Why Self-Harm Day Still Matters
March the 1st is globally recognized as being National Self-Harm Awareness Day, during which different organisations and groups set out to promote a positive message of hope for anyone affected by self-harm. Until recently issues such as self-harm and eating disorders didn’t receive much in the way of column inches in the media so events such as National Self-Harm Awareness Day (NSHAD) and Eating Disorder Awareness Week, which ended yesterday, were opportunities to raise the profiles of these illnesses and reach out to those suffering in silence.
But are campaigns like this still relevant? Times have changed and we now live in a climate where self-harm gets mentioned in the press on a regular basis, normally highlighting statistics or reinforcing the point that it’s reaching epidemic proportions among our young people. It’s fair to say that media reports haven’t always been especially great – I’ve lost count of how many news pieces have been accompanied by images of wrists, arms or sad looking teenagers holding their heads in their hands. I’ve also despaired at some of the sensationalism and unhelpful details that have gone into articles at the expense of the sensible, factual or empowering stuff. And, of course, seldom does the media talk about the prevalence of self-harm in adults. Things have slowly improved, and it’s not often I find myself getting particularly angry these days – and Self-Harm Awareness Day has been instrumental in bringing that change about.
We also have an internet packed to the rafters with sites offering advice, information and services for those who are directly affected or want to understand how to better support sufferers. You can be online and reading a whole spectrum of literature 24/7, no longer having to wait for March the 1st to roll around. These websites are crucial, because they’ve slowly outnumbered the pro-self-harm evil that once clogged up the underbelly of the internet, meaning search engines will throw out an abundance of good stuff first. There’ll always be dark spots that continue to spout the anti-recovery message, and certain corners of social media will remain hotbeds of activity when it comes to circulating unhelpful images, but the online clean-up has slowly begun – and Self-Harm Awareness Day has been a big part of that too.
Of course, one day isn’t enough, and for all the different messages communicated tomorrow we need to be replicating them again the next day, and the day after and every day after that until we live in a society where people can ask for (and receive) the help they feel they need before self-harm has become their only option. We need to keep going until the shame and stigma of self-harm has been eradicated, and we’ve normalised the issue without removing the incentive or motivation to recover. We need to keep going until appropriate support services are available for everyone, without discriminating against age, gender, ethnicity or anything else. And so we will; starting tomorrow.
March the 1st still matters: #SHAD16
@FreedomFromHarm | @RachelWelch