Charity blames social media for children self-harm
‘It is vital we confront the fact that an increasing number are struggling to deal with the pressures and demands of modern-day life’
Social media is helping fuel a nation of “deeply unhappy” children, a charity has warned, as it published new figures showing a rise in self-harm.
Data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) found 18,778 children aged 11 to 18 were admitted to hospital for self-harm in 2015/16.
This is up on the 16,416 in 2013/14 and represents a 14% rise, the data for England and Wales shows.
Teenagers aged 13 to 17 were the most likely to end up in the hospital for self-harm, including things such as cutting, overdosing on pills or burning themselves.
Figures from the Childline helpline run by the NSPCC also showed it delivered 18,471 counseling sessions about self-harm last year – equivalent to 50 a day.
Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, said: “A frightening number of children and teenagers are being driven to self-harm as a way of dealing with unresolved feelings, tensions, and distress in their lives.
“Knowing hospital beds are full of young people crying out for help should be a real wake-up call to all those that care for the well-being of the younger generation.
“It is vital we confront the fact that an increasing number are struggling to deal with the pressures and demands of modern-day life, to such an extent they are inflicting terrible damage upon themselves.
“It is clear from the thousands of calls Childline receives that we have a nation of deeply unhappy children.
“We know this unhappiness is partly due to the constant pressure they feel, particularly from social media, to have a perfect life or attain a certain image which is often unrealistic.
“They tell us that the need to keep up with friends and the 24/7 nature of technology means they feel they can never escape or switch off, adding to the misery that many feel on a daily basis.
“Childline is often the only place that many young people feel they can turn to when no-one else is listening.”
Childline president, Dame Esther Rantzen, said: “It is deeply disturbing that so many children and young people are ending up in the hospital because they are injuring themselves so seriously.
“Self-harming is at an epidemic level among young people – at Childline, we hear from them every day.
“It has become one of the most common problems young people bring to us, and I know from our counsellors that these are some of the most painful stories we hear.
“Often the young people feel too ashamed and fearful to seek help from those around them until they harm themselves so badly they have to be rushed to the hospital.”
One 14-year-old boy who contacted Childline said: “Sometimes I get flashbacks from what happened when I was younger and I cope with the horrible memories by cutting myself – it helps me release the pain from within.
“School helped take my mind off things but now that the holidays are here I’m struggling.
“My parents always seem to be too busy for me and I don’t want to tell my friends what happened.
“I feel so miserable and lonely – can you please help?”
I was 13 years old when I first took the razor to my arm and slashed it over and over again. I was being bullied. I didn’t fit in. I didn’t do drugs. I didn’t drink. I didn’t have a boyfriend. I didn’t want to do any of those things. I wanted to study and get an education. So as a punishment and because teenagers are extremely cruel, I was bullied for being the “good girl”.
These peers of mine didn’t care how badly they hurt me or made me feel. They probably didn’t think that their words were eating away at my self-esteem until I felt so bad, so unworthy, so unwanted that as a release I had to hurt myself.
Self-harm is not about trying to kill one’s self. It is also not a cry for attention. Most self-harmers hide what they are doing. They do not make it known. So, therefore, it is difficult to spot. However, for me at least, it was a way to release that pain, that anger, and that hurt. It was also some weird way to punish myself for becoming someone I wasn’t; Invisible, with no self-esteem.
The burning feeling of the razor slashing the arms and then my legs was over in a few seconds because I was slashing away so angrily that the physical pain was gone. It was the emotional pain that I needed to get out, the hurt and the heartache. Once I had done, I covered myself with long sleeves. It is not hard to hide when you are a self-harmer.
Why do teens go for self-harm?
1 in 10 teenagers in the UK will self-harm but because it is such a secret activity, it is so hard to recognize or even stop. However, many people can’t understand the concept of self-harm. Some think it is a cry for help. It isn’t. Some think it an attempt to take your own life. It isn’t. It is a coping mechanism teenagers go for because with raging hormones, it is hard to cope when bad things happen in life.
Self-harm is not just cutting yourself either. It can be in any form to physically harm the body. I self-harmed by cutting myself until I was 16. Afterthat, I self-harmed by hardly eating. I didn’t have an eating disorder. I didn’t believe I was too fat. I just wanted some way to cope with the emotional pain I was experiencing and between the ages of 13-19 years old, I self-harmed to cope with any major pain that happened in my life.
Eventually, I got help when my mother found out about that oneday;she saw something I had written to a friend. It was left on my desk. I never intended her to see it. One of the hardest things I ever saw in my life was my own mother breaking down asking me what could she do to help me.
She felt she had let me down. It wasn’t that at all. My family hadn’t let me down. I chose not to tell them because of the heartache I knew it would cause. Alhamdulillah that my mother understood that I needed to speak to a professional and I did for almost a year.
It is important to note that parents (unless they are the reason for the teen’s self-destruction) are not to blame for not knowing it is happening. Often, the teen is ashamed to admit what they are doing for what it may seem like. They also want to protect their parents and not cause such heartache and hurt them.
The only solution is counseling to understand the cause and to try and find ways of coping other than harming yourself.
If you are a parent or a concerned sibling or friend, you can help by:
Notice when they seem upset, withdrawn or irritable
Notice if they refuse to wear short sleeves or change into sportswear
Encourage them to talk about what’s upsetting them
Be non-judgemental, understanding and tolerant
Listen to and try to accept the idea of self-harm as helpful
Try not to tell them to stop – this is likely to make them panic
Offer practical help with taking care of wounds
If you are a teen going through this, please go to someone you trust to get help. It is common and you are not alone. Help is around the corner. You just need to reach out.
Things got so bad for Erin, she started cutting herself. She hid how she felt so well that no one noticed her downward spiral, except for her mother who suspected something was bothering Erin. One day her mother walked in on Erin as she was cutting herself. Erin is grateful for that moment because it was the start of her getting help.
Depression is exhausting, debilitating, and makes you hate yourself. Every situation is different and there’s never any simple solution. But whatever crap depression tells you to think or do, there are people who love you and want to help. You won’t get over depression or anxiety in one day. You take it one day at a time. Depression doesn’t ever go away, but you’ll learn to cope with it. As Erin says, “You’ll appreciate things that others don’t. You’ll look at the world differently.” You’ll also learn not to be ashamed or embarrassed because once you’ve gone through the darkness, nothing can ever hurt you again so badly.
The rate of self-harming among children and young people soared 22% over a 10-year period to the end of 2016.
A study by the National Suicide Research Foundation also found a rise in the use of “lethal methods” of self-harming, which might be linked to exposure to certain websites, and a rise in the rate of self-harming among those aged 10 to 14.
Dr. Don Yates Sr Ph.D. Online since 2004 investigating and reporting Internet Crimes, Scams, Threats as well as Business and Work from Home Opportunities
Author. The Internet Users Handbook 2nd Edition 2009-2013, Mentor, Advisor and Coach, Entrepreneur, Retired Chairman, CEO, and President, RE Broker