SCOTS girls as young as 10 are being urged to cut themselves in a self-harming social media campaign launched in reaction to the news that Zayn Malik has quit the chart-topping boy band One Direction.
Children’s campaigners and mental health organisations reacted in horror and issued urgent advice to parents and children in a bid to stop the alarming trend.
The singer shocked fans when he left the world’s biggest boy band saying he wanted the chance to be “a normal 22- year-old”, and youngsters began hitting Twitter and Instagram to express their dismay. However, messages of support and heartache for Malik soon took a more sinister turn as the hashtag #cutforZayn began trending and horror photos emerged from fans who appeared to have harmed themselves and were asking others to do the same.
One Glasgow mother told The National that her two daughters and niece – aged 10, 12 and 13 – had received messages purporting to be from an 11-year-old girl saying One Direction was her life and with Zayn leaving “now there is no meaning of life”, with bloody pictures of self-harming attached. In the messages she urged them to do the same.
She said: “I was absolutely horrified when my daughters showed me the messages and gruesome pictures of someone who had already cut themselves and telling them this was what they needed to do to get Zayn back. I dread to think that there might be young girls out there taken in by that. I think something has got to be done to stop these kind of things being sent to children.
“When I looked at the Instagram posts a lot of their friends were writing messages of disgust at this but others had ‘liked’ it.”
Mental health charity Mind said that it was “vital to recognise the huge danger created by any site or social media trend that promotes self-harm”.
A spokeswoman said: “Upsetting life events can spark feelings of distress or anxiety and it’s important to seek help if you are going through a difficult time. While friends and family may be your first port of call, Mind’s website has comprehensive information on depression, self-harm and other mental health problems, and the Samaritans provide a phone and email service.
“Self-harm is an incredibly serious problem and should never be trivialised. We urge those using Twitter or other social media sites at this time not to engage with posts that promote harmful behaviour, and to report any activity that causes them concern.
“If you are worried someone close to you is self-harming it’s important to let them know you are there for them. As a parent or friend it can be hard to cope with your feelings of shock, worry or anger, but it is vital to give the person you care about space to be listened to in a safe and non-judgmental way.”
Barnardo’s children’s charity said it was “horrified” by the self-harm tweets. A charity spokesman said: “We are horrified at the overnight trending of self-harm tweets after Zayn Malik quit One Direction, with teenagers posting pictures of their self-inflicted injuries and encouraging others to follow suit.
“Self-harming sites and social media chat on self-harm are a disturbing aspect of culture which must be addressed and handled sensitively by all those responsible for caring for children.”
The charity urged carers, teachers and others and any young person who might be thinking about self-harm to visit the website of the charity Young Minds.
A spokeswoman for Young Minds said: “Zayn is an important role model to other young people, as he is prioritising his wellbeing over fame and taking time out to look after himself.
“Young people who feel affected by this news should reach out to other young people and to trusted adults and talk to them about how they feel. It’s a loss, so like any loss it is about taking care of yourself and being with people who care for you and can support you.”