September 18, 2013

Warning, some readers may find this post triggering.

Recently I have read a number of comments that have labelled people who have self harmed or have attempted suicide as attention seekers. I thought I needed to explain why this attitude needs to be changed.

A bit of background, I have in the past attempted suicide. I was taken to hospital by the police. I was told due to the nature of my attempt that I was not serious in my intentions. I have also self harmed. These experiences have led to me being called an attention seeker and now I want to explain why that is not the case.

Self harm is a sign that someone needs help

I myself have always hidden this behaviour and I think this will be the case with many people who have self harmed. The reason I have felt like I have had to hide this is because of the label of being an attention seeker and the judgement of others. I don’t self harm for other people. It is a coping mechanism and, yes, I know it is not a very good one.

I don’t self harm to get people to talk to me and there are many other more effective ways I can think of to get people to look at me. Self harm is not a sign of an attention seeker; it is a sign that someone is distressed and needs help. It is a symptom of a mental health issue.

Suicide or attempted suicide is another area where I have heard people labelled as an attention seeker. When I attempted to take my life, in my mind was not the thought that I wanted someone to notice me or that I wanted people to know how I felt. My feelings were of hopelessness and of very little self worth. I felt that the world and my friends and families lives would be greatly enhanced without me. I wanted a way to escape the world and the pain that felt like it was tearing me apart.

I told a friend what I had done in order to ask for help

I became scared about what I was doing and I told a friend what I had done not in an attempt to get attention but in order to ask for help. Maybe to some people that will be the same thing but to me it wasn’t. This isn’t made easier when the fear of being labelled an attention seeker is added on top. In summary next time you hear or see someone who has self harmed or attempted suicide please don’t call them an attention seeker. It’s unfair as they are doing the best they can to live through a difficult time.

There is more information about suicidal thoughts on the Rethink website and about understanding self harm on the Mind website. The Samaritans are always available to talk to 24 hours a day on 08457 90 90 90 or

What do you think about the issues raised in this blog?

Share your views with us on Twitter >>

Or sign our pledge wall to show your support and find out how talking tackles mental health discrimination.

Share your story

Too many people are made to feel ashamed. By sharing your story, you can help spread knowledge and perspective about mental illness that could change the way people think about it.