I’m Worried Not Enough Teenagers Are Self-Harming

Nyki M/Wikimedia Commons
Nyki M/Wikimedia Commons

Self-harmers are the most narcissistic people on the planet. They can’t wait to tell you that they self-harm. Here’s a typical discussion with a self-harmer: “Hi, I’m Chris. I self-harm!”

Back in the 90s, when I was growing up, pretty much everyone dated someone with slash marks. I did. Isabelle, I think her name was. She’s dead now: after I went gay, she got into heroin and died of an overdose in 2010. I’m not saying the two things are related.

I’m telling you this because I’ve come to forgive the self-obsessed excesses of the cutting crowd. There was something more dignified in that era when everyone was slicing their arms along to Radiohead’s “Creep” and taking out their existential angst on themselves. Cutting is a very white sort of acting out, I guess: anxious, self-hating, mildly attention-seeking, yet ultimately only harmful to the cutter.

All teens have “issues” and look for an outlet. It’s a perfectly normal bit of growing up. Obviously, you try to guide them away from the cutlery drawer and towards the hockey pitch, but as long as they’re getting it out of their systems and not hurting anyone else, it’s really no big deal.

Things are changing, however. If the parents I talk to are anything to go by, it seems that in the last few years, our nation’s teens have put down the razor blades and picked up Tumblr: rather than luxuriating in self-loathing, hacking away at themselves or pushing bobby pins up their noses, young people are embracing the egocentricity of the social era and bullying other people.

These teens are tapping into something I’ve noticed about the new progressive culture: how perfectly it appeals to people in pain and how encouraging it is to those troubled souls who can’t find their place in the world and bitterly loathe their parents. It’s an epidemic, and it plays on our most atavistic need to self-flagellate: identity politics, after all, is just another way for middle-class white people to feel bad about themselves. It couldn’t have been better designed to appeal to upset teens.

There was a brief moment in Internet culture when cutting and Millennial egoism overlapped. It was called “cutting for Bieber,” and you will not need any further gloss. But I think it’s safe to say self-harm is, like, sooo last decade. I’m more into self-care, personally, such as the hashtag #NuttingForMilo where I encourage folks to have a lovely wank at a lightly airbrushed press photo of yours truly. I’m not against all forms of self-abuse.

Of course, social justice isn’t the only option if you’re stuck, emotionally, at age 17. No disrespect to Our Lord and Saviour, but the church used to be a good career choice for sociopaths who get off on abusing other people. In many cases, the swooshy frocks and the free incense sealed the deal.

But if you hate yourself and you want to take it out on rest of the world, these days, you’re better off getting a job at Gawker. Today, it’s all about self-esteem, not self-indulgence, and nothing satisfies the ego like the warm glow of satisfaction you get after putting someone else down.

The impulse to cut has metastasised into the self-righteousness of social justice. Self-loathing has been externalised: rather than hurting ourselves, we hurt other people who look like us. Hence the social justice warrior’s hatred for his own ethnic group, straight white men. “Kill All White Men” is the new “Where’s the cheese knife?”

The culture around teen angst has dissolved accordingly. Gone are the long dark nights of the soul as embodied by emo icons Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson. These days it’s all about hollow chest-beating affirmation from the likes of Beyoncé and Taylor Swift, which satisfies the Millennial’s constant requirement for mood fixes.

Honestly, things were better in my day, when we got the self-obsession and hatred off our chests by the time we hit 18, for the trivial price of a few white lines under our Omega Seamasters that stubbornly refuse to tan. All I know is, the Nirvana generation who cut themselves to feel were a damn sight more interesting than the Twitter sisterhood – or stoners. Drugs can be expensive, but every house has a few sharp objects knocking around.

So, yes, I’m worried about the dearth of cutters in our nation’s teenage bedrooms and the relentlessly cheerful, anodyne misery of youth culture and the associated public meltdown that is our collective obsession with sexism, racism, homophobia, otherkin, and blue hair.

If the figures are to be believed, just one in five teenagers self-harms. That could mean as many as four-fifths of teenagers are vulnerable to the horror of a Tumblr account and the temptation to bully other people about transgender pronouns instead.

I’m not a parent, but if I were, I’d be leaving the razor blades out myself. After all, a little light self-mutilation keeps arrogance in check, doesn’t offend God as much as masturbation, and it’s a low-fat alternative to eating your feelings. What’s not to love?

If the issues raised in this column have affected you personally, you may write to Milo Yiannopoulos, c/o The National Self-Harm Network. But only in your own blood. Or you can, as always, direct your abuse to his Twitter feed.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.