Very rarely are the issues of young people’s online behaviour and self-harm discussed favourably together. But, if Self-Harm Awareness Day today is about anything, it’s about breaking down some of the myths, so here’s one to start with… For many young people, online is not the source of their problems; It’s the route to addressing them.
Far from being confined to the realms of the type of websites that worry us all, young people all over the country are going online to talk about self-harm in positive and beneficial ways- to reach out for help for the first time, and to help others.
Of course as CEO of a digital charity I’m going to champion the positive role it plays helping young people, but more than this, it’s what young people tell us! Earlier this week young people joined us for a live chat, focussed on self-harm. This was a chance for them to check in with us and our guest expert for the evening, Rachel Welch from Selfharm.co.uk. They asked questions about how to disclose their self-harm to someone face to face and address concerns about confidentiality in a safe and trusted space. Being online allowed them the freedom to seek help in a way they couldn’t in person and, for one participant, take the next steps along the road to recovery.
Of course this is just one example. Each year we help around 1 million 16– 25-year online and 200 young volunteers who work with us to provide advice to their peers, ensuring safe peer to peer support online every day. But more needs to be done. Young people still tell us they feel alone, that they can’t talk to anyone. They can, and do, go online- and when they do, we need to be there for them.
We need to talk more about the benefits online brings for young people so that we can share insights and experience, rather than shock stories, and ultimately increase the number of young people getting access to the help they need, in whatever form they need it. Most importantly, we need to ensure young people know they are not alone.