Tor Stimpson had a "pretty happy" childhood in a small British village; she had a St. Bernard and her own ponies. But her younger brother was super smart and, as the pressure built for her to get good grades and amazing test scores, Tor began to feel "this huge cloud" over her. She started to cut herself, using knives, razors, and blades from pencil sharpeners. When a teacher told Tor's parents that she seemed depressed, they sent her on vacation. "Money was a way of dealing with things," Tor says. "I didn't feel I could talk about feelings, I just pretended things were OK." Even after she started therapy, Tor didn't feel as though her parents took her seriously. "My mother would make jokes about my psychotherapist," she says. "I think a lot of people from my background think mental health issues only happen to the less well off, who are doing drugs and who've led a hectic life."
In fact, recent research shows that children from affluent homes — where the income is more than $127,000 a year — are three times more likely to suffer anxiety and depression than ordinary teenagers and cutting is one of the ways anxious or depressed feelings can manifest themselves in adolescents.
For Tor, it only got worse as she got older. By the time she went to college, she was burning herself with cigarettes and punching walls, and in her second year of schooling, she was admitted to the hospital some 20 times. And although Tor is now doing better — she says she can't remember the last time she cut herself — why is it that even though 1 in 15 young people in the UK are harming themselves, parents like Tor's think it's not that big of a deal? Dr. Petra Boynton, a lecturer in health services research, says cutting "isn't always taken seriously. I've heard teachers talking about 'silly' girls who cut themselves."
According to Dr. Andrew McCulloch of the Mental Health Foundation, many young people grow out of self-harm. But, he warns, "If you have a child who is already self-motivated, be careful — surely you want your child to be well, rather than in a particular school?" And even though research shows that there's no significant difference in frequency of cutting between genders, why do we hear more about girls harming themselves? And why do people dare to call a girl who's cut herself "silly"?
Self-Harm: 'I Cut Myself To Feel Better' [Telegraph]