Addressing Self Harm in Fiction Writing (Guest Post)

Please join me in welcoming author Marjorie Mallon as a guest author on the blog today! Her debut book The Curse of Time Book 1 Bloodstone addresses the issue of self harm and is the subject of this important post. Let’s give Marjorie the floor.

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Today I’d like to discuss one particular character in my novel: The Curse of Time Book 1 Bloodstone. Her name is Esme and she self-harms. I sometimes wonder why I created such a disturbing, vulnerable character. I believe Esme came into my consciousness almost without my realising. She grew out of a nugget of an idea I had about a girl being trapped, in a time she didn’t feel comfortable with.

At the time I’d heard disturbing true life stories through my circle of family and friends about young people who self-harmed and naturally this saddened and shocked me. Young people from all walks of life, whether underprivileged or wealthy, from ‘loving’ families or neglected households felt the need to express themselves by inflicting injury on their skin.

Author Mallon discusses Esme, who self-harms

Marjorie Mallon’s book The Curse of Time Book 1 Bloodstone includes discussion of self-harm. Photo used with the author’s permission.

Scars from self-harm are permanent, they don’t disappear, and they leave a mark which is both visible and hidden.

Self-harm is a rising problem in our young people. Below are statistics from the self-harm website:

“It is thought that around 13% of young people may try to hurt themselves on purpose at some point between the ages of 11 and 16, but the actual figure could be much higher.”

“In 2014, figures were published suggesting a 70% increase in 10-14 year olds attending A&E for self-harm related reasons over the preceding 2 years.”

“Girls are thought to be more likely to self-harm than boys, but this could be because boys are more likely to engage in behaviours such as punching a wall, which isn’t always recognised as self-harm or doesn’t come to the attention of hospitals. In reality self-harm doesn’t happen to one type of person, it can’t be predicted and scarily, we don’t really know how many people are going through it. This is all really vague, but you can take one thing away from it – you are not alone, whether you are harming or seeing someone you love or work with go through it. It’s more common than you think.”

Why would somebody choose to harm themselves in such a way? Is it a cry for help? Attention Seeking? Deviant Behaviour? Frustration? Provoked by anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts?

Young people often engage in activities that seem peculiarly odd and self-destructive: glue sniffing is one such activity that occurred when I was young.

“More than 1,700 teenagers in Britain and Ireland died from sniffing glue and paint thinners between 1983 and 2000, the European Union drugs agency said in its annual report,” as per The Daily Mail.

Personally, I believe that with the growth of self-harm considerable blame can be attributed to the constant pressure to succeed, to have the perfect figure, to be beautiful, to be admired. We live in such a fast-paced society, constant images from social media flash before our eyes and are forgotten just as quickly. Bullying has become the domain of the physical as well as the cyber bully. How are we to cope?

Furthermore, we are saddling our young with further stress in the form of University debt which really makes me very, very, angry. Often this discourages young people from pursuing further studies as the costs are so prohibitive. This is all wrong, our young people are our future, and we should be encouraging them to excel rather than putting obstacles in their way.

Creativity is often perceived as being less important by educational establishments who give larger financial awards to students studying MA’s in Mathematics, and Science. But, what about English, and art based subjects? The human race needs an outlet to cope with stress. Creativity is that perfect antidote. When we paint, draw, sew, write, dance, sing, play music and perform we tap into a primitive almost forgotten sense of who we are. We forget our self for a moment and focus less on our troubles. Little value is ascribed to this, and this is so wasteful. Of course, we need Mathematicians, Engineers and Scientists, but let’s not forget the value of writers, poets, philosophers, photographers, performers, musicians and artists who free our minds, entertain, make us laugh, cry or sigh.

Perhaps if we are brave, if we encourage creativity, tolerance, open-mindedness and a love of learning without barriers we will do much to help our youngsters deal with the growing problem of mental health issues.

Sources:

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/self-harm/
https://www.selfharm.co.uk/
https://www.nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/keeping-children-safe/self-harm/
https://youngminds.org.uk/find-help/feelings-and-symptoms/self-harm/
https://www.helpguide.org/articles/anxiety/cutting-and-self-harm.html

Mental health and fiction writing

Cover of The Curse of Time Book 1 Bloodstone by Marjorie Mallon. Image used with author’s permission.

About The Curse of Time Book 1 Bloodstone

On Amelina Scott’s thirteenth birthday, her father disappears under mysterious circumstances. Saddened by this traumatic event, she pieces together details of a curse that has stricken the heart and soul of her family.

Amelina longs for someone to confide in. Her once carefree mother has become angry and despondent. One day a strange black cat and a young girl, named Esme appear. Immediately, Esme becomes the sister Amelina never had. The only catch is that Esme must remain a prisoner, living within the mirrors of Amelina’s house.

Dreams and a puzzling invitation convince Amelina the answer to her family’s troubles lies within the walls of the illusive Crystal Cottage. Undaunted by her mother’s warnings, Amelina searches for the cottage on an isolated Cambridgeshire pathway where she encounters a charismatic young man, named Ryder. At the right moment, he steps out of the shadows, rescuing her from the unwanted attention of two male troublemakers.

With the help of an enchanted paint set, Amelina meets the eccentric owner of the cottage, Leanne, who instructs her in the art of crystal magic. In time, she earns the right to use three wizard stones. The first awakens her spirit to discover a time of legends, and later, leads her to the Bloodstone, the supreme cleansing crystal which has the power to restore the balance of time. Will Amelina find the power to set her family free?

A YA/middle grade fantasy set in Cambridge, England exploring various themes/aspects: Light, darkness, time, shadows, a curse, magic, deception, crystals, art, poetry, friendships, teen relationships, eating disorders, self-harm, anxiety, depression, family, puzzles, mystery, a black cat, music, a mix of sadness, counterbalanced by a touch of humour.

About Marjorie Mallon

I am a debut author who has been blogging for three years: https://mjmallon.com. My interests include writing, photography, poetry, and alternative therapies. I write Fantasy YA, middle grade fiction and micro poetry – haiku and tanka.

When I’m not writing, I eat exotic delicacies while belly dancing, or surf to the far reaches of the moon. To chill out, I practise Tai Chi. If the mood takes me I snorkel with mermaids, or sign up for idyllic holidays with the Chinese Unicorn, whose magnificent voice sings like a thousand wind chimes.

Connect with Marjorie Mallon at:

Marjorie’s Amazon Author Page

Her blog – for information about new releases, photos of main characters/character interviews, book reviews and inspiration

Facebook: Personal author page and new group Authors/Bloggers Rainbow Support Club #ABRSC

Instagram

Twitter: @Marjorie_Mallon and @curseof_time

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She has devoted the past few years to writing over 100 reviews on Goodreads and her blog to help support traditional and Indie writers.

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54 thoughts on “Addressing Self Harm in Fiction Writing (Guest Post)

  1. Christy, it’s lovely to read Marje’s excellent guest post . Marje, you raise so many issues that touch our young people to the core. The stats about self-harm you quote are frightening and it is deeply saddening and disturbing. You mention the university fees and yep, I’m with you on being very angry and also how are the value of art/humanities are being devalued…a huge mistake!

    As I’ve been away I haven’t had a real chance to congratulate you on your first novel; the cover is superb, the premise fascinating and intriguing. Best of luck and warmest wishes. Xx😀

    • Hi Annika, thank you so much for your kind words. Yes, we must do more to help our young people and to ensure that art and humanities aren’t devalued. Thank you for your good luck wishes for my book launch. 🙂

  2. EEK! I left a comment, but I must have done something wrong, as it has disappeared.
    This is an excellent article on self harm.I believe anorexia is in this category, as well. The couple of young girls I’ve encountered in this situation, were also anorexic.
    Creativity is definitely a path to self worth, and a way out of the confines of societal garbage.
    Congratulations on your book, Marjorie! I’ve been to your blog for a look see and follow.
    Thank you Christy and Marjorie for this informative and well done article!

  3. Marje, this was an excellent post. I’ve recently had occasion to learn quite a lot about self-harming behaviors and one of the things that surprised me the most is that the people who self-harm aren’t necessarily seeking a painful experience in and of itself. Instead, they want something that makes them feel ANYTHING, to remind themselves that they are not numb. I wish there was something we could say to all those people, and especially the kids, to make them realize how very valuable and loved they are because often the well-meaning and kind words they hear from loved ones just aren’t enough.

    • Thank you Amy for your thoughtful response to the post, particularly with mentioning the need to feel something other than a sense of numbness. It is helpful though sad to read such opinions and helps me give a voice to this particular problem. Our youngsters truly do need to feel they are loved but often relationships between teens and parents become difficult giving rise to a feeling of being unloved. Love is such an important emotion to express – to be loved and to love is all we ask for whatever age we are.

  4. Hello Christy! Very important subject. Thanks Marje for all the information and for creating awareness. I had no idea this type of thing happened so frequently.😒
    Good luck with your new release, Marje❣️

    • Yes it is shocking just how frequently this does happen and that’s one of the reasons why I wanted to highlight this problem in my writing. Esme isn’t a main protagonist but she does play a very important part in the novel and continues to do so in Book 2 too! Thank you for your good luck wishes Vashti, appreciate it. 🙂

  5. A fine post. What was interesting was that you allude to many forms of self-harm, not just cutting. So really most all humans are self-harmers; we drink, speed in our cars, hurt the very planet we live on… yikes. Meaningful sustainable (and creative) work and lifestyles are an antidote, so encouraging, teaching and valuing those pursuits in our young people is a start.

  6. A fantastic post from Marje on creating awareness. I wholeheartedly agree that students who excel at the languages and arts are sometimes not as recognized as the maths and sciences. Just as here in Canada cutbacks being made in physical fitness classes and extra-curricular activities because they’re not considered important. These are outlets for health and creative expression that are necessary for children’s human spirit to thrive. ❤

  7. There is a lot of very sad truth in this post, Marje. Self harming came about after I left school but I too have heard of it. Our children are so pressed at school and there is not time for them to be kids and play.

  8. It’s interesting that I see this today. My long time issue with self harm has crept up recently, however, I have turned to creativity instead of destruction. When I want to cut I make a little terrarium or I paint or sketch. It’s hard to not self destruct but I feel like I’ve got some new coping skills to get through this time. As for me, I will not tear down. I will build up, starting with me.
    Wonderful entry.
    Faith

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  11. I appreciate your post. I’ve never read much about self-harm, but from the personal experience of punching walls, to me it felt like a release of emotional energy and a drowning out of what was left. It can be tough for young people who can’t escape situations they aren’t happy about.

  12. Pingback: The Curse of Time – A Thank You!!! | M J Mallon Author

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