Monday, May 07, 2012

All in the Mind - I Hurt Myself: The secrecy of self harm

This is an important topic - All in the Mind devoted a whole show to it a couple of weeks ago. According to CNN (from 2008 I believe, so these numbers are old - the problem is getting worse), 1 in 5 teens admit to self harm (there are 3 girls who self harm for every boy, but I suspect that is changing as well). In fact, according to the folks at the Boys Town National Hotline,
Over the past few years, we have noticed an increase in the number of communications regarding self-injury behaviors. In 2007, we received 696 contacts from individuals whose primary issue was self-injury.  In 2011, that number nearly tripled to 2,052.

The Hotline also handles hundreds of questions each year from people who are in crisis over relationships or mental health issues, and for whom self-injury is the secondary focus.
Their report of the tripling of self-injury rates is in line with what I am hearing in the local community from therapists and psychiatrists.  

Self harm, which usually involves cutting or burning, is most common in the adolescent and teenage years, including both sexes and all socio-cultural and economic backgrounds. However, those who seek help are more likely to be teenage girls from middle or upper-class backgrounds. It's important to note that adult men and women also self-harm, but they are generally better at hiding it.

Some of the "reasons" for self-injuring or self mutilating include:
  • Not knowing how to deal with stress 
  • An unresolved history of abuse 
  • Low self esteem 
  • Feelings of loneliness or fear 
  • A need to feel in control 
  • Mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder 
  • Wanting to get the attention of people who can help them 
  • Peer pressure/curiosity
Though self-injury or self-mutilation is not a suicide attempt, about 60% of those who self-harm also report suicidal ideations.

If you or someone you know is a cutter, there is help: S.A.F.E. Alternatives (Self Abuse Finally Ends) at 1-800-DONTCUT (800-366-8288) 


Call the Boys Town National Hotline toll free at 1-800-448-3000.  

Boys Town offers referrals to local programs that help people with self-injury issues and can provide information on treatment options. To find out more about cutting, read the article, Understanding Teen Cutting and Self-Injury, an excellent resource that explains self-injurious behavior, risk factors, signs, and what to do.

I hurt myself: The secrecy of self harm

Broadcast: Sunday 29 April 2012

According to a large study on self injury conducted in 2008 by the University of Queensland, 220,000 Australians injured themselves deliberately, without meaning to suicide, in the month prior to the survey. For some people, hurting themselves is a way of coping with overwhelming psychological pain. In this program we hear about what mental processes go on behind this behaviour and we hear from a young woman who openly shares her experience of self injury in order to educate health workers about the best ways to treat people like her.




Nellie Worringham
Professor Graham Martin
Director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Director of the Centre for Suicide Prevention Studies
The University of Queensland
Clinical Director of Royal Childrens' Hospital (RCH) Health Service District Child and Youth Mental Health Service (CYMHS).
Nick Allen
Associate Professor
School of Behavioural Science
Melbourne University
Principal Research Fellow
ORYGEN Youth Health Research Centre

Further Information

Lifeline 24 hour crisis support helpline 13 11 14

Reach Out : deliberate self harm
Information and links to Lifeline crisis support
TheMHS Summer Forum on Self Harm
Confronting Self harm from understanding to responding, 23-24 February 2012


Presenter: Lynne Malcolm
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