News Staff Writer
College campuses are known havens of drinking, drug use and casual sex, but one of the most insidious issues plaguing students is rarely discussed.
Skylar Vanblarcom, a freshman environmental studies student from Charlotte, said people disregard self-injury in secondary education.
“I feel like more people think that more people self-harm in high school, but I feel like in college it’s probably a high percentage,” Vanblarcom said.
According to a study published in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 14.3 percent of students have self-harmed in the past year of their college career.
Acts of self-harm are not just limited methods prominent in media such as cutting. Burning, interfering with wound healing, punching objects and surfaces, starvation and denying sleep on purpose also fall under the definition of self-harm.
The study reported behaviors such as smoking cigarettes, having depression, eating disorders, gambling problems and identifying as LGBT increase the chance of a student struggling with self-harm.
Emily Donovan, a freshman psychology student from Nashville, said self-harm acts as a symptom and its own issue.
“I think there’s a lot of different contributing factors to that. Mental disorders, bullying, not feeling like you fit in, obviously LGBT, racism, there’s so many different contributing factors in self-harm,” Donovan said. “It’s just become its own thing that attaches to a bunch of different and separate things.”
Some students, such as sophomore Bennett Lloyd, believe social media websites like Tumblr help create an environment for self-harm to flourish because of blogs created to incubate those behaviors.
“People who promote that kind of stuff I don’t think have very much care for other people’s well-being. I mean, bulimic and anorexic blogs are like, ‘oh yeah, self-help, you’re gonna look really good’, but you’re not helping yourself, you’re hurting yourself and I’d say that goes hand-in-hand with self-harm,” Lloyd said.
According to a study in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, most NSSI experiences discussed online include graphic descriptions of self-harm focusing on emotional pain and suffering, without hope for recovery.
Lloyd agrees, adding many users post images of scars or fresh cuts, which possibly triggers those who already struggle with self-harm.
The study published in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors found many campuses have outreaches for behaviors like binge drinking or drug use, such as UNC Asheville’s substance abuse counselor and substance abuse evaluation. However, many lacked in resources targeting self-harm specifically even though these behaviors often coincide and the study recommends adding specific programming to combat self-harm.
Vanblarcom said creating more conversations about the topic of self-harm can be a crucial, but small step to begin decreasing the number of college students hurting themselves.
“I feel like definitely destigmatizing self-harm in general because I feel like right now it definitely is one of those things that’s still brushed over and that people don’t talk about it as much,” Vanblarcom said. “Just becoming more educated and not making it, like, ‘oh someone self-harms, oh God stay away from them.’”