England’s Daily Mail reported on a disturbing trend among young people in England uncovered by researchers from the University of Warwick. And if it is happening in England, I suspect the same trends are taking place in North America.
According to a survey of 19,000 teens aged 14 years old, the research team led by Dr Dimitra Hartas discovered that over 15% had intentionally hurt themselves in 2018.
Also called self harm, it refers to the secretive practice of people directly injuring themselves. This can be done by hitting, scratching, burning and arguably the most common method, cutting.
Equally concerning is that girls accounted for nearly 75% of those instances of self harm.
Their research also revealed there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people conducting self harm over the last 20 years. Their study, reported in the Research Papers in Education, revealed that the number of people aged 16 to 74 who intentionally hurt themselves has nearly tripled between 2000 and 2014, from 2.4% of the population to 6.4% in 2014.
But the group most impacted by incidents of self harm were girls aged 16 to 24, in 2000 6.5% reported at least one instance of self harm and by 2014 that number had climbed to 19.7% (nearly one in five).
So what has led to these increased rates of self harm?
The researchers attributed it to two things.
First they blamed social media, where people constantly compare themselves to others. They believed there was a direct correlation between social media usage and self harm because teens who spend more than five hours a day on social media had significantly more problems with depression than those who spent less than two hours a day.
Secondly, they reported that girls in particular tended to internalize their mistakes. In other words, instead of treating a gaffe as a simple mistake and moving on, they internalize it by convincing themselves they are the mistake or no good. They begin to hate who they are.
The research group also discovered that 79% of girls aged 14 did not value themselves.
As society gradually moves away from God, it should not surprise us when people attitude’s about themselves change as well. Because along with this, we are losing an understanding of how much God values us.
Perhaps one of the most powerful descriptions of how God views us is found in the Book of Psalms. The Psalmist says that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, but not only that he talks about how much God values us even as we are being formed in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13-16).
Yet today, we hear of people talking about women having the freedom to abort their babies up to the day of birth. This kind of talk not only devalues babies, it inherently devalues all life.
Perhaps the greatest revelation of how much God loves and values us is that He sent His only Son to die for us (John 3:16). The Bible says that Christ took the punishment for all our sins, we only need to believe. We don’t need to punish ourselves, God has taken care of that. God also continues to value us even as we continue to fail.
Finally, the Bible warns against comparing ourselves with others. Paul writes that we should be only comparing ourselves with ourselves. We should be looking for improvement in our lives, not worried about how we are shaping up compared to others (Galatians 6:4-6).
So as society drifts away from God, many end up journeying into a dark place.