5.2 Discussion of Findings
5.2.5 Thoughts About Help
The research findings present a mixed picture with regards to help seeking. Although some vloggers reported seeking out and approaching others for help e.g., family, peers, and professionals, others whilst recommending this strategy, reported that they themselves never did. A minority showed rejection or ambivalence to help. Though this was expressed by only a small number of vloggers, it shows that this is still a feature that might be demonstrated by adolescent males who self-harm. One vlogger warned others to expect resistance to their efforts to help. Some vloggers who expressed ambivalence were alienated by what was perceived to be the disingenuous
relationships offered by professionals. The heart of this concern was that their information would be shared with others and that professionals were receiving payment for their engagement. They also mentioned friendships. They said that professionals ‘pretended’ to be a friend, but really they were not. Sharing with real friends was preferred, because friends could be trusted. This supports previous
research which found that professional help was not always valued by individuals who self-harm because of fears about confidentiality (Kendal, Keeley & Callery, 2014), whereas online help from peers was a preferred option (Michelmore & Hindley, 2012; Frost, Casey & Rando, 2016). Another vlogger completely rejected the help of others and demonstrated staunch self- reliance which, although not specifically stated, could be related to the western masculine norm of being strong and self-sufficient, taking care of one’s own needs and handling things alone.
Some vloggers explicitly advised help seeking and spoke about how they had come to the point of seeking help. Sometimes it was the dawning realisation that what they were doing was not healthy that triggered help seeking. This could be in the form of telling someone else – a peer or adult, or putting themselves in a place where they knew they would be discovered by others. There was evidence of showing cuts and scars both to communicate distress and to get help. Previous research has found that males are more likely to seek help (Madge et al, 2008) and display their self-inflicted wounds in an attempt to communicate their need (Claes, Vandereycken &
Vertommen, 2007). This is important to note as sometimes the showing of wounds can provoke a negative reaction from others, with the focus being more on the visual and physical aspects rather than the communicative intent behind the revelation.
Some vloggers accepted that they had some responsibility to help themselves, rather than simply relying on others to help them. They shared the various strategies they employed, including vlogging to process their feelings for emotional outlet.This shows evidence of coping when defined as an individual making efforts to manage emotional arousal in order to change the situation (Frydenberg, Lewis, Kennedy, Ardila,
Wolfgang & Rasmiya, 2003). They also described using structured problem solving to get to the heart of why they needed to self-harm. Both of the above strategies have been linked to reduction of self-harming behaviour (Guerreiro, Figueira, Cruz, & Sampaio, 2015) and in this instance shows how online communities can be a source of helpful information and modelling. This also shows an aspect of the self-harming adolescent male who, despite obvious obstacles, manages to retain some notion of control and attempts to facilitate change against the odds. This is in contrast to the view of the self-harmer as always vulnerable, helpless, secretive and dependent; although again this aspect of the findings could be related to the sample used i.e., particular characteristics related to males who have chosen to put their experiences into a public space.
The desire to facilitate help for others who self-harm by educating those who might be in a position to help them was expressed. The focus was to give advice and
suggestions to professionals, carers and others who may find themselves in the position of helping people who self-harm. The main focus however, was on teachers because of their close association with adolescents. Some vloggers took on the role of championing an understanding of self-harm, based on their personal experience. One vlogger highlighted the need for teachers to be educated about self-harm because their knowledge and reactions are pivotal. Whilst many interventions have been put in place
in schools to help teachers support young people’s social emotional and mental health needs, sometimes staff can feel under skilled when working with school children and
young people who self-harm (Simm Roen & Daiches, 2010). Teacher’s attitudes and
feelings of efficacy have been found to be directly related to their effectiveness in dealing with self-harm situations. Negative attitudes were likely to reinforce secrecy and further negatively impact on wellbeing (Heath, 2011). Parents too often lack knowledge and need information and resources on how to respond to self-harm in their children (Roberts-Dobie & Donatelle, 2007). The advice given through the vlogs was to focus on addressing the psychological needs of the individual, maintain curiosity and for teachers, to remember their duty of care. This is pertinent in light of the findings of Klineberg, Kelly, Stansfeld & Bhui (2013) who found that often teachers tended to focused on the physical injuries rather than the emotional state, to the detriment of the young person seeking help.