I hear this a lot, which is to be expected, I work with a lot of young people and the people around them. Part of growing up is attention seeking behaviours. But most of the time when I hear the expression it is said dismissively or with finality, as that is all the behaviour is.
All too often have I heard self-harm referred to as “attention seeking”. I have also heard suicidal actions described as “attention seeking” by professionals. Young people who get in fights, storm out of classrooms, yell abuse at others are all labelled as attention seeking.
It may be are they are right, the person may not want to die, hurt themselves or hurt others but the fact they are in a position to express these behaviours or thoughts is worrying. What has got them to this position, why have they not been able to find better coping skills, where is their support?
I would argue that most behaviour is a form of communication. I say most because I have spoke with those who are ready to quietly pass away or whose self harm is a very private form of self expression. For others though, they are subconsciously crying out “notice me” “see my pain” “help me”. This is not something ever to be dismissed or ignored but heard. We don’t have to agree with the behaviour or even understand it, we only have to really listen.