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Self Harm and The Myth of Attention Seeking

Why on earth would anyone want that kind of attention? No matter what people might say about self harm, at the end of the day the only thing you are going to get through people finding out is grief. Because they might be understanding the first time, maybe even the second time and if you’re lucky the third time. The myth of attention seeking seems to me to simply be a way for people to get around the real issue of self harm; that it’s a coping mechanism which means that someone is in a vast amount of pain.

Why on earth would anyone want that kind of attention? No matter what people might say about self harm, at the end of the day the only thing you are going to get through people finding out is grief. Because they might be understanding the first time, maybe even the second time and if you’re lucky the third time. But it won’t last. As a teenager nobody wants to be seen around the loser, the freak, the weirdo. As an adult things aren’t actually all that different although you have the additional issues of Occupational Health being called on you and the potential loss of a job or livelihood if you aren’t lucky enough to be secure. The myth of attention seeking seems to me to simply be a way for people to get around the real issue of self harm; that it’s a coping mechanism which means that someone is in a vast amount of pain. That they have in front of them someone who is at the very brink of not coping and has no other way to deal with it. It allows people to ignore the real issues, live safely within their own comfortable worlds and pretend it doesn’t exist. It allows people to play the blame game.

At no point can this attitude help someone who is self harming. Not only is it completely untrue but it only adds to the taboo behind self harm and ensures that anyone who does self harm will not feel comfortable in trying to seek help even if they really need it. When you know that every doctor at your local A&E will judge you as an attention seeking idiot and treat you accordingly, are you likely to go and see them? Of course not. When you know that your colleagues may treat you like you have an incurable and contagious disease as soon as they find out, are you likely to share how you’re feeling? No. When you know that your friends will either guilt trip you or avoid you, are you going to be able to gain any form of support network? No. And so the myth of attention seeking only gains to further isolate a group who most need support and someone to trust.

I was lucky. The next words out of my assistant director’s mouth were ‘I understand’. Most people are nowhere near that lucky and could never hope to be in a million years. What most people would get is exactly what I’ve been used to over the years; the questions that you can’t answer, the accusations that just help to pile on the guilt and the knowledge that once again you’ve lost someone. That you’ve lost something. Self harm isn’t about attention seeking, it’s about coping but far too few people would care to understand that.

I’ll finish on perhaps better words than I could hope to put in an article but sum up the attitudes and the hurt they can cause in four lines whereas I have taken over a page to explain:

“Keep on trying harder, because your best’s not enough.

Cry all you want, everyone’s life is rough

Your sadness is bugging me, your emotions are old

Stop begging for love, my heart’s growing cold.”

Read more:

The Taboo of Self Harm

When the cracks start to show

When the cracks become canyons

When the canyon crumbles

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  1. very nice article :)

  2. Totally brilliant and analytical approach to a subject, as you said that is such taboo. Well written. Maybe this will help someone. :)

  3. Nicely Written, thank you.

  4. You did a good write up. Hopefully it will help someone. It is sad that people are so quick to judge.

  5. Well witten and thanks for sharing.
    Eddy.

  6. It’s very hard to understand why anyone hurt themselves, but it happens all the time especially to young girls. My hope is that they get psychological help.

  7. Sorry, would hurt themselves.

  8. Many try and cover up their inner feelings but it’s best to let someone know that you are so down and you really need some help with getting back up.

  9. very well written :)

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