What is it with researchers? Why is it that every study that comes out contradicts the previous one? One month coffee is good for the heart, the next it’s bad. One year mono-unsaturates are good for you, but these days we have to avoid ‘trans-fats’ – whatever they are. More people are staying in the UK for their holidays, but more people than ever are flying…

Research research research – we need research – hard facts and data to interpret, to inform and change our behaviour. As a society, our Government, or employers, our health-care workers, need evidence to base their actions on. It makes perfect sense of course – we can’t take action based on whims – we need to know what we’re doing and why. We need to know what has the biggest impact for the buck, so we can spend money wisely and reap the best rewards. But whose statistics do we trust?

Those skin-care adverts on the tele say that 73% of women tested agreed the cream made them appear youthful. Then you read the small print and you find that they tested 35 women. What’s 73% of 35? Hmm, so basically *some* women liked this product after we gave it to them for free for a month, and some others didn’t. It’s hardly relevant to the whole country is it, when they only ask a handful of selected people.

At LifeSIGNS, we never claim to know how many people in the UK or in the world self-injure or self-harm. We’re asked for the stat a lot – as if knowing whether it’s 100,000 or 150,000 people will help us reach those people.

At LifeSIGNS, we look for better ways to support our members and help the many thousands of people who visit our websites. So yes, we sometimes ask research questions, and yes, we get statistics from these. We learn a little more about self-injury, and a little more about our members, but we don’t go around claiming that answers from 1000 people represent the country.

We know that there are no statistics that will help an individual in distress.

This isn’t a numbers game; we’re in this because we know, from the inside, how lonely and despair-filled self-injury can be.

So, is the UK happy or sad? With all the research going on all the time (and yes, 3rd year University Pyschology Students often want to study depression and self-injury) do we know if the UK is getting happier or sadder?

Well, the Guardian commissioned Echo Research to look into boys’ lifestyles and found that:

  • 95% believe their career prospects are good;
  • 94% are happy in their home and family lives;
  • 93% are happy in their social lives;
  • 91% are happy in their school and work lives.

Based on 1000 boys.

That sounds pretty happy to me; sounds like parents and teachers just need to worry about less tha 9% of boys then – that’s just three lads per classroom.

The NSPCC might disagree.

The Telegraph reports that the NSPCC finds that 33% of 11-16 year olds are ‘upset, depressed, angry or stressed’.

Well, if the boys are happy, does that mean that the girls are depressed? I don’t think so. I think we’re looking at research bias. I think the Guardian with Echo Research have ‘found’ one thing in one area of society and the NSPCC have found something else in another area.

The NSPCC found that 49% of girls were emotionally distressed ‘most of the time’. Everyone deserves the space to experience sadness, stress and even anger at times (we are emotional creatures after all) but ‘most of the time’ (if true) is worrying.

I’m not going to remind you that ‘more girls turn to self-harm than boys’ because we don’t think it’s true; see our male pages here and our factsheet for men. Stats tell us that more girls hurt themselves than boys, but of course those statistics are created when a girl tells someone they have hurt themselves. What if boys just don’t tell, and just don’t get counted? Anyway, I digress.

The NSPCC found that 20% of children (1,200 children) said it was easier to talk about their true feelings online. At LifeSIGNS, we’ve always understood this. Self-injury is the ‘hidden affliction’; self-harm is the ‘silent hurt’. We don’t talk. We don’t tell. But we can find space online to open up, to look at ourselves and even inspire others to reduce their self-harm. That’s what our Message Board is about, and we’ve had a fabulously supportive and active community for many years now.


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