A cry for help: Why is self-harm a growing problem among Kiwi teens? Brave Bella tells her story



Seven Sharp

A recent study of thousands of New Zealand youths shows just under a third of young people reported they had self-harmed.

Seven Sharp meets a young woman who started cutting herself when she was just 12.
Source: Seven Sharp

One Kiwi family has experienced the emotional and physical hurt that self-harm can cause first hand and come out the other side.

Bella Prichard was only 12-years-old when she started cutting herself.

"I don't know what it was, I can't tell you that this is what made me depressed," Bella, 17, told TVNZ1's Seven Sharp.

"I did it on my legs because I didn't want anyone to see. I was very ashamed I guess I was punishing myself for not being good enough."

The turning point for Bella came when her mum, Leanne Prichard, found out.

"She took her tights off and showed me, which was pretty devastating because I had no idea. I just wanted to be sick, for her pain," said Leanne.

Leanne says she didn't want to be the kind of parent who gets angry - so she chose to listen instead.

"As a teenager you're trying to get through the normal things that everyone says you should be doing and then you have the social aspect," she said.

"Whether it's an unspoken or spoken issue, every girl wants approval from somewhere or someone or something."

Professor Marc Wilson has been speaking to thousands of Kiwi teenagers to help understand why they harm themselves.

He says hard as it is to accept, it can be part of the process of learning to manage strong feelings.

"Different parts of the brain develop at different times, imagine you head out into the school yard you get bullied, you feel sad you feel angry these are overwhelming emotions," Professor Wilson said.

For Bella, healing came by talking to a therapist, her mum and writing. She has one piece of advice for her 12-year-old self:

"Just keep going, because when you come out the other side you feel amazing."

If you or someone you know needs help, please get in touch with any of the following organisations.

Need to talk? 1737 – Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor
Lifeline – 0800 543 354
Youthline - 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email talk@youthline.co.nz
Samaritans – 0800 726 666
Healthline – 0800 611 116
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 or free text 4202 or www.depression.org.nz
The Lowdown: A website to help young New Zealanders recognise and understand depression or anxiety. www.thelowdown.co.nz or free text 5626
SPARX.org.nz – Online e-therapy tool provided by the University of Auckland that helps young people learn skills to deal with feeling down, depressed or stressed
OUTLine NZ – 0800 688 5463 for support related to sexual orientation or gender identity

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