Caterpillar – Tattoo artist helps young Australians cover self-harm scars
When Brazilian tattoo artist Fernando Hideki moved to Australia two years ago, he noticed a growing trend among his clientele: More young people were seeking out his help to cover scars caused by self-harm.
“I have met many people who are trying to move past self-harm and move forward in their life through covering their scars with tattoos,” Mr Hideki said.
The transformative impact his tattoos have had on people’s lives has inspired Mr Hideki to want to do more.
In March, he founded the Tattoo for Mental Health campaign to support those struggling with depression and self-harm.
Two Sydney fundraisers have already been held as part of the campaign — with Mr Hideki volunteering to cover up people’s self-harm scars — to raise proceeds for mental health support organisation, Beyond Blue.
“I want them to feel better about themselves,” he said.
Raelene Sebastian was just a teenager when she first started experiencing depression and began to self-harm.
“I was feeling very insecure and I was always put down,” Ms Sebastian said. “It was at that point that I just didn’t want to be around.”
After overcoming her depression, the 24-year-old tried to cover the scars on her left wrist with clothing.
“I felt ashamed … I knew afterwards that I didn’t have to do that,” she said.
Wanting a permanent solution, Ms Sebastian sought the assistance of Mr Hideki.
She chose to cover the scars with a tattoo of a character in her favourite children’s book — “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”.
The book, which explores a caterpillar’s journey to becoming a butterfly, is symbolic of her own story.
Ms Sebastian is hoping her tattoo “opens up a conversation” about self-harm.
“I always make myself available to those who want to talk about what they’re going through, because it is difficult when you don’t have someone to talk to, and that’s how I felt,” she said.
Beyond Blue’s lead clinical advisor, Dr Grant Blashki, said there were several reasons why people self-harm.
“About 1 in 10 young people say they’ve harmed themselves at some point in their lives in some way,” he recently told ABC Radio Sydney.
“It’s often an expression of emotional pain, trying to cope or self-punishing.
“A lot of people get this sense of release.”
Dr Blashki said that covering self-harm scars with tattoos can be part of a person’s healing process.
“It’s not for everyone … but, for people who have decided to do it, it can be a great way for them to feel they have come to terms with it,” he said.
Self-harm can involve cutting, burning or picking at the skin and at wounds.
And while the cycle of self-harm is often difficult to break, Dr Blashki said there were ways for people to seek help.
“If you’re the sort of person who’s getting the urge to self-harm … delay it, try to distract yourself, and try to do some deep breathing, just to calm yourself,” he said.
“It might be good idea to reach out to Beyond Blue’s support services … or you might want to have a chat to your GP, who can [fill out a] mental health plan.”
For people concerned that a loved one may be self-harming, there are a range of ways to provide support.
“The first thing is: don’t judge. It’s really common. Raise the conversation with someone and pick a good time and a good place,” Dr Blashki said.
“You don’t have to be the psychologist. You’re really just listening and letting them know that you’re there to support them.”