There’s a common, harmful attitude being expressed by a great number of people lately, even those in the mental health community, that I believe needs to be addressed: The idea that “attention-seekers” must be shamed.
I know this topic is a bit controversial, and my intention for writing this is not to cause arguments, but encourage considerate, thoughtful conversation and self-reflection.
So let’s talk about this for a moment.
The main idea behind this belief that attention-seekers are people to be shamed, is that attention-seeking behaviors are not a problem to be addressed, but rather selfish, petty acts best ignored.
The truth is, in most cases, attention-seekers are people, usually young people, who do have valid problems that need help, but don’t yet really understand how to ask for it in a healthy way. They may not fully understand what’s going on with them, but they recognize that something’s not right, so they reach out in ways that they hope will get someone to pay attention.
Responses to attention-seekers usually consist of telling the person to “stop it,” or ignoring them altogether. This can be dangerous, because then the attention-seeker’s underlying problem is still there, and the person starts to believe that they must keep their struggles to themselves. They then continue suffering in silence while their problems grow and become more serious. It’s easy to see how this is harmful.
If someone is doing something for attention, the simple solution is to give them the attention they need.
This isn’t to say that you should encourage attention-seeking behaviors that can be dangerous, or allow yourself to be manipulated. Instead, attention-seeking people should be given the help they require and shown how to reach out for help in safe, appropriate ways.
This is especially important when addressing those who self-harm to get attention. The common attitude in this circumstance is that these people don’t have a “real” mental health issue because it is “only” a cry for help. But this kind of self-harm must be taken seriously, too. The idea that people who display attention-seeking behaviors do not deserve help is absurd, because attention-seeking behaviors are often a symptom of serious issues.
The idea that people who display attention-seeking behaviors do not deserve help is absurd, because attention-seeking behaviors are often a symptom of serious issues.
If someone is in enough distress that they are purposely injuring themselves or otherwise performing drastic acts to bring attention to themselves, they clearly have a real and valid problem.
So let’s stop shaming attention-seekers. Let’s stop dismissing and putting down those who don’t know how to get the help they need. Let’s educate and advocate for those struggling, and strive to be a safe person for others to reach out to.