I came across that was published in the Irish Times a few weeks ago, about self harm and increased suicide risk following self harm. While it was a really good article, it bothered me, because as seems to be the norm now, the focus of research, funding and intervention seems to be directed primarily at people up to age 25. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not denying that this is work that needs doing, but what about the rest of us? Self harm only surfaced for me when I was in my late twenties, and even at that, I didn’t consider what I was doing could fall into the self harm category. (It did. And it escalated).
It’s frustrating to see such good work and so much energy being directed at only part of the population. I know that building a functioning mental health service is a mammoth task, but I’m not sure that focusing on one group to the detriment of another is the way to go. Self harm is absolutely not restricted to teenagers. The range of ages among my group at the Eden Programme clearly demonstrates that, and that’s just one small group. I don’t mean to come across as shitty, but I would love to see some of the energy that’s out there directed towards the rest of us as well. Even in the run up to the election when there was huge talk about MH services, my sense (and I’m very open to correction) was that it was primarily about youth services. Yes, the earlier we catch mental health issues the better, and hopefully that’s well on the way to being how things are. But that still leaves a huge gap now.
I don’t know. Maybe I’m just frustrated because it’s been so hard for me to get the help I need, but I know I’m not the only one. Yes, teenagers need to be encouraged to talk about what’s bothering them, and that there’s no shame in asking for help. But the same goes for the rest of us. We need someone to speak and lobby on our behalf as well.