Why are there more girls self-harming than boys?

When looking into self-harm, what stuck with me most was that the number of girls self-harming is significantly higher than the number of boys.  It really got me thinking and all I wanted to understand was why?  Does it have something to do with a female’s inability to deal with stress, or their desire to be in control, or perhaps a lack of self-esteem?

A comment on my previous self-harm post, regarding the need to be in control, reads: “Teenage girls are constantly being told what they need to be – standards that few can live up to. I believe that more girls turn to harming themselves and controlling what they eat because they can control nothing else. In male-dominated society, girls have control over almost nothing.”

This is an interesting way of looking at it, especially when we are living in a time that is media-obsessed.  Girls feel like they have to conform to the stereotyped versions of beauty, and desire to look like the women who are able to commit to hours in the gym and spend thousands on plastic surgery.  So many of us want to have the appearance of the women we see in magazines, who don’t even look like that themselves, because they have been air-brushed beyond belief.

In their aim to live up to these high standards, many females not only begin to feel out of control, but their self-esteem also begins to dwindle.  Females often have a tendency to hate their bodies, which may lead to some of them using self-harm as a way to not only control their body, but also punish their bodies for not looking the way they want.

In fact, self-harm in young women is linked to low self-esteem, which also happens to be one of the most common mental health problems in young women.  It seems that we do not give enough consideration to self-esteem among teenagers and how much of an effect that it has on them, especially in schools.

Self-harm usually follows feelings of either emotional pain, self-hatred or anger within females, as it allows them to achieve a sense of power and control over these feelings.  The conversion of emotional pain into physical pain acts as a type of coping mechanism, which helps to keep them going, but also raises the question: why choose self-harm rather than healthier ways of coping with the pain?

It turns out that women find it easier to cope with physical pain than emotional pain, which is possibly why they turn to self-harm.  However, it goes so much deeper, as self-harm is a physical manifestation of extreme emotional distress and usually a small part of a bigger picture.

Getting anyone to admit that they self-harm is difficult, but more individuals would be likely to step forward if they could be assured of the support, love and understanding that they need to help them stop.  Females need others to not only accept that they self-harm, but also look beyond the act and see the person who is suffering behind the scars.

However, what we really need to focus on is raising the self-esteem of our young women.  Let’s compliment each other, make each other feel comfortable in our own skin and appreciate others for who they are.  The link between low self-esteem and self-harm within young women is worrying and it definitely needs to be addressed.

Photo from mirror.co.uk.
Photo from mirror.co.uk.

The Self-Harm Issue

A couple of months ago, I read an article on The Guardian website about self-harm and I was shocked to the core about how commonplace it is among young people.  Self-harm really is more common than we think and it is becoming more prevalent.

According to a World Health Organisation collaborative study, the last decade has seen a threefold increase in the number of teenagers who self-harm – 20% of 15-year-olds have said that they’ve self-harmed over the past year.  However, what is especially saddening to me is that the number of girls self-harming is significantly higher than the number of boys.  This raises the question, why do females seem to deal with stress in a negative way, or is it that they have a greater obsession with being in control?

Self-harm is usually related to control or managing stress in the short-term, which are two factors that will greatly affect young people throughout their time in education.  Education can be extremely stressful, especially when living within a society that is obsessed with making money and getting the best (or should we say highest paid) job possible.  This stress increases during A-levels, as they strive to get into a good university, and then during university as they work towards getting a job, which may not even come into fruition.

This is a difficult time for young people and it seems that they will do anything to get their control back, but self-harm signifies a problem with their emotional and/or mental health that needs to be addressed before it gets any worse.  The element of control with self-harm also begins to decline after a while, as you can become so consumed by it that you are unable to get a grip on the will to stop, despite how much you may want to.

Self-harm was the tool I used to make myself feel better, as I took out my anger and hurt on myself, by transforming my emotional pain into physical pain.  It was my way of taking the control back from other people, but ultimately it made me feel worse about myself and my scars only reminded me of the pain I had felt.  No matter how many times I told myself that I was done for good, something would make me return to the blade and want to watch the oozing blood that would bring me comfort.

Eventually, I stopped self-harming and I have no desire to do it again, but I know that it is a problem that will stay with me for the rest of my life.  However, there are many young people who continue to self-harm and find themselves unable to stop, mainly because they feel unable to talk to someone or because there is not enough help in place.  In this time of need, youth mental health services are being cut, which is unacceptable because the health of our youth is extremely important.

In May 2013, self-harm was recognised as a diagnosis across Europe, which is both a good and bad sign, but the majority of people self-harming do not make themselves known to the clinical services.  Our society needs to be more forthcoming and understanding of self-harm, which will make the likelihood of young people coming forward much higher.

In The Guardian’s article, Dr Jacqueline Cornish, national clinical director for children and young people at NHS England, who is responsible for the Camhs service, says: “It is vital we have the right services in place when children, young people or indeed adults need them. But this must be combined with greater public understanding of the reasons why someone might self-harm and how to get help.”

There seems to be greater support for self-harmers, with the increase in blogs and websites, such as selfharm.co.uk.  However, we really need to get to the bottom of why there has been such a large increase in the number of young people self-harming, so that we can work out how we can turn it around.  It is essential for us to start making the mental and emotional health of our young people a number one priority.

Photo from 365 Days of Mayhem and used under Creative Commons Licence.
Photo from 365 Days of Mayhem and used under Creative Commons Licence.

 

Creative Futures Programme Day 23

Yesterday was the final day of the Creative Futures Programme, as Positive Summer Vibes comes to the LNK unit in Croydon tomorrow from 10am until 6pm.  After six weeks of preparation, learning new skills, gaining nuggets of knowledge and building up a network, our project had come to a close.

However, yesterday was not a time for sad goodbyes or getting sentimental, because there was still much work to be done in order for us to be ready for the event on Saturday.  Of course, promotion was still key, which meant that hip hop artist Rodney P, Andrae and myself were handing out leaflets to the public in Croydon Town Centre.  It was a fun yet gruelling task, which left me with aching feet by the end of day, but the young people seemed to respond quite well.

Positive Summer Vibes Leaflets

There were also some final plans that had to be put firmly in place in order for the day to run successfully and be as enjoyable as possible for the young people in attendance.  Everyone now has their set roles, so they should know exactly what they’re doing tomorrow and be prepared for hard work, but an overall enjoyable day.

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Although the Creative Futures programme will have come to an end this Saturday, we hope to put on an event like this again and continue to work with the young people of the community.  We have gained and learnt so much over these past weeks, and we hope that this can become a genuine business venture.

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We would still like for you to follow us on Twitter (@FuturesPositive) and like our Facebook page (Positive Summer Vibes), so continue to share the love.  And make sure you come down to the event tomorrow where there will be lots of positive vibes, so don’t miss out.

Creative Futures Programme Day 22: More Promotion

The focus on promotion continued in the lead up to Positive Summer Vibes, as we passed the middle mark of the week.  With just two days left until the event, it is essential for us to get the word out there and ensure that as many people know about the event as possible.

Ruth Daniel from Agencia and myself chased the local press, which proved fruitful, as they said that they would come to cover our event.  Hip Hop artist, Rodney P, who has been leading out on the Creative Futures programme really pushed the social media marketing aspect, which can be a powerful tool for reaching out to young people.  We also continued sending out tweets and posting on the Facebook page, which will maintain our presence in the cyber world.

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It was another day for getting out and talking to the public, as we attempted to conquer Croydon Town Centre.  Some leaflets were left on display in various stores and establishments, while others were given directly into the hands of young people.  There was a relatively positive response and we hope to see the young people come out in large numbers to kick of the summer holidays.

Positive Summer Vibes Leaflets

Our team also continued to make the final preparations to make sure that our event will be a success that young people will not only enjoy, but gain a lot from.  This is a free event for the community, which has enabled us young people to develop certain skills, gain new ones and build up our professional (and social) networks.

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We would love for you to come and support Positive Summer Vibes this Saturday at the LNK unit in the upper mall of Centrale shopping centre, from 10am until 6pm.  Also remember to stay connected with us by following @FuturesPositive on Twitter and liking the Positive Summer Vibes page on Facebook.  Keep on sharing the love.

Creative Futures Programme Day 21: Promotion

The final few days before Positive Summer Vibes are all about promotion, promotion, promotion.  Although we do have other tasks to get on with and certain factors that need seeing to, promotion is our main focus in a bid to make our event a success.

We got a first look at our printed flyers and posters, which arrived at the LNK unit on Saturday.  After having a short debrief and talking over our debates with one of the members of the SONS from EDGE fm, we were able to get out there with those flyers and posters.

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Andrae (23) and myself (21) hit the streets of Croydon Town Centre to interact with young people while handing out flyers.  Jayne (20) and Deakon (19) returned to the shops, providing them with posters and leaflets to put in display.  Inno (19) did a little bit of both, alternating between time spent speaking to the public and getting leaflets in various establishments.

Deakon and Jayne also got started on our promotional board at the entrance of the LNK unit, which will be right in the view of all those walking by.  However, there is still lots more promotion to do and tomorrow the work continues.  We will be speaking to schools and colleges, putting our leaflets in libraries and getting out on the street again.

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Promotion over social media is also essential, so if you haven’t already, follow @FuturesPositive on Twitter and like Positive Summer Vibes on Facebook.  We need your support to help make this event a success.

Creative Futures Programme Day 20: Getting Out There

The Creative Futures team continued the in-depth preparations for Positive Summer Vibes, as the day draws nearer and nearer.  We discussed the debate segment of the day, started to assign the necessary job roles and made a promotional plan for the upcoming week.

Most of the individuals for the debate panels have been decided upon and those in question have agreed to take part, and the SONS from EDGE fm are well under way with their research into the debate topics.  One of our own, Lizzy (18), will also be sitting on the ‘Teenage Sex’ debate panel, so look out for her.

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Unfortunately our poster and leaflets did not arrive until Saturday, which meant that we were unable to hand them out to the public, but we did go and visit a number of shops to ask if they would keep some leaflets or a poster in store.  However, this week we will deliver a bunch of leaflets to various stores and hand out leaflets to the Croydon public, which we have been longing to do for some weeks now.

Positive Summer Vibes Poster

Although we are taking steps forward in our arrangements and putting the final pieces into place, we are still facing adversity and new problems seem to be popping up.  Nevertheless, we are determined to make our event a success and we are doing what we can to fix any problems that arise.

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This week, we will spend our last few days preparing for Positive Summer Vibes, which we are all looking forward to.  We also want to interact with you, so follow @FuturesPositive on Twitter and like Positive Summer Vibes on Facebook.  Keep sharing the love.

Creative Futures Programme Day 19: Intense Preparation

The Creative Futures team continued with the in-depth preparation for Positive Summer Vibes on Day 19 of the programme.  Our little family was joined by three more members, who have dived straight in and contributed to our overall plans, especially the promotion aspect.

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Hip Hop artist, Rodney P, who has been leading out on the programme, was running from person to person, as he oversaw the various tasks that we were carrying out.  Andrae (24) finalised the furniture list for the day, which included writing an email to source the sound equipment that we would need.  Inno (19) also got his head down and was doing his thing, as he completed the spreadsheet that he had started on the previous day.

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Promotion is essential for the success of our event, so today I (21) drew up the press release – with some support by Millik (18) – to send off to the Croydon publications.  However, we also aim to branch out and send the press release to a number of other organisations.  I was also able to get in touch with Croydon Radio through Twitter, which led to me posting our event on their calendar, and this should hopefully broaden our reach.

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Our posters and leaflets have now gone to print and they should be with us tomorrow, so hopefully we will be handing them out to the Croydon public and getting them posted in shops.  There is also more work for us to do, but we should have a better job at getting it done with our new additions.

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Keep in touch with us as we prepare for Positive Summer Vibes by liking the Facebook group Positive Summer Vibes, visiting the Facebook events page Agencia & LNK present- Positive Summer Vibes, and following the Twitter handle @FuturesPositive.  Share the love.