Cut mystery: Top Aussie model shows wounds by Jonathon Moran

This is the heading of an article that appeared in the Sunday Times (22 November 2009).

The article first tells us that this model, Catherine McNeil, has appeared in photographs with a sleeveless top, with eight horizontal cuts on her forearm while photographed at a Girlfriend magazine function. Then it tells the readers that ‘Hollywood actor Lindsay Lohan has also been photographed with similar cut marks on her arms several times since 2006.’

It says about self harm, ‘The trend has raised concerns with psychologists, who said self harm was now considered fashionable in some circles.’

However, her agent denied that McNeil self harmed, instead saying that she fell off her skateboard into some bushes. Yep. Sure. I saw her arm and her wounds in the photo shown in the newspaper, I’ve heard the excuses that people make for their wounds made by self harming. I doubt that it was an accident.

They quote a Monash University professor of psychiatry, Louise Newman, who says that ‘self harm had disturbingly become fashionable.’ It ends with a direct quote from Newman, “Self harm is sadly very common and is becoming a bit of a trend…In some groups of young people it is even considered virtually a fashionable thing to do or a way of expressing unhappiness or distress.”

I was quite disappointed at this article. This article was about this particular model who was displaying cuts on her arm. Which I don’t get why this has to be made into a newspaper article in the first place. But why was Lindsay Lohan mentioned in this article too? It has nothing to do with her. By dragging another celebrity into this article, a well known Hollywood one, they are making self harm sound like a glamorous, trendy celebrity thing- which is not what it is at all.

In fact, the only mention of the fact that self harm can be a symptom of a mental illness, that it can be a sign of psychological distress is at the very end of the article, as I quoted previously when Newman said that self harm can be, ‘…a way of expressing unhappiness or distress.’ And even then it is tacked on the end of a quote where she is explaining that it’s a ‘trend’ and has become ‘fashionable.’

What I want to ask the writer, the editor, the people who they’ve quoted; how about the fact that many people who self harm in fact hide it and don’t show or tell anyone? Or that actually most people who self harm and keep self harming do in fact do it when they are in distress and not because they want to be ‘fashionable’ and follow the crowd.

What I hate is that this article encourages even more misunderstanding about the issue of self harm and portrays it as something that we do to try to be ‘cool’ and to follow what celebrities are doing. Way to encourage ignorance and discourage being educated about self harm and mental health issues.

I mean, if even psychologists and psychiatrists are branding self harm as something that young people do to follow the trend and follow celebrities then what hope is there for the rest of the community?

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