Saturday, 21 March 2015

Self Harm - A Pastoral Approach

I was delighted to read of a new initiative, the Self Harm Initiative for Teachers, designed to instruct teachers on how to deliver lessons on safe self-cutting.

As its proponents point out, many children will self harm, and Just Saying No doesn't work, so it is important to teach them how to do it in a way that minimises risk.

It is also important, of course, to reach them before they start to cut themselves. It is too late once they have infected themselves by using unsterile blades etc.  We much reach them while they are young.

A judgemental attitude will only serve to drive self-harmers underground, and may cause them to be bullied or stigmatised for their lifestyle choices, which is wholly unacceptable.

Some critics may argue that teaching about safe self-harm in the class room risks putting ideas into their heads.  Such naive people have clearly never looked at the internet, where hashtags like #cutterforlife demonstrate how widespread this issue is. It is ridiculous to imagine that children will not be exposed to this.

Likewise, the distribution of clean blades to all kids has raised questions in some quarters; but as the Select Committee pointed out, there is little point telling children not to use dirty blades unless they are provided with a safe alternative.

So I applaud this worthy initiative, and hope that self-harm lessons will become mainstream, and eventually compulsory, for all children, before too many more children die from infected wounds.



I have been told that this post may be misunderstood, so I think it incumbent on me to offer a word of clarification.

I wrote this as a satire on the current approach to Sex Education in this country.

I do not, of course, wish to denigrate those who seek to help children who cut themselves, by teaching them some strategies to reduce risk. Rather my point was two-fold.

Firstly, that strategies for the minority who are taking part in risky and aberrant behaviour should not be imposed on the majority who are not, in the name of prevention.  It normalises the problem behaviour, and if done in a non-judgemental style, teaches that it is in fact acceptable (or pace Brook, praise-worthy). There is thus the likelihood of creating the very problem we are trying to solve.

Secondly, that self-harm is rightly recognised as 'bad.' That is, a judgement is made of the behaviour (not of the individuals)  - that it is against their own and others' interests if they hurt themselves, even if they want to do so; and the educational and support strategy is predicated on that understanding. I think that the same should be the case with regard to children indulging in sexual activity, as it is clearly bad for them, as countless studies have demonstrated.


Eccles said...

Reminds me of the Mikado:

...self decapitation is an extremely difficult, not to say dangerous, thing to attempt;

Ben Whitworth said...

You write satire with a very straight face, so it is sometimes hard to tell, though the acronym of the Initiative did put me on the alert. (On an unrelated topic, the most recent post on the "Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley" expresses views with you, I think, will concur - as do I.)

Bernie said...

do you have any personal experience of a child who self harms?

Ben Trovato said...

Bruvver: yes, indeed.

Ben: thanks for pointing me at that, I both enjoyed it and agreed.

Bernie: I am curious about why you ask that question.