BREAKING the deafening silence and deep stigma surrounding self-harm is the only way to tackle the growing issue and reach out to the thousands hurting themselves in Swindon.

This is campaigner Maria Burchell’s urgent message as Self Harm Awareness Day gets underway today.

The international day of action brings the spotlight on a widespread yet often misunderstood and ignored problem, which affects one in six teenagers UK-wide, in order to help those left to suffer in silence.

Maria, who founded Preservation Around Self Harm (PASH) hopes that by raising awareness of self harm, myths surrounding the subject and ingrained fears will be dispelled.

“Self Harm is ageless and classless,” she said. “Predominantly our clients are under 25 but equally we have clients in their 60s and sadly it is on the increase, not just in Swindon but everywhere.

“Self harm and self injury is a very secretive business. And Self Harm Awareness Day is a great opportunity to raise awareness to help people understand the individuals that are harming and to encourage people who are harming to come forward. There is fantastic support out there.

“There is quite a stigma around self harm because the subject itself makes people feel uncomfortable.”

Contrary to popular belief self harm is not limited to physical injury but covers everything from cutting, burning and biting to eating disorders, alcohol and drug abuse and negative thoughts or low self-esteem.

“It’s a form of coping and for people who self harm it’s a way of staying alive. The physical pain is easier to manage than the emotional pain. But they often feel guilty about self harming. It’s very complex.

“But the first step for everyone is to talk about it.”

PASH, a charity under the umbrella of the Swindon & Wiltshire Alcohol & Drug Service offers a wide range of information, advice and professional support in a safe and non-judgemental environment or by telephone to over 16s.

Call PASH on 01793 649510 or visit Help can also be found on and