We had heard some time ago from the Principal of Onslow College that they had
used funds from our Lifting the Lid Programme to support parents of students who
were self-harming. This week we heard just how critical this support is, and how our
programme can contribute to better outcomes for our young people.
Dr Moore grew up in Wellington and studied psychology at Victoria University with
Professor Marc Wilson, New Zealand’s leading expert on self-harm. Her day job
involves leadership training, stress management and resilience. But she dedicates
much of her own time to working with people practising self-harm.
One in five young people are self-harming – causing pain to themselves on purpose.
It is a coping strategy and unfortunately it can be likened to an addiction. The age of
the children she is engaging with continues to drop. It used to be a mid-teen issue,
but now she is seeing children as young as nine using self-harm as a means of
emotion regulation. The primary reason for doing this is trying to avoid an emotion
they don’t want to feel, getting a sense of relief and distraction from the emotional
pain they are experiencing. However, the relief is short term, it’s then followed by
guilt, shame and secrecy. The second highest reason for people doing it is as a form
of self-punishment and thirdly, to deal with thoughts of suicide. There is a strong co-
relation between self-harm and suicide attempts so successful early intervention with
appropriate conversations and providing alternative tools can have a very positive
impact – it can save lives.
Kirsty educates parents and whanau, teachers, churches and health professionals to
enable them to better understand the behaviour and the individual. Research shows
that trusted teachers are often the first to have the conversation with a young person
about what they are doing. Providing them with the tools to respond and support the
young person get the care they need is where she feels she can be most effective.
If there was a clear message from Kirsty it was that children are adulting too early.
She encouraged all of us to let our children be children and protect them from many
of the pressures they feel they are under.