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Self-harm now driven by climate change

It's a pretty horrifying fact, reported in the ABC today - climate change is driving hopelessness in young people, which in turn is leading to an increase in self-harm. Here's a small quote from the article:


"Western Australia, Northern Territory and South Australia have the highest prevalence of youth self-harm, according to a new study.

The Australian Youth Self-Harm Atlas, led by QIMR Berghofer researcher Emily Hielscher, examined the prevalence of youth self-harm and suicidality across Australia and how it varied in different areas.

Dr Hielscher said climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, and natural disasters had a "huge impact on the young people in the study".

"In our focus groups, specific to climate change and that sense of hopelessness surrounding it, some found it challenging in terms of their willingness to live, and desire to keep going, and summing it up like: what's the point?" she said.

Dr Hielscher said people in more regional and remote areas were more greatly affected because they found it harder to access activities and events "to give them more hope", and access to services.

Other risk factors identified in the study included mental illness, having Australian-born parents, parents that are unemployed and insecure housing, financial barriers, transport limitations, and community stigma in regional areas.


Self-harm is often an attempt to relieve internal stress and anxiety, and climate change is absolutely something that can be hard to cope with - we only have to look at the current stress we're facing in terms of floods and storms, let alone what might be coming in the next few years. For people who feel this - and I have to be honest here and admit it's something I have struggled with in the past as well - self-harm can feel like a way to:

  • Find relief from the emotional pain you feel inside

  • Take some level of control back over your life, and situation

  • Replace a pervasive sense of being numb with something, even if that's a punishing level of pain

If this rings a bell for you, then please seek help, from those around you, from counselling, or from mental health support services, you'll find some listed below.

You'll also find some great supporting tips and help on this page, at Healthline, in the meantime.

Take care of yourself, and each other.


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