My latest novel Swimming with the Angels is a thriller about an innocent young man on the run from killers who think he stole a hundred million of their money. Within the framework of that genre, however, I included a suspenseful story of a young blind woman traumatized by the loss of her mother to cancer who is cutting herself to help deal with her emotional pain. The arrival of the protagonist has a profound effect on her wellbeing. Her character arc goes from euphoria to anger to despair and eventual catharsis.
As an author of novels that incorporate current affairs, I thought it was important to deal with this growing epidemic of an entire generation of young women. According to a study in 2014 reported in The Guardian, one in five young women in England aged 16 to 24 had cut, burned or poisoned themselves as a means of coping with anger, tension, anxiety or depression. Those results were found to be consistent with studies worldwide. The most common places for cutting included the hands, wrists, stomach and thighs.
The question parents, medical professionals and sociologists should be asking is where are we today?
Those alarming statistics were from studies taken long before the pandemic. As people have been forced to isolate and as social media bullying has grown, it seems likely to me that the 20% figure is now greater – perhaps by several percentage points.
Where are the studies and why is no one speaking out? Are we ignoring a growing psychosis among a large population of young women that could leave them permanently scarred not just physically, but mentally and emotionally?