kashinthegreen (kashinthegreen) wrote in teachergoths,

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A fashionable disease?

On friday, one of my students, an emo kid, proudly announced to me and the rest of the class:
"I don't feel pain anymore because of all the self harming I do", "I have serious anger issues".


Ok, so I shall start. I know this kid. I know she is a nutter, not in the mentally ill way, she's bubbly, loud, in your face and attention seeking. I have seen the injuries she inflicts on herself, she proudly displayed them to me, she has home-made ear piercings, and stretched lobes, she likes to make a fuss about how much her latest hurts (I am generally unsympathetic, and usually point out that it was her choice), she has repeatedly attempted to tattoo her forarm with a compass (in other lessons), and failed, and she occasionally punches walls. Now she certainly has issues, but is she a self-harmer in the conventional sense? I don't think so. Would she be doing any of this if SI wasn't so widely publicised and "cool" in the emo community? I would say ditto. Knowing her, knowing other students in serious psychological distress who do serious harm to themselves, this concerns me on several levels.

Now, of late, awareness of SI has increased greatly, it is on the news, it is taught in PHSCE, not-quite-so-pop idols talk about it, sing about it, etc, etc. In some ways this is a good thing, it makes those of us with a duty of care aware of what to look for (I had one student who raked her nails down her arms until they were raw, I wouldn't have recognised the injury if another, more experienced teacher hadn't pointed it out, and her case was referred to social services); it probably makes those who suffer realise that they are not alone and perhaps encourages them to seek help. On the other hand the information is potentially triggering, and can be abused or treated with less gravity than it deserves.

Among the emo kids at school, SI scars are a badge of honour, and a more and more common taunt amongst students is to accuse each other of self harm, using the random bumps and scratches kids get as "evidence". I also have students who regularly refer to themselves as "suicidal" usually because they have too much homework. All of this is making it harder to spot the genuine cases (who are *much* quieter about it) . In the long run it means that not just Si, but mental health in general is taken much less seriously, and in the long run this can only be truly detrimental to genuine sufferers.

More and more lately I have noticed a shift in the attitude towards SI, it is no longer shocking or distressing that someone could be in such distress that they physically hurt themselves, instead it's becoming accepted, or branded as attention seeking or "god it's them bloody miserable emos again..." and that means that understanding, tolerance and support are actually decreasing. 

This is x-posted to my own journal, and I have got some interesting comments back, but I would love to hear what other teachers think.
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