In the News: ‘Self-harming is behind me, but it blights many students’ lives’

It was during my first year of university that I first self harmed. The normal freshers’ year reliance on alcohol and a depressive episode led me to hurt myself to stimulate any kind of feeling.

Although that period seems far behind me now, there are many other students who self-harm. Some are not as lucky as I was – I had supportive peers and friends.

Each year, self-harm results in about 150,000 attendances at hospital accident and emergency departments, and around one in 12 young people are thought to injure themselves intentionally at some point. This is why self-injury awareness day, on Tuesday 1 March, is so important.

The reasons why young people self-injure are hard to explain, though it is often portrayed as a cry for attention. There are Instagram tags that feature up to half a million posts related to self-harm, some graphically so.

What lies behind these posts may be a desire for self-expression and an attempt to escape the feelings of isolation that self-harm can bring, according to Wedge, chair of the volunteer-led self-injury charity LifeSigns (the charity only uses first names for its members).

“For people who are self-injuring, it can be a very immediate reaction to what they are experiencing,” he says.

It can be difficult to stop self-harming. Individuals often need time to find new ways to cope with stress, explains Wedge, and the transition to university can be an especially difficult time.

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