Editorial : Self-Harm

Thursday 1 March has been designated National Self-Harm Awareness Day, and in this issue we are carrying an article about a survey conducted for four charities working in this field which indicates a worrying level of self-reported self-harm among children and young people.This raises all sorts of questions. Why are they doing it? Is the incidence still increasing (as it has risen since the 1980s)? Why has it risen? What can parents, teachers and carers do about it?

The thought that children and young people should choose to harm themselves is appalling. They are at a stage in life when they are growing and developing, and they should be looking after the bodies which they will have for the rest of their lives. Self-harm is contrary to this, and it indicates a high level of unhappiness and disturbance for a child to want to harm him or herself.

There is no easy answer, but we would like to suggest that there should be international studies to identify the cultures and countries where there are low levels of problems such as self harm. Rather than focus entirely on the problem, can we identify the features of the cultures which successfully avoid or minimise the problem?

We do not know what findings such research might reveal – perhaps better parenting or extended family support, or fewer broken homes, or fewer stressful educational pressures, or less peer pressure and bullying, or better job prospects for young people? Or are all these factors irrelevant?

Whatever the causes, we need to be grateful to the four charities for sponsoring National Self-Harm Awareness Day. They merit our support

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