The blog below was originally published by Time to Change, on their website. Please be aware that the content may be triggering. The original publication can be found at www.time-to-change.org.uk/blog/suicide-self-harm-label-attention-seekers-needs-to-be-challenged on September 18th 2013
Suicide and Self Harm: The label “attention seekers” needs to be challenged
Recently I have read a number of comments that have labelled people who have self harmed or have attempted suicide as attention seekers. I thought I needed to explain why this attitude needs to be changed.
A bit of background, I have in the past attempted suicide. I was taken to hospital by the police. I was told due to the nature of my attempt that I was not serious in my intentions. I have also self harmed. These experiences have led to me being called an attention seeker and now I want to explain why that is not the case.
I myself have always hidden this behaviour and I think this will be the case of many people who have self harmed. The reason I have felt like I have had to hide this is because of the label of being an attention seeker and the judgement of others. I don’t self harm for other people. It is a coping mechanism, -and, yes, I know it is not a very good one. I don’t self harm to get people to talk to me and there are many other more effective ways I can think of to get people to look at me. Self harm is not a sign of an attention seeker; it is a sign that someone is distressed and needs help. It is a symptom of a mental health issue.
Suicide or attempted suicide is another area where I have heard people labelled as an attention seeker. When I attempted to take my life, in my mind was not the thought that I wanted someone to notice me or that I wanted people to know how I felt. My feelings were of hopelessness and of very little self worth. I felt that the world and my friends and families lives would be greatly enhanced without me. I wanted a way to escape the world and the pain that felt like it was tearing me apart.
I became scared about what I was doing and I told a friend what I had done not in an attempt to get attention but in order to ask for help. Maybe to some people that will be the same thing but to me it wasn’t.
This isn’t made easier when the fear of being labelled an attention seeker is added on top. In summary next time you hear or see someone who has self harmed or attempted suicide please don’t call them an attention seeker. It’s unfair as they are doing the best they can to live through a difficult time.