Today, March first, is National Self-Injury Awareness Day.
I am meaningfully aware that people self-injure only through a friend’s yearly blog post to mark self-injury awareness day:
“We are male and female. We are artists, athletes, students, and business owners. We have depression, DID, PTSD, eating disorders, borderline personalities, bipolar disorder, or maybe no formal diagnosis at all. Some of us were abused, some were not. We are straight, bi, and gay. We come from all walks of life and can be any age. We are every single race or religion that you can possibly think of. Our common link is this: We are in pain. We self-injure. And we are not freaks.”
The American Self-Harm Information Clearinghouse wrote (when last updated in 2002) that about “1% of the United States population uses physical self-injury as a way of dealing with overwhelming feelings or situations,” but the Mayo Clinic estimates “about 3 percent to 5 percent of Americans have deliberately hurt themselves at some point in their lives.” (Neither scope assessment includes harmful eating disorders.)
This is a health and mental health issue affecting a significant number of people, yet the media reflection of ourselves hides it.
To me, news is what matters: how many people are affected, and how seriously?
By this definition, our major news media fail terribly every day. Self-injury, indeed, is minor in impact compared to the deaths, incarceration, illnesses, mistreatment, challenges, and denied opportunities people face without commensurate or consistent media focus.
One of the only organizations that I know of in the U.S. for covering the day-to-day things that matter as news is not print, but radio- Free Speech Radio News, if only because their reporting doesn’t stop at the border of country or celebrity. (Disclosure: I am on the FSRN board of directors, which has no connection to news policy.)
In most media, most of the time, just about anything big and important that affects a lot of people regularly over a long period of time gets virtually ignored or covered as isolated incidents.
Of course, every ongoing matter of importance is always generating news events. And good news is news too. From my friend’s post again:
I haven’t cut in almost 2 1/2 months. To some, that seems like nothing. Great, you beat it. Not so easy, I’m afraid. It’s a daily struggle, it always has been and it probably always will be. Decisions aren’t so easy to make sometimes, and the decision not to cut is often the hardest decision I have to make in a day.
There has to be some newsprint space among the ads, some television time between the commercials, some reporter talent amidst the cutbacks to dedicate to simply reporting on the human condition.
Creating a day, or a week, or a month for every conceivable cause or issue is a desperate plea for help.
And media must listen.
Forget about the hottest new viral video web 4.x social network. If news organizations don’t cover what affects us, in ways that can make a difference, more and more people will instead be reading (and commenting on) their friends’ writing on LiveJournal.