Figure 3 – Illustration of Theme 2

CONCEALMENT: VLOGGERS TALK ABOUT HIDDEN ASPECTS OF SELF HARM

Hidden but Prevalent Hiding Cuts & Scars

Hiding Behaviour

Issues related to concealment was divided into 3 sub themes which focused on self- harm as a global phenomenon in wider society which is hidden but prevalent and also on a personal level as a behaviour which is done in secret and goes largely unnoticed by others. Finally the dilemma about how to deal with cuts and scars was talked about. Often hidden in the aftermath, they bore future witness to previously hidden behaviours.

4.3.1 Sub-Theme: Hidden but Prevalent

Vloggers talked about how they perceived self-harm to be manifested at a societal level. They spoke about the behaviour being common, but not often talked about-

‘I don’t think it’s really spoken about very much but I think it is prevalent’ – Mattie

‘…we know that there are always some people who are thinking about self-harm somewhere’ – Dwayne

‘I would say it’s completely normal. A lot of people self-harm – you’d be surprised’ – Andy

Andy made notes on his video to explain that by ‘normal’ he actually meant ‘common’. He spoke about his amazement at how there were people

carrying on with their everyday lives, yet hiding this great secret-

‘I’ve talked to people who I didn’t think ever self-harmed and they’ve told me they’ve self-harmed’

‘There are people who don’t even tell people that they self-harm they will live a normal life, be like, have a smile on their face. They’ll be

going to work smiling and saying they’re happy, they don’t self-harm well they won’t say they don’t self-harm, they won’t even mention it

On a personal level, some vloggers related how they self-harmed but the behaviour seemed to go completely unnoticed/unnoticed for a long time by others who were in close proximity to them-

I can’t remember all of the details I just know that no one ever said anything about it and nobody ever questioned me about it - Max

I self-harmed when I was 13 and then after that it was really, really bad but no one noticed that - until when I was 15 – Benson

This means that they were able to carry on their behaviour completely undetected for a long time, by which time the behaviour became well established.

4.3.2 Sub-Theme: Hiding behaviour

Vloggers spoke about how they kept their behaviour a secret, even from those close to them, and shared the things they had to do in order to maintain this secrecy-

‘… obviously like, my family don’t (know) – nobody in my family does’ - Jeff

‘I hid this from everyone I’ve never told my mum I’ve never told my dad, I’d never do it anywhere where people could see me; and also I never hit myself hard enough so that I had a bruise’ - Max

Rich shared how he lied to his parents about his self-abuse in order to keep his behaviour secret- expressing disappointment in himself for doing so-

‘And my parents were asking me what are you doing and I was like ‘oh, these are cat scratches’, so they believed me because I never used to lie and it sucks that I do now, it’s just I can - I’m not a very good person anymore but I’m starting to change’

To ensure privacy, Max mentioned specifically choosing the one place where solitude is usually guaranteed-

‘I would go away from everybody - normally to the bathroom because nobody can follow you into the bathroom. You just go in there like you’re going to the bathroom and I’d close the door’

Vloggers didn’t just keep secrets for their own benefits, sometimes the thought of the upset it would cause to significant others made it important to keep the behaviour a secret. No one in Jeff’s family knew about his self-harm -

‘…like my family don’t – nobody in my family does, cos to be honest, I don’t know if my mum understands, erm, and it would break my heart to upset her, which I think it would’ – Jeff

4.3.3 Sub-Theme: Hiding cuts & scars

What vloggers shared about cuts and scars related to how they were managed. These were potential witnesses to the hidden behaviour. They told how they tried to make sure that cuts & scars were not detected – by making faint cuts or covering up with clothes-

‘I didn’t go that far I just did my arms first then I started going into my legs so nobody would notice’ – Rich

‘I was wearing sweaters because I didn’t want to show anybody’ - Tyler

Often scars were portrayed negatively, as a permanent reminder of a difficult past-

‘scars don’t always go away and then you will be reminded of your physical pain forever’ – Dwayne

One vlogger however, talked about scars positively – suggesting that they should be seen as testament to personal strength and resilience-

‘I self-harmed, I’m not scared of showing people my scars. I just think a scar is a sign of strength; a scar shows to people where you’ve come from and it’s, you can say to people, I used to self- harm - but look where I am now’ – Freddie

There were some exceptions to the theme of secrecy. Whilst the majority of vloggers confessed to never sharing their experiences of self-harm, others reported showing their cuts in a bid to get help or sometimes they were simply ‘outed’ by their scars-

‘So at the time I had a girlfriend and I told her during class period because she went through similar things so I was like, hey,

look what I did to my arm I’m so stupid. She got mad at me and I immediately took it back’ – Tyler

‘I showed her my arm and she was like, ‘ahhhh that’s really bad Samuel’ - and she was there before when I’d self-harmed. I just showed her and she called them and they examined me’ – Samuel

‘some of my friends know and obviously all of my partners knew, because I’ve got scars all over my arms and my torso’ – Jeff

Even sharing via the internet some vloggers made reference to a notion of secrecy or privacy. One made it clear that they were not going to share everything in their vlog, whilst another vlogger asked his viewers to keep secret some of what he shared, for fear of sounding in need of mental institutionalisation.

In document What do adolescent natal males choose to tell us about self-harm: a thematic analysis of self-harm vlogs (Page 90-95)