Coincidentally, the report has been published at the same time as teenage soap Hollyoaks airs a harrowing storyline about three characters all engaging in a self-harming pact. The soap generally attracts a younger audience and it could be said not only are they raising awareness of the issue but could be glamourizing it. If you were a vulnerable young person and see this, it could, unfortunately, push them into it. However, on the flip side, it could educate others to spot the signs of it and how they can intervene quicker. It is a delicate balance that let’s hope leans towards to latter.

I self-harmed

I too was one of the many teenage girls, who are more likely than boys to self-harm. It came at a time where I was grieving for my Grandad, had a turbulent relationship with my mother who both physically and mentally abused me as well as trying to just ‘fit in’. Due to problems at home my self-esteem was non-existent. I cannot remember what led me to start cutting myself, I am sure I had heard someone else at school had done it and it began. To this day, I think school and the pressures that come with it, to succeed both educationally and socially is overwhelming. There is also a dangerous cruelty among teenagers that you do not really experience again. I don’t really remember seeing it on TV back then and it wasn’t really spoken about.

This was back when social media had yet to take over our lives as much as it does now. It was a very unhealthy way of coping. For years it would be my on/ off coping mechanism that generally went unnoticed. It was never addressed by a professional and it carried on into my early 20’s, where depression, two failed suicide attempts and eating disorders soon followed suit.

It’s an easy thing to hide, and you get clever about doing it where no one will notice so for weeks, months even and no one would even know what was happening. With so much information available a teenager can easily look up how to do this, what do it with (things found around the home that no one would bat an eyelid at), cutting, poisoning and even those trying to hang themselves are all on the increase.

Those considering self-harm will consult a pro self-harming website

Worryingly, to be a teenager now comes with all the same pressures but also a lot more. 76% of those considering self-harm would consult a pro self-harming website, those which basically egg you on to do it, to take part in pacts which is unnervingly dangerous. We live in an age where we have anything at our fingertips, and that does come at a price to our younger generation. The social pressures have increased tenfold with social media and the tether it has on our lives. There is no respite for younger people their phones are a fixed extension, always present. Instagram has been criticized for instigating low self-esteem among teenagers and causing an inferior complex among the vulnerable.

They are the ‘selfie’ generation.

Over sexualisation

Body image is always a precarious subject, and self-confidence tends to come with age. Modern teenagers are bombarded with over-sexualisation, on TV, adverts, media and of course social media. They can easily view pornographic material and it provides them with an unrealistic expectation of how you should look and act. When this isn’t fulfilled then it can lead to pressurising those who are not ready which can have devastating consequences. Sexting and bullying are rife among young people and those who do not comply are likely to be branded and mocked at school which can lead to those then undertaking self-harm.

Jeremey Hunt the Health Secretary has publicly said that the young people turning to self-harm are not getting enough help.

He has tweeted that social media companies need to ACT. It seems that cuts to the children’s mental health support system, mainly in deprived areas are leading to those having to wait for referral treatment or not receiving any at all. It can have fatal consequences with many charities such as Childline reporting the increase in calls from young people contemplating suicide.

Will social media ACT?

Unless safeguards are put in place, and referrals are followed up the percentage of teenagers self-harming will continue to increase.

Social media need to act upon their responsibility. Do we need to curfew teenagers time on social media? What exactly could be done from their side to protect teenagers? Monitoring and shutting down of pro self-harm websites is essential. We need to try and address the problems of over-sexualisation and lack of self-esteem from an early age. Do parents, guardians and teachers need to be better educated on looking for the signs of self-harm and what to do to help? This is a grave statistic that unfortunately reveals an unhealthy coping mechanism of modern teenagers, and is a reflection of the pressures that they face today.