Today is Self-Injury Awareness Day (SIAD). I’ve been toying with a few ideas in my mind for a blog post around self harm. I thought today would be the perfect opportunity to finally write it.
While we’ve come a long way in beginning to reduce the stigma around mental health – we still have a long way to go. A big part of addressing and reducing stigma comes down to how it’s handled in the media. I’ve seen some examples of that recently that I want to discuss.
The idea started when I saw that Boux Avenue, a lingerie chain, is using a model with self harm scars. I’ve never seen a model with self harm scars before, and for me it was really positive. Scars of any kind can make people feel self conscious, and self harm scars can be a barrier to employment. Representation in the most image and beauty focused industry is huge.
I watched Ginny & Georgia on Netflix last week, and I found myself increasingly frustrated at how they handled self harm. Let me preface by saying I believe in the importance of learning to manage our own triggers. We can’t possibly avoid every trigger in life, and learning how to deal with them is a valuable skill. However, I wasn’t expecting a show that initially appears reminiscent of Gilmore Girls to have scenes showing someone self harming. I’m sure others wont be either.
Netflix has failed to use a trigger warning at the start of the episodes, and it’s not the first time. Why do I consider that different to Boux Avenue not using one with their model? Netflix is showing someone actively self harming, the tool they use, how they do it and how long they do it for. The model is inspiring, showing people who are or have struggled with self harm that it doesn’t have to stop them from doing or being what they want. The show could show someone who doesn’t harm themselves exactly how to do so, and that’s concerning.
There was also an opportunity in the show to address a big issue for those who self injure – having sex with someone who doesn’t know about your self harm. Instead, when she was asked about it, she said it was a birthmark. He accepted this immediately. I didn’t find it credible at all that the scars and injuries could be that easily dismissed. It could have been a time to show how difficult that situation can be, and how best to address it. It was glossed over instead. Unfortunately, it’s often not that easily glossed over in real life.
How we talk about mental health and everything that falls under that is important. It matters how we depict it in the media. Like with so many things, we need to listen to the voices of the people we are speaking about. We need to provide them opportunities to speak. Those voices need to be included, and they need to be heard.