“Do you know anyone in your town who self-harms?”

“Not in my town… nearby; why?”

“There’s a group of young girls encouraging each other to self-harm and for a while now, we’ve thought you were the ringleader!”

And that little quote, ladies and gentlemen, came from a Northumbria Police officer once he’d detained me under the Mental Capacity Act.

Now, does anyone remember #Cut4Bieber? If not (I wrote a post on it!), came off the back of a photo surfacing online of Justin Bieber taking drugs and his fans somehow interpreted it as a cause to feel hopeless and therefore a reason to self-harm. I think that when that occurred in 2013, it was the first time that I’d witnessed/experienced someone encouraging another person to do such an act.
But then as I spent more time in Hospital, I gained a whole new insight into the workings of the ward. When I was first admitted in 2012, I kept myself to myself and didn’t make the effort to get to know the other inpatients because I really didn’t think I’d be there that long (two and a half years in the end). When I realized I was in it for the long haul, I made friends with all of the girls and with one in particular. The upside to this was having someone to talk to who could identify with and understand me. The downside? I became part of the ‘club.’ Adopted the ‘us versus them’ mindset. It was this new insight that introduced me to the dark side of service user relationships with one another. Rather than supporting one another and bonding over our similar experiences and mutual thoughts, feelings, and coping mechanisms; some of the girls were encouraging one another to copy their own unsafe, and unhealthy coping skills of self-harm.

There were two main instances that have stuck with me through the five years since I was discharged from that Hospital. The first, was when it came about that one of the inpatients was literally teaching the others their particular method of self-harm. Of course, all self-harm is dangerous but this one (I won’t go into the graphic details) in particular is really unsafe and risky. Let’s just say that it’s a self-harm method that could potentially put your life in danger without you actually being, or even feeling, suicidal. When the staff realized it was becoming a ‘trend’ on the ward, they banned us from spending any time in one another’s bedrooms so as to try to avoid the unsupervised discussions that were leading to the teaching of this self-harm. It didn’t work. People found a way around it. The second instance in hospital was when everyone was randomly called into the communal TV room and told our bedrooms were all to be searched by the staff. After a huge amount of effort, all of the inpatients managed to convince the Ward Manager to tell us why we were having a full ward search (random room services weren’t rare) and the answer genuinely left me speechless (yeah, yeah, that rarely happens!). There was a Stanley knife circulating the ward; I think they realized after a number of inpatients seemed to have cut with a similar object. The staff begged for someone to come forward, to admit they had snuck the knife in and to admit who had it now but every was adamant they’d got it wrong and that no one knew anything about it. And with that, I became quite vocal! I was so angry and frustrated that a particular group of people were putting those of us who had no clue through all of the stress of having our personal spaces invaded by the staff. Eventually, someone came forward and made a completely forced and meaningless apology, and I still couldn’t see how someone could provide others the method needed to self-harm.

You see, to me, we should be building one another up, not contributing to a person’s ill mental health. We should be identifying with one another, showing some understanding for each other’s struggles, and encouraging one another to recover. To be accused of being someone who supports self-harm is honestly, quite an insult and I actually find it really disrespectful. I feel this way because I believe that I’ve devoted the past six years of I’m NOT Disordered deterring people from self-harming and encouraging that they seek help for such thoughts and feelings. I think that I put a lot of hard work into maintaining this blog and an equal amount of energy into forever bettering its content and that because of this, to even think that I would encourage self-harm is demeaning. It demeans all of my hard work and makes me wonder if I’m doing something wrong. Am I not being clear enough on the horrific consequences to self-harm? Have I unintentionally promoted self-harm as an effective way of coping with everything in life that becomes overwhelming?

So, let me be clear (especially to Northumbria Police) I have never, and will never encourage anyone to self-harm. I don’t believe it’s an effective way of coping it’s just that sometimes it seems like the only way. I don’t think that any ‘positive’ thoughts and feelings (e.g. a sense of relief) from self-harm, are worth all of the negative aspects that come with the actual act of self-harming.

If you have been triggered by this post please seek professional support.
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