Self-harm: additional thoughts

I wanted to emphasise that my poems are just that – a succinct way of expressing profound thoughts and feelings in a moment in time.

I’ve received a lovely, personal, and caring response to my poem Reconnect that made me think about how others may have read it.

Here is my explanation of my thoughts behind the poem, and about self- harming in general.

For those with serious mental health problems and for those on the Spectrum, deep pain often walks with you; there may also be a history of abuse. All of these are part of my experience. These factors trained my mind to see itself as worthless and what is needed is reassurance and true caring. Hence in the poem, “all I need is a hug is that so hard to do”. So while loved ones may be distressed by your actions, a little human kindness rather than questions, lectures, reprimands, or rejections may be the very thing that prevents the behaviour.

In the interview I did for a local paper I said “self-harm is a mug’s game” – and I still think that’s true. I also visited secondary schools at a time when ’emotionals’ were forming a counter-group to ‘goths’ and following a self-harming trend. This poem, however, was actually written in response to the attitude of certain staff when I was an in-patient at mental health hospitals.

My self-harm was never done in ‘visible’ places (neither on my body nor in a location) and people who worked closely with me didn’t realise what I did. Yes, I did do other things, but that was not the point of the poem. I have journals and notebooks full of poems and drawing/paintings that I did as a way of distracting myself from physical harming. I’ve tried talking about my feelings, especially in hospital, but there are very few staff who will take the time for you. It may be their ‘job’ but so often they’d rather read a paper or chat with other staff. And yes, there are other forms of coping strategy – but these often involve other people, and even causing potential harm. Things like excessive alcohol and drug consumption, reckless driving and sexual encounters, are all recognised forms of self-harm. All of these can harm, or even prove fatal for others.

Physical self-harm isn’t all about the young people who hit the headlines, nor the ones who appear to be following a trend. It’s a real thing, done by real people, who may be suffering unimaginable hurts. All we’re asking for is human kindness.