Half of young goths have tried suicide

TEENAGERS immersed in the goth subculture are far more likely than their peers to have harmed themselves or attempted suicide, research has revealed.

Scientists at Glasgow University who studied 1,258 Scots at the ages of 11, 13, 15 and 19, discovered that 47 per cent of those identifying themselves as goths had attempted suicide. An even higher percentage - 53 - said they had harmed themselves, compared with national rates of between 7 and 14 per cent.

Mental health workers last night described the results as "extremely worrying" and said more needed to be done to help troubled teenagers.

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Goth stars, such as the rocker Marilyn Manson, have been criticised for appearing to glorify self-harm, but scientists think the subculture actually attracts self-harmers who can find support among peers to help them deal with problems.

The research found that self-harm was more common before becoming a goth or at around the same time, as opposed to afterwards. Even after the researchers took into account factors such as social class, depression and alcohol use, being a goth was the single strongest predictor of either self-harm or suicide attempt.

The researchers, led by Robert Young, also looked at self-harm in other youth subcultures. While some groups, such as punks, were also linked to self-harm, the risk was greatest in the goth subculture.

The researcher said that one common suggestion was that goths may be copying subcultural icons or peers when choosing to harm themselves.

"But since our study found more reported self-harm before, rather than after, becoming a goth, this suggests young people with a tendency to self-harm are attracted to the goth subculture.

"It's also possible that by belonging to this subculture young people are gaining valuable social and emotional support from their peers."

Dr Michael van Beinum, a child and adolescent psychiatrist in Lanarkshire, said there was evidence that mental health problems in young people were on the increase. "For some young people with mental health problems, a goth subculture may allow them to find a community in which it may be easier for their distress to be understood," he said.

"Adults helping young people in difficulty need to be aware that those who identify with goth subculture may also be self-harming and may benefit from learning coping mechanisms. Further provision of mental health services for all young people is urgently required."

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Charlie McMillan, director of policy at the Scottish Association of Mental Health, called the results "extremely worrying".

"It links with a far wider debate that needs to be happening about young people in our society and the pressures they find themselves under," he said.

'I was so angry that I used to scratch myself with blades'

MO MACMILLAN has been a goth for seven years and enjoys listening to black metal music and wearing the distinctive fashion.

But she says the friends she has made through the goth culture have helped her overcome self-harming, which had plagued her for years.

At one point, driven by constant bullying at school, she stabbed herself in the arm with a chisel in front of her shocked classmates.

She explains: "I got bullied from primary to high school because I did not fit in, because I dressed differently.

"I was so angry I used to scratch myself with razor blades and glass."

But the 17-year-old schoolgirl, from East Kilbride, says that she eventually stopped harming herself when she was 15, thanks to the support of goth friends.

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She says: "I realised that by doing what I was doing, I was scarring myself for ever. It was stupid so I stopped."

People should not assume that all goths are self-harmers, she says, adding: "It's not just goths, it's many more than that ... it's so many more people than that.

"I think in every group you will find someone who will be a self-harmer."

Daring to be different

GOTHS are best known by their tastes in music and clothing.

In the early 1980s, gothic rock emerged from the punk music scene and followers of these bands started to become a distinctly recognisable group.

From the 1990s onwards, goths have had a less distinctive identity, with musical and clothing tastes differing widely. The styles of dress most often worn by this subculture range from gothic horror and punk to Victorian and a lot of black.

Since the mid-1990s, the types of music most often heard in goth hang-outs include gothic rock, industrial, punk, metal, techno and 1980s dance music. Many people see goths as groups of young people who like to dress in a rebellious way - a phase they will soon grow out of.

They are often the subject of abuse in and out of school, taunted for standing out and being different.