THE BLOG

Getting Our Children Out Of Harm's Way

09/12/2016 16:19 GMT | Updated 10/12/2017 10:12 GMT
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There can be few things more distressing for a parent or guardian then when their child becomes so unhappy or upset that they feel compelled to self-harm. It is therefore deeply worrying that more and more children and teenagers in this country are being hospitalised after deliberately hurting themselves.

Our Freedom of Information request to NHS Trusts across England and Wales reveals that almost 19,000 children and young people were treated in hospital for acts of self-harm in 2015/16, a 14% three-year rise.

The personal damage is being inflicted by sufferers in a shockingly diverse range of ways that include slashing their bodies, burning themselves and overdosing on pills.

However, what binds most of these young people together is the emotional distress they are experiencing which is ultimately driving them to take such drastic and self-destructive action.

Consequently the key questions we must face, be it as a parent or someone who simply cares for the wellbeing of children, is why are so many of our younger generation ending up in such a terrible mental state that, in a 'Call for Help', they are resorting to self-harming and what can be done to try and prevent this from happening.

The exact reasons why children and teenagers decide to hurt themselves aren't always easy to work out. In fact, they might not even know exactly why they do it. What is pretty clear, however, is that the demands of modern day life are taking their toll on the younger generation with the 24/7 nature of social media in particular having a detrimental impact on their mental health.

The pressure to achieve a certain look and live a certain life can become all-consuming and ultimately lead to low esteem and act as a trigger for anxiety and depression.

When coupled with more traditional issues such as bullying, the pressure to do well at school and relationship problems with family or friends, you end up with a dangerous and damaging cocktail of feelings which are leaving a growing number of young people in a silent state of despair.

Often, the physical pain of self-harm might feel easier to deal with than the emotional pain that's behind it. It can also make a young person feel they're in control of at least one part of their lives, even if the reality suggests the exact opposite.

So how do we address this growing affliction? On a parental level the really important thing is to simply sit down with your child and listen to what they have to say.

Get them away from the electronic devices and into a quiet space where you can together hopefully get to the bottom of what has made your child start to self-harm and think about how triggers can be avoided.

Addressing the causes is going to be much more effective than removing the methods of self-harm like scissors or razors because anyone who really wants to hurt themselves is always going to find a way.

If you feel unable to cope on your own or deliver the necessary help direct them to Childline, where specialist support and advice is on hand around the clock.

On a broader level we need to seriously think about the living environment we are creating for our young people at home, at school and out in wider society, the expectations that are being heaped upon them to 'succeed' and the amount of exposure they now have to technology and everything that comes with it.

It is impossible to turn back the clock to the days when children were safe and happy to play out in the streets until dark. But at the same time we should not just completely surrender all the values and pastimes of yesteryear when trying to create a happier future for the younger generation.