Self-harm is something which everyone knows about, but, due to the suffocating taboo surrounding it, people rarely understand it. As society generally brims with people not questioning, or, more importantly, not wishing to question, this serious and widespread issue, the immensity of the problem only grows. So why then, at this year’s Scottish Mental Health Arts & Film Festival, was an evening of performance based around self-harm able to bring joy to all present?

Performed at Stereo in Glasgow, Out of Harm brought together four participants, confident enough to share their stories with a room of strangers, a startlingly brave endeavour for anyone, particularly when coupled with the creativity and genius they displayed as they shared their own written pieces.

Arriving at the event, I was admittedly somewhat nervous and unsure about what to expect.  But all nerves were torn out from the instant that the first performance began, as I and the whole room were drawn in. From poetry to photography to acting, it brought shock, honesty and laughter out of everyone, in both an intense and wonderful display.

What was particularly notable was how, through the deliberately varied mood of the performance, entertainment managed to stay at the foreground, even as the importance and weight of the topic never lifted.

The biggest question that the entire event posed was how this difficult subject, which is so feared by society today, could bring such consistent joy and entertainment to a company of strangers. The most important point the project is trying to get across is that we, as a society, should be talking about self-harm, and ultimately need to be talking about self-harm and making clear the facts about self-harm.

Managing so successfully to use this topic to talk to, educate and entertain a room of people highlights the modern day difficulty we usually have in addressing and understanding the subject. The greatest harm being dealt to the subject is the silence of society, which indirectly silences those with experience of it. The topic needs not to be silenced but opened, so that those suffering can also open up.

The potential brought out in these performers’ shows how this topic need not always be treated in a negative way. Instead, it can be used as a platform for us to recover, with the confidence in and help from one another to bring out the best in who we are.

The great education and entertainment that this event has brought to me, as an outsider, is something that I’ve not just enjoyed, but have to feel very grateful for. It has further taught me that to share this feeling with others, both to positively alter the image of self-harm today and to benefit other people’s educated views on the subject, may be a far easier and more harmless task than first thought.

by Callum McLean


Click here to read Talking Heads reporter Susan McKinstery’s article on the other Out of Harm event at the Glad Cafe, or visit the Facebook page to find out more about the project.