*Trigger warning: This post may raise issues for readers who have experience with self-harm, depression or suicide.
by CAITLIN DACEY
The saying ‘your body is a canvas’ has become a startlingly accurate description for many teens, as they paint themselves red with blood, slashing and slicing into themselves to gain some form of emotional release. It’s called self-harm, a self-deprecating, harmful, emotionally and physically scarring problem, which has become startlingly commonplace in today’s society.
It’s not a new problem, nor is it an issue with a quick fix. It’s emotional turmoil, bubbling to the surface and having a vastly detrimental impact for many teens. Self-harm isn’t limited just to teens; it has a far reaching effect and can mark anyone. Short, tall, slim, curvy, black, white, male, female, young, old, poor, rich- the list goes on and on, and absolutely anybody can be affected. However, it is teens, with their melodramatic tendencies and raging hormones, which have become particularly susceptible to the terrors of self-harm.
Six months ago, self-harm was a thing of fiction for me. Don’t get me wrong, I knew it existed, and I knew it was affecting many people; it’s just that it wasn’t affecting me. And then it started. It was my best friend Charlotte. It was small at first, a nick or scratch here or there, able to be passed off as a collateral damage from working at Macca’s, but then it got worse. Dark moods. Brooding expressions. Constant crying. Then the cuts turned from small and seemingly harmless to large and deliberate, tainting her skin red. Sure enough, my darling best friend was cutting. She was a mess.
Each morning she would text me to ask me to bring a Band-Aid to school, and each day my heart sank as I pulled the Band-Aid box out of the cupboard, knowing I would never deny her, in an effort to try and keep her as safe as I could. Eventually, I went and bought a first aid kit, and each morning I would take her down to my locker, clean her wounds and dress them as best as I could. And each day I would go home and worry about her, praying for her to get better, begging her to go and talk to a professional. She was caught up in a complicated life, and she was spiralling downwards, fast.
But then came the worst thing of all, and it wasn’t from her; it was another close friend, one of my nearest and dearest, who said his goodbyes. Only, nobody realised they were goodbyes at the time. My friends and I had gone home from school, just like any other day. That night we logged on to Facebook and checked our phones, just like any other night. Only, on that particular night, there was a message for each of us. A message from our wonderful Dean, telling us that he loved us, how much we meant to him, and finally, goodbye. Each of us thought it was just Dean being Dean, spewing garbled niceties whilst in a particularly whimsical mood.
But it was the next morning, when he didn’t show up to school that we thought ‘that’s odd, he usually texts someone when he’s away’. Then came an offhand comment from someone; ‘Dean said the nicest thing to me last night, just out of nowhere!’ and the pieces began to fall into place. We re-read all of our messages, and my heart shattered. We finally realised that he was saying goodbye. It was a God-damned farewell, and none of us had seen the signs. We were just a bunch of seventeen year old kids, with a sad friend and a bunch of final goodbyes. And in that moment, I realised that we had to do something. I couldn’t roll over and let him die.
So we got in contact with his family, and they assured us that he was alive, but deathly sick. Then the next day, Dean made a confession. He’d swallowed pills. He’d been so consumed with self-hate, so ashamed of himself that he felt like his only option left was to end it. None of us had seen the signs. He was just a sad, lonely, confused teenager, who had nowhere to turn and was so desperate that he did the worst possible thing he could. He was struggling with being gay with trigger-happy parents who hate homosexuals, the pressure to amount to something more than a struggling, yet brilliantly talented actor, and the social pressures that were put on him to be ‘normal’. It’s a terrible thing, for someone to resort to that. Especially when you’re just a seventeen year old, trying to find yourself in a world full of expectations.