young self-harm

A recent poll, conducted for Self-harm Awareness Day, revealed that one in four young people who self-harm started due to bullying, with 61 per cent saying they do it because they feel alone.

ChildLine, Selfharm.co.uk, YouthNet and YoungMinds collaborated in support of Self-harm Awareness Day on the 1st March.

To help understand the key reasons why young people begin to self-harm, the charities conducted a survey from almost 4,000 young people aged 25 and under.

More than 33 per cent of survey respondents were from across the east and south east of England, a total of 1,345 children and young people.

Feeling ‘alone’ and being ‘bullied’ were highlighted as the key triggers that lead young people to self-harm for the first time. One in four of respondents named ‘bullying’ as the biggest reason for hurting themselves and 61 per cent of respondents said that the event leading them to self-harm had made them feel ‘alone’. More than 38 per cent of respondents admitted that, other than online, they had never spoken to anyone about their self-harming.

Each year, the charities see increased demand for services as more and more young people are trying to reach out for support. ChildLine alone have seen a staggering 41 per cent increase in counselling sessions where self-harm was mentioned.

During 2012-2013, more than 4,280 children and young people from across the UK spoke to counsellors at the ChildLine base in London either on the telephone or online about self –harm.

One young person who contacted a counsellor at the ChildLine base in London said: “I want to talk to someone about how I can stop cutting. When I cut myself it’s like everything stops. There’s no fear, no troubles and no worries anymore. I feel guilty in case somebody sees. No-one knows what I am doing.”

Roseanne Pearce, ChildLine senior supervisor in London said: ““There are many reasons why young people might self-harm. It’s a way of dealing with overwhelming feelings that can feel very difficult to cope with and young people tell us that physical pain helps them cope with the emotional pain.We have seen a significant rise in the amount of children contacting ChildLine about self-harm.

“Although self-harm is not a new problem, sharing images of self-harm on social media sites is a worrying new development. I would urge young people seeking advice or support on this issue to contact ChildLine, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 0800 1111 or go to ChildLine.org.uk. Calls don’t appear on telephone bills.”

When asked about their coping techniques, respondents rated ‘listening to music’ (45 per cent) as the best way to stop themselves from harming. This was followed by ‘talking to friends and family’ (15 per cent), which coupled with the admission that 38 per cent have never spoken to anyone about their self-harm, highlights the increasing importance of breaking taboos around this issue and encouraging people to talk more openly.

Rachel Welch from Selfharm.co.uk, speaking on behalf of the charities said: “Really tackling the issue of self-harm among young people means not only recognising the situations and feelings that lead them to take this path but also ensuring that those in a position to help them recognise the early signs of self-harm and how best to support them.”

“Young people themselves can also be a source of support for each other. As part of the survey, we asked young people to tell us their distraction or coping techniques and share their own messages to raise awareness of self-harm and break some of the common myths. We received a fantastic response and will be sharing these messages via our websites and social media for a week after Self-harm Awareness Day.”

Sharing her own message in support of others affected by self-harm, Becky, an 18 year old who volunteers for selfharm.co.uk said:

“By bringing self-harm into the light and speaking about it openly we send an important message: ‘You are not alone, help is always out there and there is always hope’.”

Rachel continued:“Many young people told us that they wanted people to know their self-harm wasn’t about attention seeking. It’s so sad that young people are facing this stigma and being labelled rather than getting the support they need.”