About seven years ago I was curled up on my friend’s bed in our halls at university when she started telling me about her self harm. She told me that it started as “that self harm phase that every teenager goes through.” Those words shocked me because she said it so dismissively. But I realised that she wasn’t being ignorant or unfeeling. Her own painful experience had led her to believe that all young people inevitably hurt themselves.
The memory of that conversation still makes my heart ache. I hated that she saw the world that way. But the sad reality is that in the last ten years in England the number of teenagers who self-harm has tripled and in 2014 up to one in five 15-year-olds said that they self-harmed (according to a 2014 World Health Organisation collaborative study: Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children, quoted in The Guardian)
Speaking about self harm can be very difficult for many reasons. For Christians it may be difficult because we think we should know all the answers. If you know that God loves you and has set you free from sin, but knowing it hasn’t stopped you harming, you might feel guilty or think that you’re doing something wrong. You might see other people being healed while you continue to struggle. Or maybe you feel unhelpful pressure to get better soon because you know that your friends are praying for you.
Self harm, the act of physically causing harm to your body, is often used as a coping strategy. It is not selfish or about attention seeking. It should always be taken seriously. Here at Girl Got Faith we believe in a good God who sees your pain and speaks to you with words that bring life and hope. Sometimes the journey takes a very long time and is frustrating but that does not mean you are lacking in faith or aren’t being “godly enough.” This is the first of a series of three articles where I will share some wisdom I’ve learned about self harm, look at what the Bible says and suggest resources where you can find out more.
The Church should be talking about self harm. It’s important that Churches taking the lead in talking about issues that affect the people both in its congregation and in it’s surrounding area. Jesus knows that people need to feel loved, safe and cherished and we are his hands and feet to show this to the world. You can have a role in this, by sharing this article or the resources below with your youth group or small group, and starting the discussion.
Whether you harm yourself, you have a friend you’re worried about who harms, or you just realise that it’s important to talk about self harm, I hope these articles are helpful for you.
For more information, professional advice and guidance on how to get support, you can visit: