Cutting remarks are beyond belief

    Late July and August are slow months for the media. By which it
    means MPs go on holiday. The good news is that the gap in the news
    agenda that they leave can be filled to powerful effect by issues
    that are otherwise ignored.

    One day last week The Independent gave the whole of its
    front page to what it called “The hidden epidemic”. More than
    170,000 people a year – mainly teenagers and young adults –
    self-harm, according to figures collated for the first time by the
    government’s drugs and treatment assessment body, the National
    Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice).

    What is telling is that the report received barely a line in any
    other newspaper. Yet it describes a scandalous neglect and lack of
    support for those who hurt themselves as relief from their own
    despair. Self-harm is now in the top five causes of acute medical
    admission to hospital.

    According to Nice, half of all self-harmers are discharged without
    proper assessment, many dismissed as “attention seeking”. Included
    in The Independent‘s report is a photograph of Richey
    Edwards, the Manic Street Preachers’ songwriter and guitarist who
    disappeared and is believed to have committed suicide. It shows his
    arm wounded and scarred like a carcass ready for jointing.

    Yet, according to Dr Tim Kendall, co-director of the National
    Collaborating Centre for Mental Health, which has helped to draw up
    the treatment guidelines, some attitudes to self-harmers are
    appalling. “We have heard of people turning up at A&E [who] are
    stitched up without anaesthetic by nurses who tell them that they
    cut themselves without anaesthetic, so why should they get it now,”
    he says.

    That callousness seems beyond belief. Particularly after at least
    two decades in which knowledge has increased about how people
    manifest their innermost conflicts in their outward behaviour, for
    example, in the eating disorders anorexia and bulimia. Information
    has even been disseminated in popular culture such as television
    soaps. So those nurses in question, even if they are not inclined
    to learn from a text book, might acquire a little compassion from
    simply switching on their televisions.

    The lack of coverage given to Nice’s report by the media does not
    bode well. What’s now required is a sustained campaign to bring
    proper resources to those who desperately need help to feel better
    about themselves – without resorting to a razor blade.

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