Self Harm

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Deliberate self-harm is a term that covers a wide range of behaviours some of which are directly related to suicide and some are not. This is a relatively common behaviour that is little understood. This essay provides an overview of the nature and extent of those most at risk of self-harm, including causes and risk factors. Examining some of the stereotyping that surrounds self -harm, and looking at ways in which self-harm can be prevented. A useful definition of self-harm is from Professor Keith Hawton (Hawton et al., 2006. p29). An act with a non-fatal outcome in which an individual deliberately did one or more of the following; •Initiated behaviour (e.g. self-cutting, jumping from a height), which they intended to cause self harm to one’s self. •Ingested a substance in excess of the prescribed or generally recognised dose •Ingested a recreational or illicit drug that was an act that the person regarded as self harm •Ingested a non-ingestible substance or object

Two elements are crucial; there is acute damage to the self; and damage is intentional. The term self-harm is used to describe a wide range of things that people do to themselves in a deliberate and usually hidden way I can involve: •Cutting

Banging and scratching one’s own body
Breaking bones
Hair pulling
Many people believe that when they start hurting themselves it is a ‘one off’ and won’t do it again. But it doesn’t solve the problems; the feelings come back again leading to a cycle of harming themselves trying to cope. Some young people started self-harm by accident when they hurt themselves accidentally, and started to cause themselves injuries on purpose to create the same feelings again. Cutting is the most common way of self-harm, going to great lengths to keep it a secret, on parts of the body that are not visible to others. There are lots of myths and stereotyping connected to self-harm. Myths and misunderstandings often arise when a problem is poorly understood, like self-harm. They need to be challenged because they stop young people coming forward for help. They also mean that professionals, family and friends are more likely to react in a hostile way to young people who self-harm. Some of the most common stereotypes are, attention seeking, manipulative, it’s done for pleasure, a failed suicide attempt. Some believe that it is a group activity (Goth). But it is rarely done in groups; young people self-harm for a long time without ever disclosing to friends of family, rarely seek medical help and are wary of professional help Risk factors and data concerning self-harm

While deliberate self-harm is particularly common among adolescents, it continues into adulthood. Its incidences and prevalence in adulthood is difficult to estimate accurately as figures probably under estimate its impact. One review (Favazza and Rosenthal, 1993) reported prevalence estimates of between 400and 1400 per 100 000 of the population each year. It is often assumed that the behaviour declines in adulthood. It maybe however that the behaviour is even more taboo in older adults than the young. There are a number of risk factors for the development of deliberate self-harm: Young people cited pressure, isolation, not fitting in, the need to escape, anger and frustration with themselves, bereavement and the stress surrounding exams as reasons for self-harm. Studies show a strong association between childhood adversities (neglect, incest, abuse, witnessing domestic abuse) and self-harm in later life, though not always, self-harm can also be precipitated by a history in early teenage years, by adult rape, domestic abuse, bullying or...
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