“SELF harm isn’t going to go away. But it can be an uncomfortable subject to talk about so people avoid it – we need to reach out to these people.”
This is the message from Maria Burchell, project manager at Swindon organisation Preservation Around Self Harm (PASH) on Self Injury Awareness Day.
Maria, who founded PASH with funding from the council in 2007, hopes that by raising awareness of self harm, myths and stereotypes surrounding the subject will be cast aside.
Self Injury Awareness Day has been held on March 1 every year for well over a decade. It is an international event that is recognised across the globe and aims to lead to understanding and empathy, banishing judgment and fear, and reducing the number of people who feel alone and suffer in silence.
Last month, ChildLine revealed they were receiving calls from children as young as five who had been self harming, something which Maria believes could be avoided if more funding is ploughed into prevention and raising awareness.
“With the increase in figures for self harm and injury, there is a real need for money to be invested into the prevention,” she said.
“Self harm is ageless and classless, and we really need to raise people’s awareness – I really don’t think there is a stereotypical person that self harms.
“Recently somebody asked me if it is becoming more popular because we live in a society in which young people especially feel under a lot of pressure and I do think that can be very difficult, but it has been around since the year dot.
“For young people nowadays though, there is a lot more pressure and expectations. “Hopefully we are becoming a society where we are encouraged to talk and reach out and thankfully now there are places that people can reach out to. These people that self harm are individuals but a lot of the time, it can mean they have underlying issues that need addressing.”
On March 21, Maria will attend a special self harm conference at Steam from 12.30pm, alongside over services, GPs and professionals.
“It will be quite a mixture of professions in and around Swindon but we want to ensure that going forward we are all singing from the same hymn sheet,” said Maria.
“This year, I just want to secure more funding for PASH, I will never give up. We need more funding and we need to raise awareness, but we will continue to provide support. “There is an increase in people coming into the project which shows that it is a service which needs to be delivered.”
PASH offers a wide range of information, advice and professional support in a safe and comfortable environment or by telephone to over 16s.
For more information call PASH on 01793 649510 or visit http://pashswindon.org.uk.