Cari's Reviews > A Bright Red Scream: Self-Mutilation and the Language of Pain

A Bright Red Scream by Marilee Strong
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Dec 03, 08

bookshelves: mental-illness, depression, 2008
Read in December, 2008

A good start with a lot of insight into the chronically misunderstood behavior of self-injury. Unfortunately, Marilee Strong focuses almost completely on the percentage who cut because of severe childhood trauma and abuse, effectively ignoring the significant percentage (between 40% and 50%, depending on the study) who experienced no neglect, no physical or sexual abuse, or any other similar circumstances at any point in their lives. For me, this detracted heavily from the book, as it was so one-sided. I guess I feel the author either opted for the "sensational" stories or simply took the easy way out. It's much harder to pinpoint why someone who had suffered no neglect or abuse in their childhood would start cutting themselves in their adolescence or even adulthood, and frankly, that's what I was looking for in a study on self-harm.

Despite that, I would have rated the book a bit higher, except some (though by no means "all" or even "a lot") of the information contained is outdated. Not the author's fault - the information was all current when A Bright Red Scream was first written. But research into self-harm and associated illnesses has been on the fast track the last few years. A lot of cutting edge studies have been done, and the passage of a decade has added a lot of new information. Especially when Strong discusses borderline personality disorder (one diagnostic criteria of which is self-injury), the gains made over the last ten years have left that section lacking. She treats it with despair, "borderlines can't be fixed," and yet new research and treatment methods have proven otherwise in recent years. Perhaps a version with an updated introduction to bring the reader up to speed with years' worth of work and research gains would be beneficial.

Beyond all that, this book contains a quote that I thought beautiful and devastating: "For most people, tears, not blood, are the language of the body."
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12/02/2008 page 17
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