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.

This article has 3 Comments

  1. You’re absolutely right. Some days ago I was doing a Google search on self-harm, and ALL the articles that came out (at least in Italian, I can’t vouch for other languages) were about teenagers and self-harm. I do agree with you that issues are better treated as earlier as possible, so it’s all very good to address teens. But they are definitely not the only ones who self-injure. It’s not a teen issue, not at all.

  2. There is an epidemic of teenagers self-harming so naturally enough, that’s where resources are going to go. When I was at school, I only knew of 1 person who self-harmed whereas now, I keep reading headlines in various newspapers about the issue. I think there’s also an idea that people “grow out of” self-harm and other self-destructive behaviour as impulsivity tends to decrease as people mature and age.

    I think that having different types of evidence-based therapies available ie CBT, DBT, mindfulness etc is clearly the answer but that takes money from tax payers and Ireland is currently a tax haven with its 12.5% corporate tax rate plus all the offshore accounts in Panama etc.

    It’s all very well talking about the need for better mental health services but where is the money going to come from???? I don’t see higher earners wanting to pay even more tax than they currently do and that’s what it all comes to down to really. There was a general election and Fine Gael and Fianna Fail got the most votes combined. It clearly shows that the electorate values tax cuts over provision of services.

    And mental health services are failing *all* service users right now so I don’t think the debate should be solely centred on self-harm. The price of effective anti-depressants is another huge issue. People with post-natal depression and dual diagnosis are also being let down in a major way. It really is right across the board.

  3. I had the same experiences with internet searches Marina – it kind of added to the shame even more – like I should definitely have grown out of this stuff by now – like it was just teenagers and me who struggled with self harm!
    Even a mental health nurse told me repeatedly to go to Jigsaw for help. (Jigsaw helps people up to the age of 25 – I was 36 at the time!)

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