The Aardvark Speaks : essence, effervescence, obscurity. Established 2002. A weblog by Horst Prillinger. ISSN 1726-5320

July 28, 2004

What is wrong here?

An alarming article in The Independent reports on what they call an "epidemic of self-harm": in the UK, over 170,000 people a year — mostly teenagers and young adults — seek hospital treatment after deliberately hurting themselves.

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity Sane, said: "This really has become an epidemic [...]. The problem is spreading. We are not just talking about young girls cutting themselves any more: we have heard of young men gauging their flesh, drinking acid, removing genitalia."

Coming from a country with one of the highest suicide rates of the EU-15 (Austria ranks third after Finland and Hungary — there is even an Austrian suicide weblog), I have always seen Austria as an example of a country where many people suppress their aggression and turn it against themselves (often in conjunction with alcohol). The UK, with its infinitely higher number of acts of vandalism, hooliganism and violence in general, but a much lower suicide rate, seemed to be the opposite example of a country where aggressions are directed towards others rather than towards oneself.

It seems my theory needs a major revision. Either aggression towards oneself does not mean a lower level of aggression towards others (and vice versa), or the aggression, frustration, emptiness and/or mental problems of young people in the UK are reaching new and dangerous heights. What it is I don't know, but it sure sounds frightening. Definitely a sign that something is very wrong.

Posted by Horst on July 28, 2004 11:37 AM to news of the world | Tell-a-friend

laura said on July 29, 2004 06:16 AM:

I've just seen this phenomenon in the teenaged daughter of a friend, who's in a mental hospital near here. She has multiple piercings and showed us the cuts on her arm that she'd just made. Extreme tattooing, branding, and body modifying seem to me to be a form of self-harm, too. We need to examine why young people are exhibiting such self-hatred. The movie "The Secretary" gave a few insights.

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