“I hurt myself today” – self harm support



Gender Agenda

Gender Agenda
Issue 1 Lent 2003
The magazine of

Women's Union

“I hurt myself today” – self harm supportSelf harm is surrounded by a cloud of misconceptions and is often
misunderstood to be a suicide attempt or a desperate plea for
attention. People have often heard so little about it that when it is
mentioned their first thought is of the lyrics by Nine Inch Nails, ‘I
hurt myself today, to see if I still feel, I focus on the pain, the only
thing that’s real’. Interestingly, these lyrics refer to drug addiction,
not self harm. CUSU are releasing a self-injury booklet to provide
information and support for those who self harm and also to their friends
and partners who wish to support them. The CUSU Self-Injury campaign aims
to raise awareness of the issue throughout the University and publicise
the help available to students involved with this issue. Most of those
who self harm have a breakthrough moment when they realise that change is
possible, and this campaign aims to bring them closer to this point.

Self harm is medically defined as the action of deliberate harm to
one’s body without the aid of another person. Acts with suicidal intent or
done through sexual arousal are excluded from this definition. It is
estimated that 1000 people per 100,000 self harm and that the majority of
sufferers are women. A ‘typical’ self injurer is female, intelligent,
upper or middle class and well educated. Self harm behaviour can take
many varying forms including cutting, burning, self-hitting, hair
pulling, bone breaking or any combination of these methods. The most
common method of self harm is cutting (72% of reported cases) and a large
majority use multiple methods. Self harm is often used as a coping
mechanism over several months or years and various reasons can trigger
the urge to self harm. The self injurer may feel relief through the pain
and have increased ability to cope with tension, self hatred, abandonment
or apprehension. Other possible motivations include the venting of anger
or to escape numbness and feel ‘alive’. One sufferer, who has used self
harm as a coping mechanism for 24 years, described her feelings as; ‘I
don’t always know why I self-injure. Sometimes it’s used as a distraction
from the pain or anxiety I’m feeling. Sometimes I use it as a way of
saying with my body what I can’t say with words. At times there are no
words for what is going on inside me’.

Self harm is particularly applicable to Cambridge life due to the busy
and stressful nature of term time and the high expectations which
students form of themselves and each other. A first year from Caius
described why this is the case, ‘I started self harm during A-Levels when
I was stressed about getting into Cambridge. I’ve always felt inadequate
and the pressure here magnifies that’. The ‘typical’ profile, mentioned
above, applies to many Cambridge students. There is a need for some kind
of support to supplement the counselling service and the help given
within colleges.

If you would like a Self-injury booklet or would like to know more
about the campaign then contact Chris Holly on womens@cusu.cam.ac.uk




Email us at gender-agenda@cusu.cam.ac.uk