For a while now I have wanted to discuss this article, which I read online many moons ago, but have been a little nervous about doing so as it's a potentially controversial topic. However, at quarter past midnight last night, I was working away on my laptop after giving up on trying to fall asleep with a tattoo that itches like blazes and a scaffold piercing which still hasn't healed (ear cartilage piercings take forever to heal, with me anyway) and makes it difficult to lie on my right side, and managed to put into words the theory I have come up with regarding this topic.
So I'm going to post this somewhat tentatively - please remember that this is just a theory and I am not presenting it as fact! Please be nice.
At first, this reads as though there should be cause for concern amongst parents of young Goths - however, the article mentions that most of these young people self-harmed BEFORE coming to identify with the subculture, and in fact goes on to suggest that Goth may actually be providing a sort of support network for unhappy youngsters and/or those with possible depression and other psychological 'issues'. So the question brought up by the article is this: Do these young people self-harm because they are Goth, or are they drawn to Goth because of their self-harm?
My sneaking suspicion is that both parts of the above question may actually be true. I see you looking shocked, there. Allow me to explain. No, I don't believe that people with an interest in Goth are likely to have self-harmed 'because they are Goth'. But my thoughts are that a proportion of those involved in Goth (not necessarily a large proportion - perhaps something like the 10% quoted in the article) may have, at some point in their lives (whether or not they self-identified as Goths at the time) self-harmed in some way or suffered from some kind of psychological disorder, e.g. anorexia nervosa.
This is partly because Goth can be seen, basically, as a cross-section of society, involving all sorts of people from all walks of life, and therefore is bound to include some who have suffered depression, eating disorders, or self-harm. And partly because, theoretically - well, I have spoken before about the 'Goth worldview', and about the fact that a minority of people appear to be naturally attracted to and interested in darker or different things than mainstream society. Speaking from personal experience, growing up with an outlook that was markedly different than that of my peers and trying to fit in with 'normal' society was something akin to trying to push a square peg into a round hole.
Some people - and I'd be willing to bet that those are those same 'Gothically-minded' people - just Don't Fit In with mainstream society and its views on how people should be. Which, unless you are a person with endless reserves of confidence and self-esteem (and there are many of this type of people in the scene too, who are probably reading this and going, "What on EARTH is she talking about?"), isn't easy, particularly during the adolescent stage when one already feels adrift and somewhat bewildered. Being the 'token weirdo' of your peer group, and not actually being able to do anything about it - when it's just the way you are - leads to bullying and ridicule on top of that constant sense of just not belonging. Put together, these are the reasons why I suspect that more than a few young Gothlings (again, whether or not they were 'Goth' at the time) have turned to unhealthy methods of coping with their emotions.
Added to this, a lot of young Goths have suffered the same trials and tribulations as many of their peers (abuse, bullying, divorce, family dysfunction or breakdown, bereavement). This kind of shit is, frankly, pretty normal in modern society, but combined with the above-mentioned 'weirdo effect' - that knowledge that, no matter how hard you try you won't fit in, because you, little peg, are just the wrong damned shape for that there hole - and I'd say you have a pretty good recipe for an unhappy teenager, at risk of self-harm, depression, eating disorders and other psychological nasties.
Speaking again from personal experience, I would suspect that what happens to confused and unhappy young people when they become part of the Goth subculture is much the same as what happened to me - a sense of massive relief that actually, you're not the only peg that isn't fitting that hole. In fact, there's a whole subculture full of people who are actively celebrating the fact that the way they see life and the world, the things they enjoy and are interested in, are for the most part quite different than the outlook of 'normal' people. And you know what? This peg may not fit in that hole, but it doesn't care. You can keep your stupid hole - this peg is happy with its own shape. This is the prevalent attitude of the Goth community and society, and if it's teaching young people to be comfortable in their own skin and with their own minds, frankly I'd say that's a damn good thing.
Perhaps some of these young people originally sought out Goth culture because they believed the stereotypes - that Goth embraces death and despair - and thought it would be a way to wallow in their feelings of sadness and alienation. Perhaps some of them later move on to other things and look back on Goth as 'just a phase', the feelings that they had of 'not fitting in' simply caused by the trials and stress that go hand-in-hand with adolescence. But - in my experience, at least - being involved with Goth culture, whether as a phase or as a permanent lifestyle, helps to relieve that sense of alienation during the teen years, and brings a sense of self-acceptance (which, as one grows up, is followed by self-esteem).
An additional note: in the comments below, Laurel says she doesn't feel that more Goths have self-harmed, but she points out, "While Goth doesn't condone such acts, it also doesn't make one out to be a terrible person because of it, either. Only in recent years, has the mainstream started to talk openly about mental illness, abuse, and suffering in general. I think it's the desire to look at things through rose colored glasses and avoid things that frighten. Whereas Goth, in contrast, is about accepting the darker things in life. I think Goths are just more comfortable in admitting that they self-harmed than non-Goths - because there's less stigma attached to it." Here is Laurel's post on the subject.
Taking my views and Laurel's into consideration, yes, I can see why there are notable links between Goth and self-harm - but I don't think that these connections are at all a cause for concern. If anything, I think that Goth culture, its tolerance, acceptance and unique worldview, is providing comfort for distressed young people at a time when they need it the most.