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Self-harm is a bigger problem than I thought

TW: Mention of self-harm, mental issues

[Coming from someone who has experiences with self-harm]

Today I went for an interview at a performing arts school, and there were many different people there looking to get in. There were kids like me who couldn't stand the algebra and chemistry classes, looking to study something they were genuinely interested in. There were also adults who'd finished their education but wanted to pursue their passion. My point here is that all kinds of random students were there, from all sorts of backgrounds and pasts.

I was put in a group interview where we had to discuss a short film they showed us. I was picking at my fingers cause I was nervous, when the girl who sat next to him grabbed my hand, trying to stop me from peeling my fingers. That's when I noticed the fresh cuts on her wrists, they looked maybe a day old, and when I looked closer I saw thinner, faded scars on the arm, and scars on the back of her hand as well.

I met a lot of my close friends through the school counselor, they all have their own problems and issues, and a lot of them have resorted to self-harm as a way of expressing their emotions. I guess I just assumed the reason so many people around me had this habit was that I met them through the school counselor, which meant they had mental/emotional problems, which is usually why people do it.

But what I saw today changed my view. Maybe the reason I know so many people who've SH'd isn't because of how I met them, it's because it's such a common way of dealing with stress or anxiety-that at an event where everyone I met was random and from different parts of my city-the person who sat next to me had this bad habit. I don't believe it's a coincidence, I believe it's because a lot of people are doing it. And when so many people are doing a certain thing, the chances of you running into someone doing that thing a lot higher.

And that prompted me to think about how we got to this point. How ridiculous is it that our society is so screwed up that so many people resort to this method of expression and it's become so common? I feel like people might be becoming desensitized to it, I mean, I've come to a point where when I see scars on someone my first thought is "Oh, another one?", and not "What happened? Why did they do this?" or something along those lines that sound more normal to me.

A lot of people who self-harm are teenagers. Obviously, adults do it too, but studies have shown that teenagers of the ages 12-16, and girls, are at higher risk of self-harming. I assume a big part of it is from school, so many people are prioritizing grades over kids' mental health, and there are many parents who punish their children when they don't get high grades. I'm sure so many students around the world feel this constant pressure from others to do well, when they don't meet their expectations, they would resort to this method as a way to punish themselves.

Another reason is relationship problems. I'm not just talking about romantic relationships, I'm talking about friendship and family as well. Kids might've had to go through messy divorces or abusive parents, they must feel backed into a corner with nowhere else to go. And as teens, friends mean so much to us. Arguments happen in friendships, maybe some of them feel upset but don't know how else to express it.

One more thing I thought of is social media. The internet is vast, and everyone has Instagram or Snapchat. Teens, especially girls, are constantly bombarded with expectations of being "beautiful", having skinny waists and perfecting their make-up. Being constantly shown pictures of models and influencers, a picture of what "you should be" definitely doesn't help anyone's self-esteem. Maybe they're tired of always trying and felt like this was an okay way to cope.

The thing is, it's not. Self-harm and mental issues have been glamourized by the media, 13 Reasons Why is an example of what I mean. People are starting to treat self-harm as a trend or even something desirable. I think we should remind ourselves that this is not a healthy way to deal with negative emotions, and just because it's becoming common doesn't mean that it's okay.

Whether you're thinking of SH or are currently doing it, you should seek professional help because this could be a sign of a serious problem. Talk to someone, find a better way to express your frustration or anger or whatever other emotions you're feeling. Just know that this is not okay and we shouldn't be normalizing it.

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