State of the nation

// 25 April 2008

If you can judge a civilised society by the way it treats it’s children then we’re in trouble.

The BBC reports two interesting things this morning. Girls are more likely to self harm than boys and 1 in 5 parents refused the HPV vaccination for their daughters.

The first story is that 1 in 3 girls have self-harmed at some point compared to 1 in 5 boys. Favoured methods include cutting (74%) and punching oneself (48%). No gender breakdown is given of the methods of self-harm which is a shame as I suspect there would be a gender difference.

Of those who admitted to self-harm, 43% said they did it because they were depressed, 17% because they were angry, 10% because of relationship problems and 10% because they were stressed.

From BBC News

The second story is also very concerning as some parents who nominated a reason for refusing to vaccinate their daughters against the virus that causes most forms of cervical cancer said it was because they thought the HPV vaccine would encourage promiscuity. Two religious schools refused to take part in the vaccination programme. My mind boggles – HPV isn’t a punishment for lewd and lasicivous behaviour, it can come from a single, loving, long term partner as easily as a one-night stand. But no some parents and schools would rather risk their daughter (or students) getting cervical cancer. Some commentators also expressed concern it was designed to prevent a possible future health risk rather than tackling a current one – well doh! that’s what a vaccine does. Honestly!

Comments From You

Helen // Posted 25 April 2008 at 9:34 am

yeah when i did it it was a combination of all four. Plus it was situations like expressing feelings directly, like “I’m really unhappy” and getting told not to be so silly. Also things like at age 18 my mother didnt want to accept I had a serious boyfriend so i had to sneak around and pretend i was on the pill for my periods, which kinda relates to the HPV thing. I think kids should have the ooportunity to go behind their parents backs on this one, because parents don’t always know best. I know i just said it made me cut but it was still worth it.

sian // Posted 25 April 2008 at 1:35 pm

it’s difficult to know what to do isn’t it? in the end my mum prettyy much frog marched me to a counsellor because she couldn’t cope with it anymore, and after a lot of counselling and anti depressants, i stopped. it is so pervasive in society, but when you are doing it, you tend to feel that no one else is, ( i certainly felt that way, no one else could possibly be self harming, plus the inevitable long sleeves in summer and a refusal to wear a swimsuit) and seeing as it is only dealt with every blue moon in reports like this, it very seriously lacks the amount of coverage that the issue needs. there is also a lot of coverage (not in the serious media, but in conversation i feel) that self harming is a silly problem for silly girls when it is a serious and debilitating thing to go through in so many ways.

i really see self harm as being an addiction like any other. i’m very glad that it is behind me, but i feel like i will always have that part of my personality in me, the same way i would if i was a recovering alcoholic.

hmm, kind of rambling. i think greater visibility of it as a real problem is needed. hopefully stories like this will help, but they need action accompanying them.

as for HPV – it completely bemuses me how parents are more willing to risk their children getting cancer and disease than the non evidence supported risk that their daughters might be “promiscious”. it is their daughter’s future after all.

Feminist Avatar // Posted 25 April 2008 at 3:53 pm

I also read somewhere that there are also some studies that suggest that women who have never had sex can also have the HPV virus- they don’t know whether it is naturally occurring or comes from another source.

But even if it was the case that virgins never got cervical cancer, nobody can truly expect their daughters to be virgins their whole life- this is ridiculous. We vaccinate girls as children to ensure that they all have the opportunity to be vaccinated (as access to service can be restricted as adults) and so that those who have sex early are also covered. How does this encourage promiscuity? How many teenagers sat there and went ‘well I’d have sex at fourteen, but for the risk of cervical cancer’? Do be quite frank how many teenagers even know what HPV is or how is it caught, before the introduction of such programmes? I cerntainly didn’t.

Serian // Posted 25 April 2008 at 6:01 pm

Before we get too far into this, I think that this may be the vaccination that hasn’t been properly researched yet and has potential side effects.

I think it is anyway.

Yes, choosing not to have it because it might encourage promiscuity is ridiculous but many people may have chosen it for the above reason.

tez // Posted 25 April 2008 at 10:20 pm

well i am one of those 1 in 5 mothers who is not going to let my daughter be vaccinated and not because i think (like some idiots) that it will cause promiscuity but for my daughters own health.

i have been reading up on it ,most if not all of us have some strain of hpv and normally clears up by itsself the vaccine given in a harmless strain of hpv has a 44.6 % of causing cancer.

gardasil also are reponsible for the pain killer scandle vioxx which caused strokes and heart failure.

heres a couple of posts im sure yous can look up more yoursefls

also on a final note women in america (and who knows where else)are known by pharmaceutical companies and doctors has “cash cows”

please people read all the info pros n cons before making your mind up.

tez // Posted 25 April 2008 at 10:49 pm

sorry forgot to mention about the csa bloodtest invented to check for the hpv virus (usa again) worth a google .to me something which is non invasive and money cant be made from it men dont want to know. ps: dont google uk you will only get the child support agency.

Ruth Moss // Posted 26 April 2008 at 11:32 am

Yes, I was also going to add that some parents decide against certain vaccinations (e.g. MMR) not because of so-called “moral” reasons but because they do not trust that the vaccine has been properly tested, or they believe it will actually make their child ill in of itself (e.g. mercury in vaccines / anecdotal evidence that children have become seriously ill after vaccinations) and I wonder if the slow uptake of this new vaccine might also have something to do with this?

Ruth Moss // Posted 26 April 2008 at 11:35 am

But just wanted to add, obviously *some* parents are giving “encouraging promiscuity” as a reason and that is ridiculous – and very concerning (but sadly nothing new) that parents are putting their own age-old sexist beliefs before the health of their children.

Juliet // Posted 26 April 2008 at 12:32 pm

I agree with some of the other commentators here, i.e I do not believe that the vaccine has been properly tested and would have fears for its safety. I basically do not trust doctors. And always beware when someone somewhere stands to make money out of something like this. The carelessness and callousness of pharmaceutical companies in their drive for profits is chillingly well documented. Women especially are indeed ‘cash cows’ for them.

Also, I saw a “leading” gynaecologist on last night’s BBC news saying that girls will still have to have smear tests after having the vaccine, because it doesn’t completely protect against cervical cancer. The morals I’m worried about here are those of the doctors and pharms – because they haven’t got any!

Tom // Posted 26 April 2008 at 1:07 pm

Err.. in relation to the self harming.

this sounds strange, but it’s better for a girl to self harm than to kill herself, no? The second most common way for a 15 year old boy to die is suicide. The most common way is a road death, and there are ads galore advising us to drive safely, etc, but no-one seems to care a jot about mental health – and that’s really disturbing.

Shea // Posted 26 April 2008 at 6:33 pm

Sorry but I think your misinformed about the vaccine. Gardasilwas never said to prevent against all strains of the HPV virus so it was always necessary to have follow up pap smears. ( a virus by its nature mutates to form different strains, this is partly why it is so difficult to find a comprehensive vaccine.)

The vaccine has been extensively clinically trialled and has FDA and NICE approval. But as with all vaccines there is a risk it will damage some individuals, that is why we have the vaccine compensation board to provide a remedy to help those harmed by it. But as cost/benefit ratio the benefits of the vaccine are far outweighed by the risks associated with it. I wonder how many of those resistant to the vaccine are also against putting them or their children on the pill for five years or more, because this in itself doubles your risk of cervical cancer.

Re: the MMR vaccine, I think it is actually criminally irresponsible NOT to give your child this vaccine. The damage done by the Wakefield article is extensive, but five other independent clinical trials have proved that there is absolutely NO link between MMR, mercury in the vaccine and rising levels of autism. Look at Japan who abandoned MMR vaccines in the early nineties, but still have rising rates of autism. The more people who opted to take their child out of the vaccine program the more herd immunity is threatened. Maybe an epidemic of measles will convince you that the harm from the disease prevented by vaccination is far, far greater than the harm arising from vaccines.

The situation in the US is different to this country, doctors here cannot & do not make any money out of patients taking up the vaccine on the NHS (even where the patient pays e.g Gardasil or rabies vaccines). In the USA the private health insurance companies and physicians do–hence the name “cash cows”. Please don’t be deceived– the doctors in this country have an overriding duty to act in the patient’s best interest above any financial consideration.

Jane // Posted 27 April 2008 at 12:40 pm


Just to be confrontational and say I have some sympathy with those parents (though I don’t agree with them). They probably don’t want their daughters having sex too young, and giving the vaccine at 12 does give the impression to girls that people in authority expect them to be sexually active soon after that (even if that is only with one partner). I remember the influence the age of consent had on girls at school, there was a feeling that if it was allowed at 16, it was very uncool not to be doing it after the 16th birthday. Some parents probably want to teach their daughters that they have plenty of time to become sexually active. Of course, it’s a difficult choice for the health service as giving the vaccine at 16 might be considered too late.

As for the MMR, I think the probable reason for giving the 3 vaccines together is to save money and not for health reasons, which could be served by three separate vaccines. I support the national health service but we must see that the way it is funded causes problems sometimes i.e. decisions are made based on what is cheapest. Countries where patients pay have the opposite problem of procedures being carried out when they might not be necessary because money can be made…

Louise Livesey // Posted 27 April 2008 at 8:02 pm

My problem is with those parents who equate vaccinating their daughters against a killer disease and giving permission to have sex. If you want to vaccinate young people it’s much easier to administer whilst they are at school and before they are sitting major exams. And the last time that happens is age 12.

Even if you *only* ever have sex with one person, after marriage, you can contact HPV and may develop cervical cancer.

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