Self-harming Is Behind Me, But It Blights Many Students’ Lives’

During my first year of university, I began self-harming. The typical reliance on alcohol during freshers’ year, coupled with a depressive episode, led me to hurt myself in an attempt to feel something, anything. While this period seems far behind me now, the sad reality is that many students self-harm, and not all are as fortunate as I was in terms of having supportive peers and friends present.

Each year, self-harm results in around 150,000 emergency department visits, and one out of every 12 young people are believed to have intentionally injured themselves at some point. This is why Self-Injury Awareness Day, which occurs on March 1st, is so crucial.

It’s tough to explain why young people resort to self-harm, despite the fact that it’s frequently portrayed as a cry for attention. Instagram tags related to self-harm feature up to half a million posts, some of which are quite graphic. According to Wedge, chair of the volunteer-led self-injury charity LifeSigns, people who self-harm may feel an urgency to react to what they’re experiencing.

It can be difficult to cease self-harming, and individuals frequently require time to discover new ways of dealing with stress, according to Wedge. The period leading up to university can be particularly challenging. "I fully sympathize with students who find it stressful and distressing to live in a new location with fresh people and limited funds."

Online communities, particularly among those who self-harm, can be quite beneficial in coping, Wedge claims. "Some social media is too open, but the new fad is moving away from open social media and into private social media." Some of these groups may be found on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, as well as private Facebook groups.

A 2013 Oxford University study discovered that young people who spend an excessive amount of time online are at greater risk of using more violent self-harm methods. However, it also claims that many individuals go to internet forums for empathy, and these interactions promote positive behavior and break the cycle of self-harm.

University campuses now have more intimate communities, both physical and digital, for dealing with mental health and self-injury. The University of Bristol’s Peace of Mind Society is one such example of a new, smaller type of community. The group is nearly 800 members strong on its private Facebook page, and admins anonymously post messages so that users can give advice and support.

One student who has found Peace of Mind quite helpful is Eleanor Martin, who is studying German. She has been self-harming for eight years. "I was told many times that it was just a phase. My peers gave me a lot of negative attention. They told me that it was just a way to get attention." For years, Martin claims she was unaware that she could seek help or counseling, adding that the injuries she sustained left her with scars that exceeded the typical "cutting" type of self-injury. Martin, however, claims that Peace of Mind has given her a place to discuss self-injury management and her mental well-being.

Similar mental health societies run by students exist at many other universities, such as Exeter and UWE. Late-night anonymous help service Nightline, where phone calls are taken by student volunteers, is among other initiatives in place to help students in need. Rachel Wood*, a student at UWE, has been self-harming for three years and has yet to disclose it to her parents. She claims that the student-run mental health society has been invaluable. "Having a safe place to talk to peers about what you’re going through can increase your confidence and allow for more conversations."

When reflecting on student-run campaigns that help individuals who self-harm, one may wonder if they would have benefitted from such groups during their own personal experience. Regardless, the existence of these campaigns has noticeably decreased stigma surrounding mental health issues.

Martin, a name changed for privacy, expressed how participating in these campaigns has allowed them to speak truthfully about their own mental health without the fear of being ostracized. In fact, it has led to a newfound level of openness in their life.

For those seeking help, resources such as the Samaritans in the UK (116 123), the National Suicide Prevention Hotline in the US (1-800-273-8255), and Lifeline crisis support service in Australia (13 11 14) are available.

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  • kaylarusso

    Kayla Russo is an educational blogger and volunteer and student. She is a 27 yo educational blogger and volunteer and student who loves to help others learn.



Kayla Russo is an educational blogger and volunteer and student. She is a 27 yo educational blogger and volunteer and student who loves to help others learn.

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