There are a number of adolescents and young adults who are regularly engaging in self-harm as a means of coping with various types of bullying, according to a new report out by four of the UK’s anti-bullying organizations. The report was released yesterday, just ahead of Self-Harm Awareness Day in the UK.
The study was undertaken by self-harm.co.uk, ChildLine, Youth Net and Young Minds. Over 4,000 preteens, teens and young adults under the age of 25 participated in the online survey. ChildLine acting services manager Ziv Israeli said there had been a shocking 41 percent increase in the numbers of young people mentioning self-harm in their counseling sessions with ChildLine alone. The service is available to UK residents and for those teens who might be concerned that their parents could discover they are receiving counseling, they do not have to be; calls going to ChildLine do not appear on a phone bill in the UK.
However, self-harm does not appear to be limited to simply cutting or causing physical injury. There have been some teens engaged in active trolling of themselves. Trolling is when someone goes on someone else’s social media page and leaves derogatory or hurtful comments about that person. For instance, Ellie Thomas would go upstairs to work on homework after supper; at least, that is what her parents believed. However, Thomas would go online to Ask FM, an internet forum where teens can ask questions and post anonymous answers. There, she would assume the online persona of Staceeey, and after questions such as “What is the best thing about me?”, she would respond that she was no one important or special.
Thomas says she knew that she was the one writing the responses, but she was giving a voice to the hurtful things swirling in her own mind. She became her worst online bully. Fourteen-year-old Hannah Smith, who died last summer after hanging herself, was believed by detectives to be doing the exact same thing. A coroner at the time, however, could not conclusively prove that trolling was to blame for Hannah’s tragic death.
US researchers said following a study of over 600 teens that at least 9 percent were posting hurtful things about themselves, again supporting the theory there are many teens going online and self-harming in that respect. However, the lion’s share of self-harming incidents continue to stem from bullying, according to the UK report.
According to researchers from the University of Warwick, students who were victims of bullying throughout their elementary school years were five times as likely to self-harm when they hit adolescence. Today, though, there is no escape from bullying tactics when children return home from school; thanks to smartphones and easy Internet access, preteens and teens alike are easy targets by their peers in their own bedrooms.
The question that researchers had, though, was whether self-harm was on the rise or if people had an increased awareness about the issue. Some psychologists and experts believe that it is, indeed, on the rise, which is supported by recent National Health Service in England data that there were 11 percent more teens admitted to hospital in 2012 than in 2011.
The long-term consequences are equally frightening. Those who are admitted to hospital for having self-harmed are 100 times more likely to kill themselves.
Self-harm may be motivated by a wide range of bullying behaviors, but it seems that awareness is growing about the issue of self-harm. Psychologists believe that self-harm is a way of blunting emotional pain and that the endorphins released from the act are very similar to those released when one has consumed drugs. Some common symptoms are small, unexplained cuts; straight cuts suddenly appearing, and mood swings. As with most cases where help is required, the person who is self-harming has to decide that they are ready for help before it is too late.
By Christina St-Jean