*Please stay safe while reading*
I’ve just been watching 24 Hours in A&E on Channel 4. The one I’m watching features a man brought in after an episode of self harm – he stabbed himself in the abdomen.
Self harm is something that is often hugely stigmatized – it’s attention seeking, it’s pathetic, it wastes the valuable time of medical staff who clean, treat and patch up self harmers.
The statistics are scary – The UK has one of the highest rates of self-harm in Europe, at 400 per 100,000 population. (Self-poisoning and self-injury in adults, Clinical Medicine, 2002) and last year figures were published suggesting a 70% increase in 10-14 year olds attending A&E for self-harm related reasons over the preceding 2 years.
People self harm for lots of different reasons – Mind cite everything from bullying through to the expression of suicidal feelings. Many people who self harm do so in secret, nobody knows unless they end up in hospital after cutting too deep or taking a few tablets too many and even then they may not tell anyone except professionals.
I’m going to take a huge step here and admit that I self harm and always have done, for as long as I can remember. I’m sure the people who know me will be wondering how they haven’t noticed, how I can appear so normal. My team know, but only one friend knows. Well, til now.
I’m very careful, never needing hospital treatment and always able to tend to myself. I cut, I scratch, I scrape, I gouge. Anything to feel pain. Because if I’m feeling pain then I know I’m not dissociative, I know I’m alive. And physical pain helps to wipe out the emotional, mental, psychological pain. It’s something I resort to when I’ve got nothing else.
The man on 24 Hours in A&E was incredibly brave to be filmed both during his time in hospital and afterwards. His friends were amazingly supportive, just how they should be. And he’s motivated me to speak out, too.