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We can’t be there in person to help and support you in a moment of crisis, but there are other options available to you if you can’t turn to someone you trust. By giving us your postcode (or one nearby to where you are right now) we can let you know about services in your area. Remember: this moment will pass; you won’t always feel the way you do right now. 

If in doubt always call 999.

You can also sign up to Alumina, our online support for mental health and wellbeing here: 

https://www.selfharm.co.uk/alu...

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Dedicated to self-harm recovery, insight and support.

All about self-esteem

I'll admit, when I was asked to write this blog, I wasn't sure how to start. Dictionary definitions have been done to death, and the definition of "self-esteem" doesn't really do a lot to explain what it's like to have good self-esteem:

"Belief and confidence in your own ability and value."

This is the first definition I found. I'm sure you knew that already. People talk a lot about having good self esteem, and believing in your own worth, and why good self-esteem is important. They're right -- it is important to have good self-esteem. You have to live in your own head, after all. It's important to get along with yourself. Having confidence in yourself, knowing that you're worth something, is important because it allows you to accept yourself, and buid on the skills you have, and learn to like yourself.

But where do you start? How do you build good self-esteem?

via GIPHY

There are a lot of ways to do it. Why don't you make a list of all the things you like about yourself? Not just physical traits, but skills you have, or interests you love? That is the most basic and simple way to make yourself realise that there are things about you that are inherently valuable, things you're good at, things you're interested in.

But I'll tell you something that most people don't say, when they talk about self-esteem: Everyone has moments where it's hard. Where you feel unconfident, or out of your depth. That's why having good self-esteem is so important. Because, when you feel unconfident or out of your depth, you know that those feelings won't last forever, and you can pick yourself back up. Having good self-esteem doesn't mean that you're confident all the time, just that have the tools and knowledge to remind yourself that you're valuable and important.

Another thing which helps improve your self-esteem is self care. Self care isn't just buying some super fancy soap from Lush and baking a chocolate cake from scratch. Self care can be something as simple as having a long shower, or eating your favourite food, or listening to your favourite song on repeat. Doing things that make you happy improve your self-esteem, because they improve your overall emotional well-being. Try to treat yourself once a week, if you can.

Building self-esteem, and maintaining it, is an ongoing process. It takes a long time, and it's not always easy. But it's so important to accept yourself. I hope these tips have helped, a little!

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Roald Dahl Day

What have all these people got in common?

·     Matilda

·     Charlie

·     James 

·     Sophie

·     Danny 

Yup, they are all imaginary characters, from the imagination of Roald Dahl. None of them are real, none of their lives are real. And yet…

They are orphans, sufferers, victims of bullying, often worried, scared and voiceless, strugglers who undergo changes to become the heroes of their own destinies. 

Don’t we sometimes wish we could have that one person who encourages us, inspires us and help us, a magical person to guide us through our trials and pains?

Of course, you know that real life doesn’t have magic, Big Friendly Giants nor gigantic peaches that we can fly away on.

It does, however, hold real life catalysts: people who can help us become more of the person we want to be. These catalytic people are people who listen to us, who help us deal with the daily challenges we face. They might be a friend, a family member, a teacher, a counsellor, a CAMHS worker.

They aren’t magicians, they can’t make everything better, but, if just for 10 minutes a day, they make you feel like you can do this, then they are your BFG or Miss Honey.

Find your Miss Honey today!

via GIPHY

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Having hope

The Hope group is a small group of young girls that meet every week to help each other encourage positive mental health and emotional wellbeing within their every day lives.

The group has been running for a few months now and we wanted to share with you some of what we've been up to. So far, we've...

Talked about our aims for the group 👍 ------>

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Shared what helps us when we're having tough days 👎 ------>

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Discussed the things we're looking forward to 👀 ------>

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And the things we're always thankful for 💝 ------>

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We've even created and designed our own positive quotes 💙 ------>

# # #

And did some decoupage too 🦄 ------>

# # #

If we could give you any message, that message would be to believe and to have hope that whatever you're going through, you're going to get through it and become a stronger person because of it 💪 ------>

#

Love, the Hope group x

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Have a Little Patience

I don’t know about you, but having patience is something I really struggle with. A quick Google definition search brings up that the word ‘Patience’ means ‘the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious’ and the example given is "You can find bargains if you have the patience to sift through the rubbish."

You know that saying ‘all good things come to those who wait’? Well that’s all well and good, but how do I know how long I should wait? 

Life can sometimes feel like a bit of a waiting game. When we’re young and at school, we wait for the Christmas holidays and then the summer holidays, and as we get older we wait for the end of school, the end of college and then the end of university. Once we start work, we wait for the pay rises, promotions and job changes; and in our personal lives we wait to buy our first car, our first flat, to meet someone, and to hopefully buy our forever home.

But not all of these things are a given and that’s where my struggle to have patience comes in. If I don’t know something is guaranteed to happen - what if I end up wasting my life waiting for it? 

When you suffer from anxiety, having patience can seem impossible. My anxiety is often caused by my constant catastrophizing and endless ‘what if…?’ questions that I allow to spin around and round in my mind… “what if I never get a promotion?”, “what if I never move out of my mum’s house?” and “what if I never meet anyone?”. These are completely irrational fears as they aren’t based on any fact! 

But irrational fears often cause us to act irrationally. So, instead of having patience, I regularly lose my temper and blame the people I love for the fact that I’m not where I want to be in life. Whilst behaving this way always feels good at the time, in the long run it actually makes me feel bad about myself and brings me no closer to answering those “what if…” questions.

Perhaps the key to finding patience and knowing how long to wait is to simply change the question. Instead of worrying ‘what if I never get a promotion?’, I should change the question to become ‘what if I don’t get a promotion in the next five years?’. By putting a realistic time frame on it, this not only helps me to feel positive about it potentially happening, but it also helps me to feel in control of how long I should wait, which then in turn, encourages me to be patient. 

Think you could give it a go? Maybe this will help…

Let’s turn that example from Google into something a bit more relatable:

#
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How to prepare for a CAMHS appointment

  • Write down all the questions you have or would like to ask: do they tell your parents stuff? Do they contact school? What will happen if you tell them you self-harm? 
  • Write down as much as you can about what has been happening to you recently
  • Write down anything you feel is important about things that happened to you when you were little – they might impact your wellbeing now.
  • Write a list of people that are important to you – it will help CAMHS know about your key relationships
  • Think about how you prefer to communicate and let CAMHS know: talking might be hard, writing might be good? Or drawing?
  • Download the assessment they will probably give you (if it’s not this one it will be one like it): 

Sdq English Uk S11 17Single

Download
  • Spend a few days thinking through how you might answer as we all change depending on situations; so give a good overview of what you are feeling the majority of the time.
  •  Take anything to the session you would like – a teddy, something to fiddle with, your favourite book to read while you are waiting. It’s about you, so you need to feel comfortable. 

It is important to realise, whoever you see wants to help you. Their job is to find out as much as they can about you so they can put support in place for you.  

If you had a broken leg you would go to the Doctor; if you aren’t doing so well mentally, it's ok for you to need a doctor too. No one is judging you.

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SelfharmUK Vlog | Feelings

Sophie talks to us about the importance of sharing our feelings.

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How to get control over your self-harm

Self-harming is more common than many people want to admit. It can affect people of all ages and is unique to each person. Because no two cases of self-harming are ever the same, it can be difficult to pin down what triggers it. But, generally speaking, self-harming happens when a person cannot handle emotional pain, so they convert it into a physical one which provides temporary emotional release. Left untreated, this can quickly develop into an automatic reaction to cope with stress. But whether you begin healing straight away, or whether you have been a self-harmer for years, it can be beaten. Here are a few suggestions around how you can help yourself…

People self-harm for many different reasons, and because of this, there are many things you can try out to help you stop, or help you cope with your self-harming.

Identifying what triggers your self-harming can give you more control. Even if you can’t avoid those triggers altogether, you can develop strategies to deal with your emotions when things start becoming overwhelming.

Creativity is often used by people to vent any pent-up feelings and frustrations. It is a way of turning something negative into something positive and can take any form: dancing, painting, sculpting, drawing, crafts. Writing is one that is often used, and it can be a diary, a story, a poem, a letter, or just a scribbled note. You wouldn’t have to show these to anyone. In fact, some people prefer,once they’ve written out all the poison, to tear up and destroy whatever they have just written.

Sports and exercise is also very beneficial. Combat sports especially are fantastic at channeling anger and frustration. They also boost confidence and get you fit.

Getting involved in community projects (like volunteering) or finding ways to help others can be soothing and give you a purpose. However, you need to weigh this option against whatever lifestyle you’re leading. If your life is very busy and intense, you probably shouldn’t add more responsibility to it. In this case, it might be better trying to work in more quiet ‘you’ time. 

Learning a new skill does wonders for the mind and body. Give it a try, even if you don’t believe that these would suit you, or that they would help much. You might end up enjoying them or even finding your own!

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Exam stress

David talks to us about how to cope with exam stress.

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How will this ever change?

Changing yourself: not in any big way and not too much at once. Choose one area at a time and work on that. School? A friendship? Your relationship with your parents? The more in control we feel of the choices we make; the better our mental health. 

Asking for help: it is hard to ask for help as we are admitting we can’t manage on our own, but the reality is, we aren’t made to. If you think we way to the beginning of time, people have always existed in groups – none of us are meant to manage life on our own so asking for help, not only helps you but actually creates stronger relationships too. Who would you like to ask for help?

Saying no: it’s a hugely important skill. We all need to practise it more, as it means we are taking control about what we don’t want to do; who we don’t to spend to time with; what we aren’t comfortable with…. Is there anything you want to say no to?

Making small steps: don’t try and leap… one small decision a day is a big step forward. Often we want to change so fast and we want it all done now. There are many trite sayings but the fact is, they are true. Long lasting change takes a lot of time and investment. What small step would you like to make today?

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What happens after you tell someone you have self-harmed?

Telling someone is a long and hard process for many of us – it starts by choosing who, then deciding how to tell them (face to face, via text or on the phone) then we have to work out what words to use…

The overwhelming response from telling the right person is the feeling of being supported. Once they have heard you and tried to help you work out why; they should suggest telling a professional person like a teacher or Doctor.

A teacher, a parent or Doctor are good people to tell: telling your friend and only your friend puts an unfair amount of pressure on them so together telling someone else who knows how to support you, is more helpful.

If you tell your parent, they will most probably take you to the doctor;

If you tell a teacher, they may inform your parents depending on your school’s policy;

If you tell your doctor, they won’t inform your parents if you are over 14.

One way or another – you will most probably end up seeing your Doctor.

So then what happens...?

Your doctor will ask you:

  • How long you have been harming?
  • If you know why you harm?
  • Have you told anyone else?
  • Have you thought of suicide? 

If the idea of answering these questions is too overwhelming, you can write your answers before you go and just pass the doctor the piece of paper – it doesn’t matter how you communicate; just that you do.

The Doctor will almost certainly refer you to CAMHS (children and adolescent mental health services). This doesn’t mean you are mad or mentally unwell; it means they are specialists in supporting young people and their counsellors are trained to help teenagers. 

Frustratingly, there is a huge waiting list all over the country, it may be up to a year before you get an appointment L  Your school might have a counsellor you can talk to; they often have spaces quicker than CAMHS or, which is happening a lot more, young people are seeing private counsellors which their families have to pay for. If you want to look up a private counsellor in your area check out www.bacp.org.uk 

The first appointment is called an Access Appointment; it is an assessment to make sure they are the right service for you. They often get you fill in a long form called a Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire which is a multiple choice set of questions about issues such as food, sleep, moods, school, relationships…there are no right or wrong answers as you are the expert in ‘you’!  

From there, they will often give you a set of 6 sessions (to start with) with either a mental health nurse, a Community Psychiatric Nurse (a CNP it’s called for short) or a Psychiatrist. It doesn’t matter which you see and there is no real distinction between them, it’s often about who has space for you in the diary. 

It is a Consultant Psychiatrist who will over- see your case and line managers the others to make sure they are supporting you; it is also the psychiatrist who can write prescriptions if it is felt you need any medication to help you until your mood stabilises.

www.headmeds.org.uk is a great website to help you understand what medication is what and that it's your choice as to whether you want medication or not.

Each area in the country has a slightly different way of doing things, but overall, this is the process for supporting young people who are self-harming. 

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Vitamin D

The blog post below was written by Sophie, a Graduate Volunteer at Youthscape working alongside the SelfharmUK team. 

Have you ever noticed that you’re a little happier on sunny days? When you get enough sunshine, your body produces vitamin D3, which has been linked to emotional well-being. Did you know that it’s actually called the “sunshine” vitamin? It does loads for you – keeps your bones strong, helps cells grow, and helps your immune system.

Research into the effects of vitamin D has suggested that people who lack vitamin D are 11 times more prone to depression than the average person.

Because Vitamin D is important for brain functions, and we all have Vitamin D receptors in the same areas of the brain associated with the development of depression, a lack of it has been linked to mental health issues, such as depression, seasonal affective disorder and schizophrenia. The science behind this is conflicting – one theory suggests that vitamin D affects how monoamines, such as serotonin, work in our brains. Anti-depression medication works by increasing the number of monoamines in the brain.

There are even government guidelines on how much vitamin D you should be getting every day. Adults and children (a year old and above) should have an intake of 10 micrograms of vitamin D every day, and babies under a year old should have 8.5-10 micrograms every day, especially during the winter months, when the weather’s not as sunny. To achieve the daily recommended amount of vitamin D, you might have to take a supplement. Anyone at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency is encouraged to take a supplement all year round.

There are a lot of factors which go into how much vitamin D your body can produce, such as lifestyle, weather, and access to sunlight. According to Holland and Barrett, 90% of our vitamin D levels are made when our bodies get enough sunlight. You don’t even need to spend hours in the sun – just 10 minutes in bright sunshine should be enough to boost your vitamin D levels! And sitting inside by a window, or in a car, even in sunshine, doesn’t count because the glass blocks the UV rays.

So, the next time it’s a lovely day outside, why not go out and spend some time in the sun? It’s better for your body than you think!

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Imperfection

This incredibly honest and powerful blog post was written by the fabulous Miriam! Miriam co-runs an Instagram account called @themiddle_path, where you can read this and other blog posts about recovering from eating disorders, mental health awareness and body positivity. Thanks Miriam!

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203c.png‼️TW: Post mentions scars from self-harm203c.png‼️


A few weeks ago a number of professional photos were taken of a very special day. The photos were beautifully done and the end result was incredible. However, looking through them something didn’t quite add up. It took a while to realise what it was but having scanned a number of pictures it was clear; my arms were smooth!

As a teenager self harm became a personal way of dealing with intense emotions & it has been a journey ever since. A journey where I am learning to treat my body with more care & less harm, but also a journey of learning to love what others may see as flaws/imperfections/areas that need to be improved or changed.

Megan Crabbe’s book(@bodyposipanda) has taught me so many lessons on loving your body & learning to not see any difference in your appearance as an imperfection. This book propelled me forward in learning to love my scars, to not hide them or feel ashamed of them. They all tell a story & the opinion of others should have no impact on the way I live my life or treat myself.

Having learnt to accept my scars which
1f4a5.png💥NEWSFLASH1f4a5.png💥were never an issue to begin with & then seeing them photoshopped out, hit a nerve with me & left me with lots of questions.
1f4f8.png📸Are they something I need to feel ashamed of?
1f4f8.png📸Are they flaws?
1f4f8.png📸I know the journey I was on felt right but maybe they do need to be hidden.

After some time to process & thankfully having the ability & time to talk this through with my husband, friends & therapy team I found my conclusion...

THERE IS NOT A SINGLE THING WRONG WITH HAVING SCARS 2705.png

THEY ARE NOT FLAWS274c.png

THEY ARE NOT IMPERFECTIONS274c.png

THEY DO NOT HAVE TO BE HIDDEN FROM THE WORLD274c.png

NO ONE, NO PHOTO, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING SHOULD MAKE YOU EVER QUESTION THE BEAUTY & VALUE OF YOUR BODY EXACTLY AS IT IS.

Shake the shame from your skin. You’ve done nothing wrong.

My body does SO much for me & it doesn’t have to be hidden just in case it meets the critical eyes of someone else.

This photographer wouldn’t have wanted to cause a minor crisis. Let’s be aware that what we see as imperfections might be what someone loves about themselves. All that’s needed is more education 1f49b.png

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13 Reasons Why Season 2

It feels unreal that it has been a year since the voice of Hannah Baker first graced our ears, and the tale of her struggles blared out from our screens.

13 Reasons Why took the world by storm last year, and here at SelfharmUK we watched it and wrote a helpful blog about it which you can read here.

Our summary: it wasn’t helpful, it wasn’t responsible and there was a real need to look after yourself if you were going to watch the show. 

The makers of 13 Reasons have heard the criticism from organisations like ours, and have since included of a new “Warning” video in which the cast members make it clear that they are fictional events, and that if the viewer has struggled with any of the things talked about in the show they can go to a specially made website, 13ReasonsWhy.info, to seek help. The site breaks down the different issues and who to call, based in the country of the person looking at the site. 

So these are all positive steps. 

But season two is coming and it promises to be just as sensational and hard hitting as the first season. This season’s tagline is “Hannah isn’t the only one.” What does this mean? Well it's referring to the fact that Hannah was raped in the show, and that she wasn’t the only girl to go through this at her school. 

Abuse, Rape, the follow up of the attempted suicide of an unknown student, gun violence, bullying, addiction and so much more promise to be part of this show, as well as Hannah’s “ghost” haunting Clay when all he is trying to do is move on. 

Whilst we don’t recommend watching the show, we do understand that you might want to, so before you do, here are 5 things to consider doing...

  1. Don’t watch is alone, instead view it with people you trust and who make you feel safe, preferably a trusted adult. 
  2. After watching an episode, go to the website and engage with the resources they have there.
  3. After watching it, do something lighthearted and fun, watch an episode of friends, eat your favourite snack, go for a walk, bring yourself out of that dark place.
  4. Don’t binge watch it, you might want to, but that will suck you into the world of the show. Instead, limit yourself to no more than two episodes a day.
  5. If it get’s too much, switch it off. It’s ok to not know how it ends.

REMEMBER the story is fictional, they aren’t real people, but what happens in the show has happened to real people, so ALWAYS seek help if you need it. Don’t struggle on your own, and if this is something that you find triggering then maybe give it a miss for a while. 

As with the last season a member of our team is going to watch the next season and write posts for young people as well as adults, both parents and professionals. If you’re not sure about the content then feel free to wait until our review. 

In the mean time, look after yourself.

via GIPHY

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Stress: What's in your bucket?

What’s the World record for the number of people to fit into a Mini? (go on – find out, we know you’ll want to!)

We all try and cram ourselves into small spaces at some point in life, for some reason! Hide and seek? A tent that is way too small? Under our bed? A phone box when it’s raining? 

In the same way that we try to cram ourselves into a place too small; we also try and cram our emotions into a space far too small... 

This time of year for many is stressful. You might be:

1. Changing schools...                                                           

via GIPHY

2. Doing your exams...

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3. Worried about leaving School...

via GIPHY

4. Getting your results...

via GIPHY

5. Or concerned about a long summer break...

via GIPHY

  • What happens to all that stress that is filling us up? What will happen when it overflows?
  • Is there anyway we can let out some of that stress that is crammed into us? 
  • Can we do it in a healthy way?
  • What might it look like to pour out some of the stuff in your bucket?

Some things that will happen we can’t do anything about – such as the long summer break – but what we can do to reduce our stress is to begin to plan. For many of us planning reduces the worries about something as it helps us to take control and make choices about how we want to manage an upcoming event that is troubling us.  

Think about results day: what do you want to do? Would you rather just get up early and click online to get your results in the privacy of your own house, away from your friends?

Think about the long summer break: how about volunteering somewhere? How about starting a card making service? How about babysitting? How about offering a dog walking service?

Take some time to consider what stresses are filling your bucket: What can you do to manage that stress? 

#MentalHealthAwarenessWeek

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Stress IQ Quiz

The theme for this year's Mental Health Awareness Week is stress. Stress is one of the biggest drivers behind the rise of mental ill health. How much do you know about what stress is and how it might be affecting you? Take our quiz and find out!

#MentalHealthAwarenessWeek

powered by Typeform
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Stress

Jess talks to us about stress.

#MentalHealthAwarenessWeek

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Dealing with your Critical Inner Voice

We all have the voice inside our heads that says we aren’t funny, good looking, clever, ‘normal’…we ALL have it, even the people around you that you think have it all together; they don’t. they have their voice too…

Our critical voice is a shadow side – the side we all have sometimes whispers and sometimes shouts at us that we aren’t good enough. It comes from all our insecurities, worry and anxiety; it stop us being fully ‘us’ and limits us enjoying life to the full.

So – how do we lessen the critical voice?

The first thing is to recognise it is there: whispering our faults to us. 

The second thing is to note the lies it tell us: keep a list of what your critical voice tells you so you can realise how often it limits you.

The third thing: write the opposite to that thought. 

So, for me, my voice tells me I am not clever enough; the opposite is that I have GCSEs and A levels. Therefore, that is a lie.

Keep writing all the opposites to the critical thought:

Reality verses the lie.

Fourthly, read the truth daily. Put them up in your bedroom. Repeat them to yourself.

Lastly – practise it. Every time that lie comes into your head; tell your critical voice to be quiet and repeat the real truth to it.

Let’s make our critical voices quieten down.

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Periods

Ruth talks to us about periods.

A useful link: This is about periods

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Talking To The Doctor

Here at SelfharmUK we want to help people understand their harming behaviour and explore other ways to cope with life's challenges.

If you get in touch we'll listen to your story and suggest ways to help you move forward ... but somewhere along the line we'll almost always suggest you visit your GP.  This can be a really tough thing to do, we know it can be scary, and can mean having to tell your parents too (though not always) but we believe it can be a significant step towards feeling better.

We asked GP David Roberts what you can expect when talking to your doctor about self-harm and whilst this article is only a guide - and not a definitive set of facts - we hope it will help you feel more in control, if and when, you walk into that consulting room...

Why do I have to go to the Doctor?

Self-harming is usually an indication that all is not right. People sometimes do it because it relieves internal tension and stress. It is not a very good way of doing this and like drugs, alcohol and smoking ultimately doesn't do any good. But in the short term it gives a temporary relief from emotional pain. However, it can be a symptom of a more serious mental illness and so your doctor can make sure you get the help you need.

Can I go on my own or do I have to take a parent?

You can legally go to the GP alone aged 16, but doctors can accept that you may be able to make your own decisions about your health (eg contraception) from 14 if they think you understand things and are mature enough to do so. A doctor would want you to involve your parent(s) in your care until you are 16 and are likely to encourage you. They would not give you an injection or carry out an operation, or even do an intimate (embarrassing) examination (physical check) without your parent's permission before you are 16.

How can I get ready for my appointment?

Even if you are under 16 That does not mean that you cannot talk to them about your problems or issues. It is a good idea to think about what you want to say and write the main points down. Lots of people get embarrassed at what they want to say and so don't get to the point. Doctors are busy and don't get embarrassed by what you think or say, so it is better to take a deep breath and say it right at the beginning rather than put it off. They won't mind and it will give them more time to talk to you than if you spend the first five minutes talking about a rash that no one can see because it really isn't there!  Think about what you want to get out of the appointment - do you just want to tell someone and get it off your chest, do you want help stopping it, do you want them to refer you on to someone who could give you specialist help? If you tell them what you want then they can work out how best to support you.

What will happen if I say I self harm?

Self harming is quite common and they will have seen other people who do it. So they won't be shocked, but they will be concerned. The biggest concern they would have is that you might want to kill yourself. Not many people who self harm want to do this but doctors have a professional duty to assess the risk of that happening. they are obliged to keep what you say confidential and private between you and them, unless you tell them something that they think might indicate that your health is seriously at risk (or you might be planning to do something that might endanger someone else) - see later - in which case they may be obliged to break your confidence. They should tell you this. They will want to help you, and so if you have plucked up courage to tell them, they will try to find ways to do that.

What will they ask me?

This might include asking some deep questions which you might find embarrassing: don't be though, they're only trying to work out what's making you do this. They'll ask about cutting, taking drugs, overdoses, and other ways you might be tempted to hurt yourself. They may ask you about how you feel (low, depressed, crying, worried, frightened, angry) and how things are at home or school or work.  If they feel you trust them they might ask you to come back again to see them, and they might suggest that they refer you on to see a specialist from the CAMH service (people who work most of their time with young people with similar problems). They might encourage you to speak to a counsellor at school, particularly if there is someone there you feel you can talk to. They will want to know why you have come to see them at that time and to find out what help you want them to give you. You may not be able to say this, but if you've thought about it beforehand it will help.

Do they have to tell my parents?

They are obliged in law to protect you and others from actions you might take that might harm you or others. But they need to check how likely your might be to do something you say you want to do so they will question you quite hard. If you are under 16 and they think you are suicidal (or planning a murder!) they will have to tell your parents or other authorities. They will still encourage you to involve your parents as they have legal responsibility for you, but if the risk is low in their view, they will try their best to keep what you say confidential.

Will I have to show them where I have self-harmed?

They can't and won't force you (unless they are seriously worried about you being in danger and even then they will ask for advice from someone who specialises in child protection). They will want to assess how bad your injuries are - you might need antibiotics if your cuts are infected, and you might need dressings to protect the wounds.

Remember they aren't easily shocked or embarrassed and really want to help you - showing them the extent of your cutting will help them work out how serious the problem is and how to get you the best help.

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Forgiveness

There are so many things we can achieve in life – whether it’s the first steps in walking; being able to read; working out a maths problem or getting your first job – we learn new things daily.

One thing I think is way harder than anything else to achieve in life is forgiveness.

It sounds so easy yet is so very, very hard to do. It’s a long process – we might say ‘we forgive you’ but the feelings of resentment, hurt and anger are harder too control. 

Forgiveness is a choice – it involves our brain deciding on it as it’s a choice; it involves actively putting it into practise and it involves letting go of the emotions that are so strong – even more so if we need to forgive ourselves.

We all make mistakes; perfection isn’t real and doesn’t exist (see the vlog on perfectionism); we are going to mess up – life is a learning curve. In the same way it took most of us about 18 months to walk; it takes years to forgive.

Forgiving yourself is the same process as forgiving someone else, but often harder as we are the forgiver and the forgive (the person being forgiven) so most of us go through a cycle of being kind to ourselves about the mistakes we have made; then, once we feel the resentment/anger creeping back, we are even harder on ourselves than before – and so the cycle continues……

Breaking the ‘forgiveness/self- anger’ cycle takes time; a lot of daily positive self-talking (list things you do like about yourself), often physically writing what you forgive yourself for (arguing with people, saying unkind things, not doing as well as you could…) and learning, again and again, to tell yourself ‘ I am human. I will make mistakes. I am forgiven. I choose to forgive’. 

It’s a life time mantra  - it will take forever because our life is about journeying to grow as people, so be gentle to yourself and start your self-forgiveness journey today.

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Faith and Mental Health

You might not know that SelfharmUK is actually part of a wider Christian organisation called Youthscape. We don’t know what you know about Christians, other than Ned Flanders:

via GIPHY

...but we try to be non- judgmental, kind, funny and we struggle too with our own mental health at times.

You see- being a Christian, a Muslim, a Sikh or an atheist doesn’t stop us feeling low at times. Sadly, having a faith or no faith, doesn't stop bad things from happening to us or to those we love. However, often, having a faith – whichever faith you choose or choosing none – may enable you to find some peace.

In this clip from an episode of BBC Songs of Praise focusing on World Mental Health Day, the Rev. Richard Coles talks very openly about the struggles he faced as a teenager. 

Last year a young person who had suffered greatly with their mental health, wrote a moving article about how they had found faith and friends in Buddhism. For many people of faith, following their faith also means linking with a community of kind, loving people who are also journeying through the highs and lows of life.

Whether you follow faith or not; know this – you aren’t alone. Whether that’s knowing your God walks with you, or by talking to those around you who care for you, including with us here at SelfharmUK.

If you'd like to read more blogs about faith and mental health, check out Oliver’s blog about how they found healing in faith.

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Foster Care Fortnight

Ruth talks to us about foster care.

To find out more about Foster Care Fortnight, visit:
https://www.thefosteringnetwork.org.u...

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Failing… again… and again…

Don’t you sometimes feel ‘stuck’? like life has moved on for everyone else but you? I do. Often. I make mistakes, I mess up, sometimes worse than others. I hurt people I love, I say unkind things and I think very unkind things often.

I am not perfect.

I am definitely not perfect.

Yet…I have moments that I can think ‘hey, you did the right thing there’….have a think, recall when you have done something kind for someone else?

Being human means we are both the best and worst of ourselves: we excel and we disappoint ourselves. Every day.

We have the capacity to flourish and ‘fail’ at the same time:  in one area of our lives we can be gentle, caring and a lovely human; then, we can flip to the other side in an instant.

You aren’t the only one: we are human, we all do it. Loads of times a day.

Instead of berating your darker side, the bits you don’t like and feel you ‘fail’ at – accept them. Recognise them, without squirming in your seat. Say aloud your failings.

Now say aloud your kind acts, your gentle side, your caring nature; list the people you have helped and listened to, draw the faces of those over your life who you have a positive impact on, write the deeds you have done that has made someone say ‘thank you’, think of their smiles….

You aren’t failing at life. You aren’t a failure. You are human.

Being human doesn’t involve punishing yourself, apologizing for everything and anything, feeling guilty about what you didn’t do…being human allows you to have a better self and a less better self.

It takes a life time to work yourself out, to recognise the good in you – begin that journey today by, admit your ‘shadow’ self and your ‘light’ self  (good/less good)and let yourself off the hook today for something.

Walk gently through life, helping where you can, accepting there will be times you can’t.

That’s ok.

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Managing over the Easter Holidays

Hi, Jo here! I’m going to be taking a few days off over the Easter holidays (practising my self-care!) so I may not be around so much to reply to posts and emails so I wanted to make sure you had some numbers, emails and positive websites at hand should you need them:

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Do you feel different?

This week was the start of Autism Awareness week (March 26th 2018) – many people know someone who has autism, and some of us are what is called ‘on the autistic spectrum’.    

So, what does this have to do with self-harm? Loads! A very high rate of young people with autism self-harm, many of them girls who aren’t even aware they have autism.

Autism means struggling to deal with emotions and social situations, and finding verbalizing these struggles very hard. Most often we hear about autism in it’s most ‘severe’ form – non- verbal people who have complex needs: however, this makes us over look young people who, while they might be very bright, struggle to articulate feelings and emotions. 

Thousands of girls (with autism or undiagnosed autism) will be in mainstream schools and coping (outwardly) fine: however, inwardly the story might be different. Feeling like you don’t fit in? struggling with friendships? Unable to express yourself verbally? Possibly a perfectionist who can’t cope if life doesn’t go perfectly? Not able manage when routine changes? Can’t always understand people’s facial expressions? Feeling such strong feelings and intense emotions?

Autism has no definite set of symptoms and no one person experiences autism the same as another. Check out these women whose stories vary but all have autism and are all very successful, kind and bright... 

If you want to find out more look at www.nas.org.uk for more information on understanding autism.

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Anxiety and animals

This blog post was written by Jo Fitzsimmons, a member of the SelfharmUK Team. In case you were wondering, the dogs below are called Floyd and Zeus!

#

We all love some cat and dog youtube clips, don’t we??!

Some of us love our pets, some of us aren’t too keen on animals, but either way the evidence is strong….Animals calm us down. 

People who stroke their cats and dogs are reported to have much lower stress levels and longer life expectancy than those who don’t. Why?

  • To stroke our pets we have to be sitting down and calm – they won’t come near us if we are too hyper or too stressed
  • Our breathing slows to reflect theirs
  • We shift our focus to the now – we are ‘in the moment ‘ with them
  • Repetition of feeling something soft and soothing with your hands maybe comforting
  • Passive interaction –there are no demands or expectations from your dog or cat: they are always so pleased and thankful for the time and love you give them
  • Getting out in the fresh air to walk your dog may help your mental health hugely – and you may even make some new dog walking friends
  • We can take our lead from our pets: they are often very emotionally in tune with us. If we are feeling low, they know and give us extra cuddles!

If you aren’t able to keep a pet of your own – perhaps volunteer in an animal shelter or look at something like ‘borrowmydoggy’ ?

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Self-judgment

Jo talks to us about self-judgment.

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International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day (falling on the 8th of March every year) is a global day to recognise the achievements of women, and to talk about the inequalities between the genders which still exist today. 

Though things have changed a lot since the early 1900’s, when International Women’s Day was first observed, there is still a wage gap between men and women, and women are still disproportionately represented in the media, business, and politics. In some areas of the world, women don’t have access to education or health care, and violence against women is still high.

One of the biggest struggles is the fact that some people think that there’s “nothing to complain about” anymore, and that women’s rights and feminism are things of the past. International Women’s Day is important, because it should break some of the myths around women’s equality, and shed light on startling figures.

This year, the theme of International Women’s Day is #PressforProgress. It’s all about uniting colleagues, friends, and communities to think, and be more gender inclusive, and press forwards for ground-breaking social change. 

International Women’s Day is just as significant now as it was over 100 years ago, when it began. As the International Women’s Day website says, it’s “not country, group or organisation specific. The day belongs to all groups collectively everywhere.”

So, how are you celebrating #IWD2018

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Helping your friend to ‘train their mind'

So, this isn’t Derren Brown stuff...

via GIPHY

Honest!

Mind training is gently and kindly challenging your friend when they say negative things about themselves (that sounds way easier, eh!?). 

Negative thoughts are part of our human mind set. Most of us have to fight the inner voice which tells us we are rubbish, ugly, fat, stupid or unkind at some points in our lives… The key to managing this negative inner voice is to train your brain to tell it to ‘get stuffed’!

If your friend says negative things about themselves often, here are some tips to help them ‘train their brain’:

  • Listen to them – don’t say ‘that’s rubbish’
  • Don’t get angry when they say negative things about themselves
  • Do – ask them to say what the opposite is of the negative thought
  • Do – ask them write the positive side of each negative thought they have
  • Do – ask them to put the negative thoughts they have written in the bin
  • Do – ask them to put the positive thoughts up in their room, or list them on their phone so they can see them and read them when they are saying negative things
  • Do – do things together than are achievable and fun. If they hate ice – skating and fall over all the time, don’t go ice skating!
  • Do – be positive in the words you use with your friend, even with ‘banter’! It has a huge effect. 

Now, try it on yourself too – positive people have a better outlook on life! 

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Friends are heroes

My best friend Regan tells me what she does to herself in a quiet voice. We’re sitting in the back of Geography class, and nobody’s listening to us because everyone messes around in Geography. She’s leaning in like we have a secret between us, and she rolls up her sleeve and shows me her forearm. It’s covered in thin red lines, which are too straight to have been done by a cat or a bush or by accident. I’ve never seen anything like it before, and I don’t know what to say.

“It helps,” Regan says.

Because I don’t want her to regret telling me, and because she’s my best friend, I say, “If it helps, then I guess that’s okay.” But I don’t think it’s okay. I’m worried about her, but I don’t know how to tell her that without sounding judgemental. If this is how she copes, then it’s okay, right? Everyone knows that other girls in my year are self-harming.

I keep looking at the cuts on her arm, and she pulls down her sleeve again to cover them up. She’s not wearing bandages, so her scratchy jumper must be rubbing against them. I’ve been cut before, and I know how it itches and stings when it’s healing.

“You won’t tell anyone, will you?” she asks. “It’s not so bad, and I don’t want them to make me see the counsellor.”

I want to tell her that I can’t keep this to myself. I have to tell someone, because this is serious, and the counsellor will be able to help her talk about this. I don’t want to be a snitch, but she’s my friend, and I care about her. But I’m her best friend, so maybe I can help her better than a counsellor? And if I tell on her, then she won’t trust me again. I have to keep this a secret, even though I don’t really want to.

“Of course I won’t tell anyone,” I say.

Regan smiles. “Thanks,” she replies. “You’re the best.”

***

A week later, we have P.E. and Regan stands with me in our corner, still wearing her long-sleeved jumper. I realise that she doesn’t want to get changed, in case someone sees her arms, and I quickly stand in front of her, blocking her from everyone’s view. It’s not fair that she can’t get changed in case someone sees her cuts, and I don’t want her to get in trouble because she’s not changed in time.

“Thanks,” she whispers, and then she takes a rugby jumper out of her bag, even though it’s summer, and we’re supposed to be wearing short sleeved shirts. I don’t say anything, but I know people will notice that she’s wearing it. I hope the teacher notices, and realises why, and tells the nurse, so that someone else can do something about this, and I don’t have to be the only one who knows.

I stand and wait for her to get into her kit, blocking her from everyone’s line of sight. We don’t say anything, and then, when she’s done, we head for the exit together. We’re the last ones there, so I can talk about it.

“Aren’t you going to put bandages on them?” I ask. I saw her arms when she pulled her jumper off, and they were still uncovered. There were small red smears where the material of her clothes rubbed against them, and streaked down her arms.

“I don’t need to,” she replies bluntly. “Look, I don’t want to talk about this right now, okay? Someone might hear.”

So, I don’t say anything else. I don’t want to upset her, or have an argument about this. We walk out onto the playground, and a few other girls look at Regan, with her thick, long-sleeved, rugby shirt. Nobody asks why she’s wearing it.

***

Regan keeps scratching her arms under her jumper. I want to tell her to stop, because it can’t be good for her, but I don’t want to seem pushy.

She keeps itching, and eventually I can’t ignore it anymore, so I say, “You shouldn’t do that.” That’s all I seem to do these days – tell her what she should and shouldn’t do, ask her questions, bug her. I'm like a broken record. But if I don’t tell her, then who will? I’m the only person who knows. But I’m worried, because she’s obviously getting annoyed by my nagging.

“It itches,” she says sharply.

“Haven’t you put anything on it?” I ask, but I don’t know what to put on cuts. I use Bio Oil for spots. Maybe that would help? But, before I can suggest it, Regan says, “I wish you’d stop going on about it. It’s fine.”

“It’s just – if you’re going to do it, you should take care of it,” I say. I just don’t like the idea of those injuries going unchecked. But it comes out wrong, so it sounds like I’m lecturing her again.

Regan folds her arms. “God, I wish I’d never told you.”

I don’t know how to respond to that. After a moment, I say, “It’s just a lot to handle. I want to help, but I think you should tell someone.” I know how it sounds, but it’s true.

She glares at me, and it looks like she’s going to say something else, but she doesn’t. She just walks away.

***

Four days later, in first period, my phone buzzes with a text alert. I look at it under the desk, and it’s from Regan – I need to talk to you @ lunch.

So, at lunchtime, I wait in the form room, in our usual spot. We haven’t spoken since our fight, and I’ve missed her. She walks in and sits next to me.

“I got them bandaged,” she says. There’s no need for her to say what she means. I know. I don’t say anything else, hoping she’ll continue. And she does. “I thought about what you said, and you’re right. You shouldn’t have to handle this by yourself. It’s a lot. I know you care about me.”

“Yeah, I do,” I reply, a little awkwardly. This whole thing is pretty awkward, and she looks embarrassed too.

“I just thought that, if you were really my friend, you wouldn’t want me to go to someone. But I can’t tell you everything.”

I’m so relieved – for her and myself – that I can’t help but smile. “It’s not that I don’t want to hear what’s going on with you –” I say, at exactly the same time as she says, “I don’t wanna be a burden –”

We both laugh, because we talked over each other, and she smiles at me. “Thanks for helping me with this,” she says.

“It’s okay,” I reply. “You can tell me stuff, okay? It’s not that I don’t want to hear what’s going on with you. But I have to know you’re getting support from somewhere else too.”

“Yeah,” she agrees. “I get it.” And then, after a few seconds, she pulls me into an unexpected hug, and I feel the bandages underneath her jumper. It’s a small sign that she’s taking steps in a positive direction, that she’s trying to help herself. It’s all I need, and I hug her back, tightly. “You’re a good friend,” she says.

This short story was written for SHAD2018 by Sophie, a Graduate Volunteer at Youthscape working alongside the SelfharmUK team. 

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Eating Disorders and Self-harm

Self-harm is a way of harming our bodies in a variety of ways; most of them around us feeling out of control in some way.

This week is Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Eating disorders come under that category as the effects are on your body, as well as emotions and having psychological effects. For most people, they begin gradually, over a period of time: maybe skipping a meal? Taking up exercising a few times a day? Things that can appear to actually be ok and not cause anyone to notice as they slowly develop…however, what started as a way of taking control and coping, can soon become an addiction.

Addictions start small scale: one day at a time incidents “I’ll do this today because I feel like this today….”, however, it doesn’t take long for the addiction to take control of our feelings and become the master of us. Habits are formed within 30 days, so our brain rewires itself to follow our actions – both positive and negative.

Eating disorders encompass a huge variety of issues around disordered eating from bulimia (eating and then vomiting), to anorexia (self-starving) and binge eating (eating loads and loads); yet they all have some similarities:

  • They actively harm you. Sadly, the harming factor is unseen on your insides as organs become weak the longer the you don’t eat (this includes your heart). Those struggling with overeating, may find their bodies absorb the fat and develop associated issues with that. Eating disorders impact your teeth (from vomiting), your bone structure (from lack of calcium), your hair and nails from lack of nutrients… most parts of your body will be effected by disordered eating.
  • They limit your social life. Globally food centres around communities: family meals, birthday meals, getting pizza with friends… If food is causing you anxiety, then it’s highly likely you will decline these offers and feel more isolated than you felt before your eating disorder developed.
  • Help can be given, when you are able to ask for it. As with any addiction, help needs to be acknowledged before it can be taken. Having an eating disorder is an inner fight: your body needs a healthy diet to sustain itself, yet your brain is fighting that natural urge to eat well. The fight is emotional and psychological and very tiring for the sufferer.
  • There are stages in every eating disorder; the initial stages as the sufferer gradually believes they feel ‘good’ from the feeling being in control gives them, followed by the ‘maintaining’ phase where a sufferer develops a routine and possible rituals around their food issues; this is followed by a deteriorating stage. By this time friends and family will possibly have noted the change in appearance, mood, sleep patterns and demeanour – this is when Doctors are likely to become involved in order to keep your BMI and heart rate in as healthy way as can be hoped for.
  • Friends and family can find excellent support and further information at www.b-eat.co.uk who run online support sessions for young people, adults and family members.    
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Forgiving your friend

Forgiveness takes a lifetime. It’s a learnt process that ebbs and flows in our life: some people we can forgive quickly and easily, others it is painfully hard to allow ourselves to ‘let go’.

If a friend or family member is self-harming it can be hard not to feel hurt, angry or betrayed even. You may be angry that they didn’t tell you sooner or angry that they didn’t come to you as you may feel you could have helped them before it got to self-harm; you might feel very hurt by them and their lack of trust in not being able to ask for help; you may feel betrayed that they appear not to trust you enough with their thoughts and feelings.

If you are feeling like that; forgive them. You may feel that you have outwardly but perhaps inside those feelings still bubble up from time to time. Forgiving takes a long time – it’s a choice that you have to choose each time those feelings creep up on you. Forgive your friend, their self-harm is not your fault, it’s not something you could do anything to stop and it’s not yours to carry.

Chances are, they didn’t want or mean to hurt you. Often people who are struggling with self-harm carry huge bags of guilt and they might be harming their bodies as they don’t want to hurt anyone emotionally.

It takes a great deal of maturity to be able to let go of your own hurt and put yourself in someone else’s shoes: today, on Self-harm Awareness Day, take some time to think about forgiving your friend and consider what it might be like to walk in their shoes.

As a friend your role is to support and get your friend to get some help from people trained to do so; if you want to, why don’t you and your friend sign up together to our Alumina support programme?

Whether you are self-harming, or are friends with someone who is - you are never alone.

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​NEW Alumina support sessions!

Monday 26th February we're start a new Alumina programme especially for you! Alumina is our 6 week programme helping you to understand your self-harm journey, your triggers and your addiction cycle into self-harm. We will look at what alternatives you can begin to use, how to manage your emotions more effectively and how to consider asking for help.

On Wednesday 28th February, we begin a NEW programme called Alumina 2! This is for those of you who have ben through the first Alumina and would like further support dealing with your daily emotions and want to look at developing new coping skills for your emotional wellbeing.

All sessions are confidential and run by our counselling team.

To sign up email us at info@selfharm.co.uk

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Happy Valentine's Day! <3

Tiffany talks to us about Valentine's Day.

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This is about periods

‘That time of the month’? 

Very few women get used to periods without difficulty: it is a huge thing that happens to our bodies every month which we don’t have control over and it takes a lot of getting used to…

The hormone changes, the pain, the mood swings, the mid cycle pains and the plain inconvenience of periods can affect our wellbeing in a negative way – and the fact it is every month means sometimes we only just feel ‘back to normal’ when we go through it all again.

Therefore, sadly, it’s not surprising that this feeling of lack of control can lead to the increase of self-harming around the time of our periods: we all experience our bodies differently, our pain thresholds are different, our hormone levels fluctuate differently and our ability to manage such changes differs to – basically, just because your friend seems to cope with hers, doesn’t mean you should find your periods a doddle to cope with. 

Many young women tell us their self-harm increases around the periods – often a few days beforehand when the Pre-Menstrual Tension kicks in as our bodies shift in preparation for our periods. For some this means huge mood swings, feeling very low, many tears; for others, it is an increase in feeling angry and tense at everything and anything: these changes in mood, make you may feel out of control.

Then comes a week of having your period; the pain, feeling sick, possibly feeling unhappy with your body and annoyed at the issues it brings – P.E at school, staying over at a friend’s or just having to cope with life. The impact of periods is often over looked but the link between your period and your self-harm is worth exploring. 

Some thoughts and ideas:

  • Keep track of your period – use a phone app or a diary; how often do you have them? It will help you feel more prepared if you know roughly how many days it is between your periods.   
  • If you have very painful or irregular periods – you don’t have to put up with it. It might feel embarrassed to talk about, but, honestly, your doctor will not be embarrassed. There are medications for very heavy, painful or irregular periods – talk to your doctor.
  • Four days before your period is due make sure you get enough sleep, eat a good balanced diet and have a good pattern of relaxation. This will help your moods but also rest your body for the impact your period has on it.
  • Anything you can do to relax your body to relieve the muscle tension may help in your period – baths, gentle exercise, breathing techniques…try them all and work out what is best for you and your body.
  • During your period the urge to self-harm may increase: use distraction techniques, talk about your feelings, write about what’s happening in your body and your mood – see if you are able to make any links. Look after yourself, make sure you feel clean, dress comfortably, use relaxation apps or YouTube clips, eat well and healthily.

Sadly, there isn’t much research done about why self-harm increases just before your period but please, be assured, you aren’t alone in this.

via GIPHY

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My body, my choice

Rachel talks to us about being able to make choices about our bodies.

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When to go to Hospital...

*TRIGGER WARNING*

Occasionally, but not always, you might need to decide if you need immediate medical help. 

It could be that either accidentally, or deliberately, you have harmed yourself and now, you feel scared about the impact of it on your body.

It maybe that you need to dial 999 immediately: is your cut very deep and bleeding near an artery? Is your burn severe? Have you swallowed something? Get someone to call 999 or call it yourself. No one will be cross with you for taking up NHS time; it could save you.

If not 999 then:

Firstly – breathe. Slowly. Get control of your body by getting oxygen to your brain – I know it sounds stupid, but it’s harder to make rational decisions and deal with an emergency if you are in panic mode.

Secondly – if you are bleeding – press down on it firmly. Hold it there. If you need to, tie something above the injured area to stem the bleeping. If it’s a burn – run it under cold water for at least 20 mins, then wrap it in cling film.

Thirdly – if, after 20 mins, you are still bleeding/feel a burning sensation – get to the hospital.

If you are hesitant about what to say write down, or get someone to write down the following for you, so you don’t have to repeat yourself: your full name/school/address/GP/what you have done/how long ago/what you used, drank, swallowed, how long you have been self-harming. Doing this will help you loads and give medics the information they need immediately to know how to treat you.

If you do get taken to hospital, you may feel unwell on the way. Having someone with you will help you.

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Let's talk!

Talking is both over rated and under rated.

We ‘chat’ a lot – about weather, about bands, about what we saw on TV, about our friends, about clothes….

We ‘debate’ politics, religion, our own beliefs, what time we are allowed to stay out until…

But, do we actually ‘talk’?

Today is National ‘Time to Talk’ Day, so let’s do away with the ‘chat’, the ‘debate’, the ‘banter’ and talk.

Even if you talk to one person today, properly talk, that will help you – and them! Listening and talking is a conversation – it’s two way. We don’t talk into a vacuum (although when someone talks to me about cars, they might as well be!), we listen and then, we often share our own stories in response.

Today, when you start talking, you are giving someone else permission to talk too – it’s life giving for you and for them!

Start talking today! 

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Learning to say no

Rachel talks to us about learning to say no.

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I know how it is

The blog post below was written by Verity, a 24 year old wishing to share her story of recovery. She hopes you enjoy reading it, maybe it will inspire you to start your journey?

People wont believe me, they'll think I'm lying, I'm just an attention seeker.... Sound familiar? Read on.... 

I'm Verity, I'm 24 and this is MY story of self harm.

I know how it is, its the first thing you think of when you wake up, the thought of it is what keeps you going throughout the day. You need to relax, you need relief. You want nothing more than the sun to start setting so you can close your curtains, light a candle and begin.....

Do you wear a long sleeve top even though you know your going to get hot and sweaty. Or do you wear a short sleeve top and try your hardest to ignore those red lines, to ignore people looking at them.

I'm not writing this to tell you that self harming is wrong or that you need to stop doing it. I am simply writing this to tell you; I know how it is, I've been there and I wish to share my story of recovery. 

I know first hand how frustrating it is when someone sits in front of you and says... 'Go for a walk' …. 'Take a bath' ….. 'Read a book'. You look at the floor and nod your head, tears streaming down your face. Your trying to hold back your anger when all you want to do is stand up, scream and punch a hole through the wall so you can run away. Again, sound familiar? Please keep reading! 

Now, hear me out, recovery is not an overnight diary entry. It is a long process, a stop-start journey, a one step forward-two steps back hike.

It is a gradual process with many twists and turns, ups and downs.

That's okay. It okay to get better then worse again. Its okay to stop and then start again. Its okay, I know how it is.

You've got this far so you may as well keep reading....

How about starting off with lifestyle changes and to make that sound less scary, all I mean is, small routine adjustments;

Get Creative

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Use your free time to work on one (or however many!) of the following;

  • Make a scrap book. A place where you can glue and scribble! Thoughts, feelings, day or middle of the night. This is YOUR scrapbook.
  • Create a photo album. Have your favourite photos to hand, add to it daily. Write on the back of the photographs what the pictures mean to you.
  • Write a blog. The online blogging community is huge! It is a good way to connect with other fellow bloggers who are writing about a similar subject to you. You can blog about almost anything! [NEVER reveal any personal info about yourself.]
  • Start a journal or diary. This can be a day-by-day thing or it can be as and when you feel like it! Its a bit like a chance to write your own book, your story told by you.

Take care of yourself

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Try to do one of the following atleast twice a week;

  • Eat a piece of fruit or veg and perform a workout DVD or exercise video on YouTube (20 mins).
  • Eat a piece of fruit or veg and take a 20 minute walk. On this walk, I want you to make note of all the animals you see and make a conscious effort to spot little insects.
  • Eat a piece of fruit or veg and take 20 minutes to do something healthy for yourself. Make yourself a facemask or footmask, moisturise your skin, make a fruit smoothie. Get some goodness in you!   

Take time for you 

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Find something YOU love doing and make time to do it each week. Here are just a few ideas;

  • Take the scenic route and take pictures of natural beauty spots, views, statues, cool stones or leaves that you find. Capture it on camera!
  • Visit the free attractions/museums in and around the area you live in. Many cities will have historic ruins and/or museums which are free or very low-cost to explore!
  • Volunteer helping others. We rise by lifting others so offer an hour or 2 of your time doing something nice for someone else! Cleaning, gardening or simply making a cuppa tea! It may be through a church or a charitable organisation, reach out and see where it leads you!

You still with me? Good! Last little bit....

Now, I am well aware that these may not help everyone but I wanted to write this. For me. For YOU.

So go on, give it a go, give it a chance and see what happens. Start your recovery journey, you'll learn what works for you and what doesn't. That's the beauty of journeys. And who knows, maybe one day, it'll be you who is sat in bed, typing about YOUR story of self harm.

I know how it is.

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Why Blue Monday is stupid

I don’t know about you, but I’m having one of those days where everything makes me mad. Just this morning I woke up with a really bad headache, shouted at my mum about something really trivial, and spilled my drink all over the floor JUST as I was going out the door to work. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the traffic on my way to work is always busy, but this morning it seemed even more ridiculous than usual!

So when I FINALLY got to work, opened my emails and saw my colleague Jo had asked our team if anyone planned to write anything for the website about Blue Monday, I was not only mad at myself for not remembering, but also because Blue Monday is made up and shouldn’t actually exist!

Today is Monday 15th January, A.K.A. ‘Blue Monday’. It’s supposedly the most depressing day of the year and has been calculated using a formula which kind of looks like algebra. The date generally falls on the third Monday of January, but it can vary. Despite the formula for calculating Blue Monday looking very official, it actually has no foundation in scientific research whatsoever, and it was in fact made up by a PR company for a marketing concept to encourage consumers to book more holidays.

Concepts like Blue Monday can be dangerously misleading for people who struggle with mental health issues. I have anxiety and I know that those feelings aren’t dictated by what day of the month it is. I’m not having a bad day today because it’s Blue Monday, I’m having a bad day because bad days happen. I’m having a bad day because I’m feeling angry and frustrated, and I’ve labelled today in my head as being a bad day.

The term ‘Blue Monday is incredibly belittling to those of us who suffer from mental health issues as it implies that our struggles are comparable with ‘feeling a bit down’ and therefore do not need to be taken seriously.

Whatever you hear or read on social media today, remember that Blue Monday isn’t real. It’s a completely made up concept that has no baring over how you’re allowed to feel. If you are still worried though, here is a list I’ve created of really awesome films to watch that might help to boost your mood…   

Scott Pilgrim Vs The World

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Up

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Ferris Bueller's Day Off

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Forrest Gump

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Rush Hour

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Despicable Me

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Bridget Jones

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Reflections

The blog post below was written by Sophie, a Graduate Volunteer at Youthscape working alongside the SelfharmUK team. She hopes you find her thoughts around reflections helpful.

I’ve always found reflection difficult. Looking back over the past year is a big ask, because so much has changed. This has been the most transitional year in my life since I moved from my home town of Tunbridge Wells to Luton, over three years ago. I graduated university, moved out of halls and into a host family’s home, and started my first full time job. And with that huge shift in lifestyle, social circle, what’s expected of me, and pressures, there’s a measure of responsibility on me to say something profound about 2017.

This year has been a strange one. Losing the comfort of university was incredibly hard. I was very happy there, living with my friends, feeling as comfortable with my lecturers as I do with my own parents, staying up until the early hours of the morning with my friends, hanging in the kitchen, talking about our favourite TV show until the sun rose. As a writer, it’s not often I’m lost for words, but finding a way to describe how difficult it was to leave university is impossible.

So, that’s one of the most important things this year has taught me – quite literally, how to move on. I had no choice but to learn, because it was the year of my graduation. Bar locking myself in my student halls over the summer and still attending lectures in the new academic year, there was nothing I could do to keep things the way they were.

I graduated with a first in Creative Writing, and was blessed enough to move straight from university to a full-time voluntary position at Youthscape. To say that it’s been easy would be an outright lie. I was having a discussion with my old lecturer the other day, explaining how it’s been at work, and she said it sounded like it’s been a culture shock for me. And she’s absolutely right.

That’s the second thing I’ve learned in 2017 – how to adjust to the challenges life throws at you, when you start living outside of your bubble. I’ve needed to take on responsibilities in my job that I never thought I would be capable of. I’ve found that I’m actually not bad at leading small groups of young people, and I can cope with a 40 hour a week schedule! Where I’ve had issues with that schedule, I’ve talked to the necessary people, and got things fixed.

Speaking of the necessary people, I have realised, this year, that I’m surrounded by a wonderful support network. People from church, my family, my friends, my lecturers, and my new colleagues, have all helped me in even the smallest ways. I know that, going into 2018, I will continue to utilise the people around me, and take the help they offer without guilt. Everyone needs help now and again, and there’s no shame in that.

I remember seeing 2017 in at my university halls. I was the only one there, because nobody else had moved in yet, and I was standing in our kitchen with a large mug of tea, watching the fireworks, feeling sorry for myself because I was alone. I knew that I was going to start working at Youthscape after graduating, but graduation itself seemed like a lifetime away. And now, here I am, 11 months later, having graduated and moved out of halls, writing this post in the middle of a beautiful open-plan office. It’s funny, how these things happen.

Looking back on 2017, how would you say it’s been for you? Mostly positive, or mostly negative? And, moving into 2018, which lessons from this year do you want to bring?

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Anxiety at Christmas

David talks to us about anxiety over Christmas.

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Happy Christmas?

The blog post below was written by Sophie, a previous Graduate Volunteer with SelfharmUK and Youthscape.

I’m not usually someone who gets really excited for Christmas Day. For as long as I can remember, I was always at my mum’s for half of the day and my dad’s for the other half. I never really had a problem with having two homes – it was quite nice sometimes! But Christmas is the time when having a broken family is highlighted. Seeing other people’s festive photos would get to me. Obviously I knew not everyone was having the perfect Christmas, but seeing friends having big, ‘perfect’ family do’s would just remind me that I didn’t have that. At one house, it was almost like people were trying to play happy families when it wasn’t the case at all. It just felt forced and awkward.

I don’t find it as much of an issue now, and I’m even prepared for the drama I know will take place this year! But around Christmastime, feelings are automatically triggered for me based on how I’ve experienced Christmas in the past. So over the years it’s become normal to not feel the best during this time, but it’s something that is changing!

A few years ago, I was out with some friends and the place where we were, happened to have a Christmas themed night (bearing in mind it was April, so I don’t know what was going on there!) They’d play a Christmas song every few songs and it got to the point where I had to take a step outside as it was just making me feel down. Of course, everyone LOVED it, and they were dancing around, singing at the top of their lungs. I thought everyone liked Christmas, until one of my friends joined me outside. I explained why I was out there, and she turned to me and shared how she didn’t really like Christmas that much either. She was just going along with it, having a sing and dance. It was SO refreshing to hear I wasn’t the only one in there pretending.

However you are feeling this Christmas, you are not alone.

Did you know that it’s okay to not be okay at Christmas?

It sometimes seems like we have to be so joyful at Christmas, so we put on fake smiles and go along with the festivities when really, for some, it’s a time of pain, anxiety, stress. Perhaps Christmas reminds you that a loved one is no longer with you, perhaps it reminds you of how broken your family is. There are many reasons why Christmas may not be the happiest time of the year for you, and that’s totally okay.

The thing is, it’s pretty hard to avoid Christmas altogether, but there are always ways you can try and make it easier for yourself.

Knowing that the urge to self harm is usually heightened at Christmas can give you the upper hand as it won’t catch you off guard. It means you can come up with a number of distractions and other ways to cope in those moments. You can find some suggestions here. Take time for yourself this Christmas – you don’t have to fake how you’re feeling.

This year I’m choosing to shift my focus from the things I don’t like about Christmas, to the things I’m thankful for, appreciating what I do have rather than what I don’t. I want to be thinking more about the real meaning of Christmas rather than being so caught up in my own circumstances. I’m going to make more time for self-care; doing things that help energise and fill me rather than drain me.

A YouTuber I’ve found to be really helpful is Kati Morton. She is a licenced therapist and creates videos on a broad range of topics surrounding mental health and answers questions from her viewers. My particular favourite this year is a video where she gives some handy tips on how you can stay mindful at Christmas...

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Expectations and dread...

Some people like this lead up to Christmas, some (like me and my family!), really don’t!

The Christmas decorations look pretty and the shops get busier and the Christmas feeling is in the air – but it doesn’t make me get the warm Christmas glow; in fact it begins to make me stressed right from the moment it starts…

The pressure for the perfect film like Christmas family gathering is unachievable – the perfect family game time; the perfect present wrapping, the perfect friends to go out with, the perfect family to share it will – perfection doesn’t exist, in any place at any time.

The media Christmas portrayal adds to our sense of dread – the pressure to smile, laugh, not row, not feel sad – can make us feel very detached from Christmas: so this year, in the lead up here are some tips:

1. Ignore TV films and adverts! We aren’t going to reach a Hollywood Christmas ideal – so let’s not bother. Watch Elf and comedies – they keep a good perspective on it!

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2. Try to imagine Christmas day now – what works for you? Do you need to communicate any of that to your family – who don’t you want to see over Christmas? How long do you have to visit relatives for? Begin to start the conversations now so they don’t come as a shock to your family – take control and be prepared to compromise.

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3. Make stuff – loads and loads of stuff! Don’t buy it, make it. Keep your hands and mind busy, the  personal stuff doesn’t need to cost much nor does it have to be perfect – enjoy the process and the result.

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4. Don’t give yourself sky high expectations of yourself over Christmas. If you need to take regular breaks from family, do it. Look after yourself now so that you have the energy for it as it gets closer; plan out the Christmas holidays so that you get a good balance of rest and play.

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Love,

The SelfharmUK Team

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Because I can

Caroline wrote this blog about her experience walking 630 miles along the South West Coast path in a year, and raising £1150 for SelfharmUK! She hopes what she's achieved will encourage and inspire you.  

Walking the South West Coast path has been the most challenging thing I have ever done. 630 miles in one year on some of the toughest terrain on any National trail was quite a daunting prospect, but I was determined that I would ‘conquer’ it. When asked why I reply simply “because I can”.

During the walk I crossed 230 bridges, opened and closed 880 gates, climbed over 436 stiles, and went up or down over 30,000 steps.

I fell over numerous times, fortunately landed on my bum most times, I broke my shoulder bone and I broke my leg … fortunately it was my prosthetic one!!!

Raising money for charity was an important part of this walk and I chose to raise money for selfharmUk as they are close to my heart. 

I self-harmed for a while when I was younger and never understood why. SelfharmUK has some amazing resources and I wish that they had been so easily available to me. Now a member of my family has recently self harmed and has found the resources available extremely helpful. 

I started out wanting a personal challenge and I have to say that this has certainly been that.  From open clifftop paths, to muddy woodland trails, through beautiful picturesque villages, to long sandy beaches. I’ve seen tin mines, caves and hidden coves, seals, skylarks and surfers, lighthouses, fishing boats, lots and lots of water and so much more!  

It has been a walk and an experience of a lifetime and although it was extremely tough at times it has been thoroughly rewarding and a thrill to be able to support SelfharmUK along the way.

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Movember

Rob talks to us about Movember.

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Dear Reader (Part 2)

The blog post below was written by a lovely lady called Emma, who got in touch with SelfharmUK to share her story about her recovery from bulimia and self-harm. You can read the first part of Emma's Dear Reader blog here.

Dear Reader,

How are you doing? It’s a long time since I last wrote to you. And what a journey it has been. I returned to the UK from abroad earlier this year, and that meant a change in my medication. Tailing off one set and onto the other has been really hard. I don’t know how you’d explain it to someone who doesn’t have to medicate - but the nearest thing I can say is that it’s like a very, very, long bout of the flu. I get tired a LOT and have been a bit frustrated with how fuzzy my mind has been. In fact, it took me six weeks to write this, so you can see what I mean!

However, I have been making some great progress too. A friend of mine introduced me to Elaine Aron’s Book “The Undervalued Self: Restore Your Love/Power Balance, Transform the Inner Voice That Holds You Back, and Find Your True Self-Worth”. Wow, there’s a title!

Well, this book has really helped me to understand that I haven’t been imagining my anxiety; or been dramatic. Over the years, a lot of people wanted me to just ‘snap out’ of it and get better. Even now, a lot of friends who love me keep asking me when I will get off my meds.

That book has some useful lists of things that helped me to work out that there are some root causes from when I was very young, which led to me feeling that I was rubbish and unlovable. They are not things that people did to me knowingly; but they are things that resulted in me feeling bad about myself. Throw in a bit of bullying at school, a few insensitive bosses, a couple of medical traumas, and - BOOM - full-blown anxiety was kind of inevitable.

The best bit about understanding some of the reasons WHY I have ended up with anxiety is that I am finding it easier to let those reasons go. Like I said, it wasn’t done on purpose (mainly) and even the hurt that was deliberate came from people who were hurting so much on the inside that it’s not surprising that they chose to hurt others for release. Like I said in my last letter, I do believe that those of us who turn the anger INSIDE by self-harming do so to prevent ourselves from hurting others. Some may think it’s mad, but I think it’s brave!

BUT, part of letting go of what made me hurt myself is understanding that there ARE valid reasons for my pain. Despite what other have told me over the years, I am not insane, paranoid, intense, mad, selfish, bad, wicked, stupid, crazy…. nope. I was HURT. So emotionally hurt that only physical pain could distract me. Other people drink or take drugs; my refuge was scarring myself.

This month I had a major breakthrough that I wanted to celebrate with you. After more than 25 years of self-harm (it started with my back, but over the years I have worked on my arms, face, neck, head, legs… you name it), I want to share with you a photo of me FREE from self-harm. There may be relapses, but I definitely have found that by finally really facing the root causes of my feelings of worthlessness, a lot of the emotional pain has lifted; and with it, my old urges to hurt myself have almost disappeared.

It will take a long time for all the internal and external scars to heal; but for the first time in my life, I KNOW, beyond all doubt - that I can do this! And, I promise you, you can too. Keep living through it - it really DOES start to get better.

Much love, always,

Emma

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Hope

Anna wrote this blog to challenge the stigma and myths associated with self-harm and to provide inspiration for people who are struggling to have hope that things will get better. Through reading this, she hopes that people will find the strength to reach out for support, stop fighting with their past and start looking forward to a positive future.

When you hear the term ‘self-harm’ what are the first words that come to mind? Attention seeking? Emo? Suicidal? 9 years ago I held the same stereotypical beliefs that a huge percentage of the general population do; that self-harm is attention seeking behaviour that only a certain group of people engage in. But the reality is very different.

I first cut myself when I was 17 years old. I was struggling with Anorexia and depression and was in unbearable pain and distress. I was in recovery but didn’t want to be. I was gaining weight but wanted more than ever to fade away and disappear. Crouched on the bathroom floor, all I could see around me was blackness and I needed to escape; to survive. And that is where self-harm came in.

After that first episode, self-harm became a daily occurrence for me. Often I would cut up to 6 times a day, whenever I was made to eat and needed to dissuade the guilt and fear and self-hatred. I would carry a blade with me everywhere I went. I became terrified of being without a means of harming myself, in case the feelings came and I had no way of escaping from them. From cutting to burning and everything in between, I was constantly needing to find new ways to harm myself, to get the relief I had felt the first time.

Over the next 4 years, life was a roller coaster. I was in and out of inpatient and day patient hospitals for Anorexia and Bulimia, attempted suicide multiple times, scarred my arms beyond recognition and no longer knew who I was. I had no hope for the future and no strength to keep living. I was just waiting to die.

And then I met someone who changed that all around. He made me smile and laugh for the first time in years. I felt happy like I never had before. I had hope again and I had someone that made all the pain bearable. It wasn’t an instant change. It was slow, and difficult and sometimes it all felt like too much. But that spark of hope was what kept me going, and that was the foundation for Hope Not Self Harm.

One evening, an idea from my fiancé became a reality, and we created the Instagram page Hope Not Self Harm; giving inspiration, advice and support to people going through, not just self-harm, but pain and distress of all kinds. We receive comments from people on an almost daily basis, saying how the little bit of positivity that we spread makes a world of difference to their day, and how, just as I found in my recovery, that one little spark of hope can be all it takes to stop someone giving up on their darkest days.

Now when I hear the term ‘self-harm’ I think of pain, and distress and hurt, but also of hope and strength and courage. Through Hope Not Self Harm, I hope that one day everyone can understand what self-harm actually is, and also what recovery can be. 

You can follow Hope Not Self Harm on Instagram here.

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In the future

Oliver shares with us some of their own journey around their self-harm.

When I self-harmed, I didn’t think about anything else. I only wanted to deal with the pain there and then. I wanted to feel something except numb.

Now, a few years later. I can feel. Some days I feel sad. Some days I feel happy. Mostly, I feel just OK.

One thing I do feel is sad about the damage I did. I have over 150 scars all over my body. I was in such a bad way at the time it never ever ever entered my head about what they would look like in the future.

I have used bio oil and when I am getting dressed up, I use Dermacol which covers really well. But most days, I live with my scars. They are my battle scars – I am a survivor. Just as people come back from war with scars; these are mine. They are a sign of victory. They also make me sad sometimes.

I never thought about the future when I was in a very bad place mentally; I kind of wish I had.

I went from self-harming to starving myself. From external scars, to internal scars. 

The internal scars have healed well emotionally – I got help from my family and professionals – but I am left with some long term internal scars too.

My heart has been affected by not eating, it’s been left weak and with heart palpations. I didn’t know that I would be scarred internally and externally, because I didn’t care at that point.

Now – I am well; I kind of like my visible scars because they give me permission to tell my story. It helps others understand that self-harmers aren’t crazy or anything to be scarred of; they want to find a new way of living and find enjoyment in life.

My internal scar (my weak heart) is harder to live with.

In the future, take a moment to think about you. Your body. Your future.

You have one, and you might not want to have the long term affects.

Alumina can help you think about why you are self-harming, so you can stop before you have too many scars. Inside and out.

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Luton Half Marathon

Hey, I’m John and I’m a local pastor in Luton. On the 29th October I’ll be running the Luton Half Marathon to raise money for SelfharmUK. Here’s why.

I was in the cafe part of our church just a couple of days ago. I was chatting to one of our regulars and they were telling me about their childhood. He said because of pressure and home and at school, he began to resent who he was. He felt extreme anxiety when he went out to meet with people and felt like it took longer and longer to put on his “happy mask”  when he he went outside. He said he began to self harm early in life because it was easier to release the tension in his body than it was to release the tension in his mind. 

On one hand, his story isn’t the first I have heard. I think many people I know could talk about someone they care about who might self harm or who might have experienced in a friend or family member. On the other hand, every single story makes me stop and catch my breath. It’s not normal, and it shouldn’t ever become normalised. Something is very wrong here.

I don’t want to pretend I know all about the problem. I don’t. It’s big and complex. But I want to raise as much cash as I can for SelfharmUK because they believe in young people living full lives. They believe that the next generation could grow up to love themselves and their Alumina programme is making a huge difference in the amount of young people who can access help and support. 

I’m not a very good runner and this run has cost me hours of training, hours away from my family and I have often come home feeling that little people have been punching my legs. But we are excited about trying to reach a big target. So SelfharmUK and I would appreciate all the donations and social shares you can offer us. Also, if you are in Luton on 29th October, come out and support with a bag of jelly babies!

You can sponsor John here.

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Anger

Matt talks to us about Anger.

SelfharmUK vlog: Anger
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World Mental Health Day 2017 #dontfilterfeelings

Today is World Mental Health Day

In order to be fully human we have physical wellbeing and mental and emotional wellbeing.

In the same way you sometimes get a cold, hurt your wrist or break a leg: we all get emotionally unwell at some point. 

Physically we can see when someone isn’t well – from their pale looking skin, to a arm cast to a wheelchair – it’s obvious when someone needs additional support due to their physical illness. Often it might only be a day or two off school, sometimes it needs hospital treatment – it’s a sliding scale of needing extra physical care.

Mental care is the same – it’s a huge scale. From having a ‘bad day’ to sleeplessness to depression – the scale is huge and, sadly, at some point, we might find ourselves needing some additional support, but, because it’s unseen we can be tempted not to ask for it. 

Hiding our feelings can make us feel worse. Feeling low can easily move into depression and anxiety issues.

Anxiety isn’t just the feeling of ‘being a bit worried’, it’s an overwhelming sense of dread or fear that stops you from enjoying life and may limit where you go because you come so anxious you can’t control it.

Panic attacks are the body’s way of holding up a ‘red card’, of saying ‘STOP’.

If you ever experience any of these things then you are most probably struggling with your anxiety, and because it’s hidden inside of you, others may not be aware of it. It may not happen every day, but possibly about the same thing each time or in the same situation:

  • a feeling of panic
  • heart racing
  • sweating
  • breathlessness
  • tight chest
  • clenching fists
  • feeling like crying
  • needing to run away.

When these feelings come into our body, it can be hard to take control. Don’t filter your feelings:

  • tell someone you are feeling panicky
  • if you can, take yourself away from the situation you are in
  • breathe, breathe, breathe – Slowly in and out. The temptation to breathe fast won’t allow your brain to get the oxygen it needs; slow breaths in and out
  • if you feel light headed, put your head down
  • try not to talk but concentrate your body on breathing and relaxing your muscles
  • once your breathing is slowing, work on relaxing every muscle in your body.

Once the feeling has subsided:

  • communicate  - if talking about it starts you feeling panicky again, write it down. Try and think back to what started it (it might not be the think you thought it was)
  • take control – write yourself an action plan – what can YOU do? Is there a situation or person that added to your distress? If so, how can that/they be avoided?
  • draw a stick person – where did you first feel the anxiety in your body? (sweaty hands, clenched fists, headache, heart racing). Write an action plan for what actions you can take when you begin to recognize that feeling in your body
  • give someone a copy of your action plan – someone who might be with you when it happens, include in it how you would like them to help (not talk to you, get you water, stay with you).

Long term anxiety needs specialised help. If you are finding yourself having panic attacks often, not sleeping, struggling with food issues: you may need to think about getting specialised help before things get worse. There are some great people out there who can help, we suggest you visit anxiety.org.uk for more info.

Love,

The SelfharmUK Team

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New website!

Welcome to our brand-new website! We are so excited to be sharing with you all the weeks and months of work we have been doing to try and get this right. The first thing that you may notice is that we now have three very specific areas for the main people that visit our site. This is so you can feel totally at home sharing any stories or questions you have, knowing that parents and professionals won’t see it. Please be aware if we are really worried about you we may need to pass this information on.

To post content and to see what other people have posted you must be logged in, you can do this by clicking the register button and filling in the form that follows. 

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Please give us honest information, we may need this in the future to help keep you safe.

We want you to feel at home here, we want to try and help you build a safe online community that helps you begin to share how you are feeling about your self-harm and meet other people who can help you in this journey. Sometimes we will comment on your posts, but overall, we want you to have the space to help and support each other where you can.

The site is broken down into different places for you to get the help and support you need we have our main chat space where you can upload appropriate pictures, questions and tell us your story. When you post on that page you get to choose your colour background, your font and picture so it feels more personal to you. 

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We want you to feel supported in your times of crisis and have somewhere to take your concerns and fears when you feel lost and alone. This main chat forum and space is for you to help and support one another. This will be monitored, please remember we are all about pro-recovery here so be sensitive and supportive to everyone needs.

We will also be hosting live chat sessions where we will look at a whole series of topics from anxiety to LGBTQ+ to depression and many more. These sessions will start on the 1st November 2017 at 7pm. They will run for approximately 30-40 minutes and will be held once a week on a Wednesday evening. These are completely informal and will be hosted in a chat room format. We would love you to come along when you can. You can find the links to these chat rooms and a little bit about what we will be discussing that week under the help button on the main page of our website.

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Finally, when you are ready we have our weekly support group called Alumina, you can find information about this and sign up under the Alumina tab in the main menu. This is a more intentional form of support and we would love to welcome you when you feel ready.

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If you have any questions, concerns or suggestions please contact us at info@selfharm.co.uk and we will try and see if we can help. We really want you to feel supported in this journey and have the space to share your experience. Be sure to follow us on Instagram and like us on Facebook

Love,

The SelfharmUK Team x

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Kelly's battle with Self-harm

Dame Kelly Holmes; seven times gold medallist, Olympic extraordinaire and exceptional athlete, Kelly has worked incredibly hard for all she has achieved and I’m sure there has been sacrifices along the way.

This weekend Kelly revealed that in the lowest point of her life she turned to self-harm. Her exact words in the interview were “At my lowest, I was cutting myself with scissors every day that I was injured to cope with my emotional anguish”

There can be many reasons why people begin to self-harm and the pressure that Kelly felt in those weeks and months would have been devastating and all consuming, she had no other way to deal with the emotional pain she was carrying and her self-harm was the only thing that helped her to cope.

I think this is another stark reminder that it is not just 14-year-old girls who self-harm, but that it can affect anyone at any stage in their life, whatever circumstance they find themselves in. Kelly Holmes is not an attention seeker, she is not crazy, she was just totally unable to process the divesting news that she may not compete again. I would imagine she felt lonely and completely out of control.

Feeling out of control is something a lot of the young people we work with feel and can lead them to harm. This story is also a reminder that all people regardless of what they do for a living or their worldly status can feel lonely, isolated and out of control.

This interview does however end with a light at the end of the tunnel, she kept going and got the help and support she needed. With this support, Kelly managed to stop harming, this is remarkable and I think offers real hope for anyone who currently finds themselves in a dark and lonely place. This is not to say the road to recovery is easy and doesn’t take a lot of time and perseverance, but it does remind us it is possible. We must be ready to share how we are feeling with someone in our lives to begin our journey of change and healing. This is not easy, but is necessary to begin to process how we bring about change.

This should also challenge us to think about our own recovery, so ask yourself:

  • What are the things that are causing you to try to gain some control?
  • How does controlling food help to make things better?
  • What things may need to change for the need to control to fade?

If you would like to gain some support about self-harm you can sign up to Alumina, our six-week support programme.

We also have books to help with the self-harm recovery which you can purchase via our store.

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4 things you need to know when you've been diagnosed with a mental health problem

The article below was written by Mike Jones, a fighter against mental illness stigma. By creating www.schizlife.com, he hopes to shed some light on the symptoms of schizophrenia, how to help someone dealing with it, as well as the stereotypes surrounding this disorder.

A diagnosis of a mental health problem can feel like a ton of bricks has just come pounding down around you. Things might feel overwhelming, almost as if the world is spinning out of control. You might be wondering if things will ever get better. Don't worry, all of this is completely normal. The most important thing to remember is that you really are in control of your life.

1.    You are not the only one and your mental health problem does not define you

When you look around, it might seem as if you're the only person dealing with something this difficult. You couldn't be more mistaken. One out of every ten children faces a similar battle. Demi Lovato, Angelina Jolie, Russel Brand, and Kristin Bell have all struggled with mental health issues. It's simply more common than you think. Just because you don't hear your friends talking about it doesn't mean they aren't grappling with their own mental health difficulties.

You're a complex person with unique talents, likes, dislikes, and tastes. Maybe you're creative, a great friend, or an amazing artist. Do you despise tomatoes, love pasta, and adore dogs? Whoever you are, you already were, before learning of your mental health diagnosis. Your gifts and talents are still there. And whatever you love to hate, is too! Your mental illness is just as much a part of you as your gifts, talents, and pet peeves. All of these things together create the amazing person you are, but no single one defines you. Your mental illness is not who you are.

2.    Knowing your diagnosis gives you power

A mental health diagnosis names the thoughts and behaviors that have been getting in the way of your goals and dreams. Now you have the opportunity to take control of your life. Knowledge is power. With your diagnosis, you have access to important information and resources that will allow you to determine how to face the obstacles created by your mental health.

You're in the driver's seat now. You get to choose how to address this challenge. On the Be Vocal website, Demi Lovato describes her feelings and the actions she took after finding out about her mental illness. "Getting a diagnosis was kind of a relief. It helped me start to make sense of the harmful things I was doing to cope with what I was experiencing. Now I had no choice but to move forward and learn how to live with it, so I worked with my health care professional and tried different treatment plans until I found what works for me." That worked out pretty well for her!

3.    What other people think is not your problem

Having a strong social support network is extremely important when it comes to managing your mental health problem. Don't allow the stigma associated with mental health to convince you to accept a sense of shame and stop reaching out to people. Take responsibility for your own sense of safety. You decide who to talk to, how much to disclose, and under what circumstances.

A random individual's inability to behave rationally says nothing about you and a great deal about them. Understand that your judgement in these matters will never be perfect. That's part of the learning process. Over time it will become easier and you'll get better at learning who to trust, how much to disclose, and under what circumstances you feel comfortable discussing things that make you vulnerable. But never stop building your tribe.

4.    You still get to decide who you want to be

Part of growing up, even for teens without mental health struggles, is figuring out how to exist as a unique individual in this world. What kind of person do you want to be? What footprint do you want to leave? Do you want to be someone who lives in fear? Or do you want to rise to the challenge of honoring the entirety of who you are? Do you have the courage to refuse to allow others to treat you in ways lacking in courtesy and respect? Do you know how to set limits while still remaining faithful to your own values?

Dealing with a diagnosis of mental illness forces you to consciously address these questions now instead of later. This gives you an opportunity to walk consciously and with grace into adulthood. Your diagnosis has given you the chance to begin asking and answering the questions that give a life meaning. Find your answers and then systematically implement them in the way you structure your days.

You always have choices. Always. Mental illness does not take away your power. Don't let anyone tell you that it does. You are strong enough to manage this. Ask questions, reach out, make decisions, and shape your own life. How are you going to face this? What's your plan of action? What steps are you going to take to soften the sharp and painful edges of the symptoms of your mental illness so that you stay on top of its ups and downs? No one is saying that this will be easy. But it absolutely can be done.

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Sexuality and Self-harm

Lahna talks to us about Sexuality and Self-harm

SelfharmUK vlogs: Sexuality and Self-harm

 Some useful links:

SelfharmUK (that's us!): selfharm.co.uk

Mermaids (Trans* charity): mermaids.org.uk

Albert Kennedy Trust (LGBTQ+ charity): akt.org.uk

Stonewall (LGBTQ+ charity): stonewall.org.uk

Mind (Mental Health Charity): mind.org.uk

Childline (Child Support Charity): childline.org.uk or 0800 1111 or app "For You"

Young Minds (Mental Health Charity): youngminds.org.uk or Parents Helpline 0808-802-5544

For LGBTQ+ groups near you
 

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Self-harm and School #educating

Has anyone been watching ‘Educating Manchester’?

There was a lovely girl on there who was having a crud time – her background was tough, sad and difficult. Teachers were trying to support her but she wanted desperately to leave school, stay home and manage life her way.

She was self-harming.

As her story unfolded, we heard her pain – she lost her mum at a very young age, bought up brilliantly by grandad, struggled with her emotions and education wasn’t a priority in her life: getting through each day was.

Because her grandad showed her love, because her teachers showed her care, because her friend’s sought help for her; she was able to allow a teacher to clean and cover her cuts. She was able to tell them how low she was feeling and how she needed more help in school and coping with Year 11 pressure.

Wow – we thought. What difference those teachers were able to make by listening to her, working with her grandad, allowing her express her feelings and even question whether School was right for her. No teacher pressured her, no one shouted at her or judged her.

Teachers can offer more than an English lesson or advice about career choices: they can offer care, support, a listening ear and as trust worthy adults.

Adults go into teaching because they believe in supporting, guiding and caring for young people. At SelfharmUK, we train teachers to help young people struggling with self-harm, because, we believe, that by working with us, we can help you more.

Today, have a think – is there a teacher you could trust with your story? 

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Quiet – shhhh…

We have heard it from parents, teachers and librarians countless times in our lives and, sadly, often negatively, in a ‘don’t make any noise’ sense!

How about ‘quiet’ in a positive way? ‘quiet’ said in a soothing, gentle way encourages us to relax, breathe and slow down.

Silence and quiet are things that are hard to achieve – maybe we don’t enjoy our own company; maybe we like to keep busy and have background noise constantly; maybe silence isn’t something we are comfortable with?

If silence isn’t something you feel comfortable with it, try it in small amounts to begin with. Thursday 14th September is National Quiet Day, a day all about encouraging you to find a place that feels safe and comfortable where you can relax (or maybe even fall asleep, as that’s what tends to happen when we find places that are quiet!).

Finding quiet in our noisy, crammed lives is hard. It is a discipline we have to learn to take time to listen to what our feelings are saying, what our thoughts are wanting us to ponder and what our body is trying to tell us about how we are doing physically.

You might find sitting with your own thoughts uncomfortable; perhaps all your thoughts and feelings come flooding into your head? That’s ok – write them down, tackle them one by one and give yourself time to think through each feeling that comes into your thoughts. Acknowledge it. Name the feeling. Validate it in the way you would let a friend know you understand them – give yourself permission to feel.

Perhaps finding your quiet place will allow you to draw or sing your thoughts? Hey, no one needs to see or hear you (that’s the joy of a quiet place!), so if you want to sing, shout, cry or laugh – do!

Perhaps reading will allow you some time to read for pleasure? Read slowly enjoying each paragraph. Find a book you loved as a child and go back to it.

Perhaps learning to breathe slower, deeper so your lungs are filled like a balloon might help you relax your muscles, your brain and anxieties?

Quiet offers us the ability to listen to ourselves. Giving yourself the gift of quiet allows you to give you what you give to some many others: your concentration, your love and your thoughts.

This year, why not use National Quiet Day to find some quiet to be with yourself?

If you already have your very own quiet place - we’d love to see it! This could be anything from that bench that you always find peaceful on your daily dog walk, that patch of grass on top of that hill with the best view near your house, your sofa at home or even that place you always like to sit at your favourite cafe. Send your images to info@selfharm.co.uk and we’ll post the best ones on our Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter on the day in the hope of inspiring others to find their own quiet places.

You can also follow the hashtag on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. #NationalQuietDay

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World Suicide Prevention Day 2017

Words matter, don’t they?

They have the power to inspire hope or induce despair in seconds.

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day, and at ThinkTwice we believe that the words we use to describe the despair of thoughts of suicide are important.

It’s thought that up to a quarter of young people have suicidal thoughts - and yet so many suffer in silence  - afraid of the stigma that can be attached to suicide.

When we use phrases like “commit suicide” or “failed suicide attempt” we make it seem unspeakable.

And yet suicide isn’t a crime to be committed; it’s a preventable tragedy; and the way we prevent it is by talking about it.

When we talk about suicide, we want to be talking about hope, because where there is life there is hope.

Having thoughts of suicide doesn’t make you a bad person, it doesn’t mean you’re crazy, it just means you’re struggling.

And that’s okay.

It’s okay to speak out when you’re struggling - because when you speak out you allow yourself to be helped - and you help to lessen the stigma.

It doesn’t matter whether you talk to a teacher or a parent - what matters is that you talk about it.

If you’re the one hearing your friend speak about suicide, it can feel scary, but you aren’t alone.

Whether you're struggling yourself or it’s your friend - there are people you can talk to.

So this World Suicide Prevention Day we are encouraging everyone to speak of suicide and to speak of hope.

To find out more about our campaign head to ThinkTwice or follow the hashtag on Twitter #SpeakofSuicide #WSPD17 

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Starting Again and Again and Again

September brings new challenges for many of us – a new term isn’t just back at school or college, it’s all the changes it brings. New classes, new teachers, different people in our classes, a change in timetable, pressured teachers pressuring us to do well, and the hope that this year we will ‘do better’.

What if you don’t need to ‘do better’? what if actually just ‘doing enough’ is good enough this year for you? Pressure to achieve and fear of failure is a big reason why so many of us struggle with our mental health – we are scared that we won’t make the grades, fit in with the right people, that others are better than us, we want to make our family proud and then, sadly, we take it out on ourselves if we think we aren’t ‘doing better’ this year.

So, let’s turn it around this academic year – what if you teach yourself to hear this statement every time you are told about how hard you are going to have to work this academic year: ‘ just do enough, by your own standards’ (this isn’t in any way your ticket to ‘don’t care and just fly by the seat of your pants’!), it’s an instruction to learn something new this year:

Be gentle with yourself. There is only one you.

Good enough might not get you the grades you want but it might just keep you well enough to be able to cope with how you are feeling.

Good enough might just relieve the deep pressure that keeps you awake at night.

Good enough might allow you time to flourish outside of academic pressure and develop new skills on things you are passionate about.

Good enough means that it doesn’t matter how many times you have to ‘start again’, each time is good enough because each day, you are doing good enough.

You are more than ‘good enough’, you really are - whether you believe it not.

As we all start again, have hope that this year, however many times you need to start again in your journey coping with self-harm; it is good enough.

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Alumina Summer Programme - Anxiety

Laura talks to us about anxiety

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Alumina Summer Programme - Depression

Ruth talks to us about depression. 
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Hollyoaks: self-harm on TV

Yeah, I know, some people love it and some hate it! Hollyoaks is the marmite of soap operas :0

It is the only soap we watch in my house of 2 teenagers. Why? Because we love the fact that it represents gay people, straight people, mental health issues and race issues far more than anything else on TV (unproportionally so, I know!).

There’s a story line at the moment about Lily Drinkwell (yep, that is her name!) who has begun self-harming after numerous issues in her life: mum dying, boyfriend issues, rejection and body image. It shows the complexity of the emotions: it isn’t ever juts one thing that leads a person to begin to self-harm: it is many, many things that have all layered upon each other to create a set of complex emotions that a person feels are out of control.

Lily impulsively self-harmed the first time: it wasn’t planned, she hadn’t expected to do it. In our experience at SelfharmUK, this is often the way: the first time isn’t thought through but is reaction to huge feelings of strong emotions. Lily then feels guilty and ashamed afterwards: her aunt notices blood on the towel and insists she gets medical attention. This, is where soap opera land differs from real life: for many young people, their self-harm isn’t noticed for some time. It then becomes a coping strategy to deal with those emotions that aren’t going away, but are, in fact, becoming more layered, due to the guilt of self-harming and fear of being ‘found out’.

If this is you, if you are in this cycle, whether it’s been a one off self-harm, or whether you feel you are stuck in this never ending cycle of harming; feeling bad; feeling guilty; harming to release the feelings…; we want to support you.

At SelfharmUK we are pretty unshockable, we don’t judge you, we don’t tell anyone (unless we urgently need to for safety). We aren’t about how TV portrays self-harm; we are about the reality of it: the long haul, no quick fixes, giving you information on looking after yourself and your injuries, ideas about pulling apart those emotions positively with trained people: we are about what you are about.

We listen; we chat; we offer help; we offer ideas of new ways; we help you consider what’s going on in those layers of emotions so that you can, when you want to, find a new way of coping with those strong, real and confusing feelings.

We run a safe place online, called Alumina, where trained people can support you. 

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Alumina Summer Programme - Relationships

Jess talks to us about Relationships

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Alumina Summer Programme - Coping with scars

Jo talks to us about coping with scars.

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The pressure got to me

Rebekah Wilson is an Olympic athlete: a physically strong, able bodied woman who is amongst the elite to be able to compete for her country. However, in this interview with BBC news, Rebekah tells what life behind closed doors was like for her; the pressure to achieve; the feel of failure. She talks about recognising she needed help to overcome self-harm as being one of her biggest life challenges.

You can watch Rebekah's interview here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/winter-sports/40738768


If, once you have watched Rebekah’s interview, you would like to get in touch to chat, to find support or to ask a question; please email info@selfharm.co.uk
 

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Alumina Summer Programme - Introduction

Jo Introduces us to the programme and what to expect over the summer.

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Alumina Summer Programme - Medication

Jo talks to us about managing medication.

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I cut myself to live

“ I cut myself to live, not die”: A response to Chester Bennington’s death.

This is a quote from a young person we worked with at SelfharmUK. It is the voice of hundreds of teenagers who are using self-harm to live; self-harm is a coping strategy, for a time, until those thoughts, feelings and pressures become resolved.

For most, it passes – for some quicker than others, for some not until later in life, very occasionally it’s a life-long coping strategy.

Today, Chester Bennington from Linkin Park took his life. A life filled with abuse from a young age which led to drug and alcohol issues, which in turn led to long bouts of depression – the most recent it seems, linked to his friend’s suicide attempt. It makes us all sad – whether we were fans or not – because a gifted, talented and troubled man found life so hard to continue. Because he wasn’t able to share his pain. Because he felt there was no other way. Because he was under such pressure.  Because…...we will never know why.

At some many points Chester had choices which he may not have felt he had: who to talk to; where to ask for help; how to get the dark thoughts out in other ways – like his music; to take a break from the public pressure; to stay home and hug his wife and kids; to confront his past…...These were all choices that he possibly didn’t know he had, and now never will.

They are choices that will affect his children, wife, family, friends, neighbours and fans for varying lengths of time: but each will feel pain.

Inner pain is something we all struggle to talk about: the fear of being judged; the fear of everyone’s reaction (over reaction); the consequences of what telling some- one about your dark thoughts might mean; how to find the words and who to tell.

At SelfharmUK – we like to listen; we never ever judge; we are safe people to explore these thoughts and feelings with; we are unshockable (I promise you that!); you can practice what you want to tell your family by telling us first; we will keep in touch with you for as long as your recovery takes; we can discuss your choices with you – especially when it feels like you don’t have any.

Self-harm is about living, not dying.

Very occaisonally we feel the shift from wanting to cope, to wanting to stop coping.

That’s when we have choices: who to talk to, how to communicate, who won’t judge us, who is ‘safe’.

You can ring or text the Samaritans on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org , Childline can be contacted on 0800 1111, or online counselling support at www.the mix.org.uk

Or sign up to our online support at info@selfharm.co.uk

You are not alone.

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When it all seems too much…

Oliver shares with us what feeling overwhelmed is like for them.

Some days, just even opening my eyes feels hard. I lay there arguing with myself in my head: whether to try and sleep the whole day; or whether to try and talk myself into facing the day…

Then comes the endless interactions with others:

“did you sleep ok?”

“how are you doing today?”

“can you make sure you eat breakfast please?”

“got any plans for today?”

“what about your future – we need to get your college sorted?”

then I go upstairs to get dressed:

what to wear today, nothing feels ‘right’ or comfortable, nothing feels ‘me’ – how do I cover the scars?  Then I feel angry – why should I cover the scars? But I don’t feel brave enough not to. I feel so angry with myself for cutting, I hate that I did it but now I feel proud of myself for stopping, but sad that I did it…

I think I will just stay in my pjs today – getting dressed feels too much, too hard, too many decisions to make.

I sit watching TV, just trying to ignore the world and it’s many demands of me: from what I think of anything and everything (I am supposed to have an opinion on politics, my education, best films, worst band, foods I like…the list is endless). I like TV, I can get lost in not having to think or even follow what’s happening too much; my mind can flit in and out without demands or questions.

I am falling asleep when my phone goes: a text. Great – another distraction and prompt to enter someone else’s world.

This time it’s different:  someone is entering my world.

My Mum.

“ Hi love, just want to say – I love you. I know you are finding things hard and I may not help in the best way, but I want to help. Let me know how I can.”

I sit and think. Help: I am being offered it but I don’t even know what I need.

I reply: “Mum, I don’t know what I need. I am very unhappy but I don’t know why.”

Mum: “it’s ok to be unhappy and not know why. It’s ok to be happy and not know why. All you need to know is that you are loved, feeling like this won’t last forever, and no matter what, we will be with you, however long it takes”.

I fly downstairs and run to my mum, sitting in the sofa. I climb on her lap and am engulfed in her hug. I am safe (even when I don’t feel safe), I am loved (even when I don’t feel loved), I will get better (even when I can’t remember the last good day I had), my mum might annoy me and ask loads of questions but she actually wants to help.

When it all feels too much: I know this, I am not on my own.

I have found someone who wants to know me even when it feels too much.

It might not be your mum who texts you, it might be that you have to text someone a sad face to let them know you aren’t doing well.

I used to expect people to know that something wasn’t going well without me having to tell them, but now I realise, it’s up to me to ask for help: I can’t expect people to guess.

I am glad my mum text me, I know other people don’t have that. I hope you can find someone today to help you if you are feeling like this – it might be a friend, a counsellor, a youth worker or even the Samaritans – you can call them free or text them 116 123  (I have called them a few times and they were really helpful and kind and didn’t judge me at all).

 

SelfharmUK run Alumina which is an online support session for young people struggling with self-harm: it’s open to all, it’s confidential, very relaxed and run by professionals so is completely safe for you. 

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School's out...

Some people love school – they love seeing their mates every day, they enjoy learning and enjoy the structure of the school day;

Some people really dread school – getting up early, having to wear a uniform, having to sit in lessons that feel irrelevant, being surrounded by people all day and then having homework to do.

For some people the only thing worse than school are the endless summer holidays.

The idea of the summer break is good – waking up late, no plans, chilling out……

But….the reality can be so different after the first 48 hours: seeing everyone’s holiday photos of hot sunny places may make you feel sad or jealous; feeling like everyone else is out having fun and you are on your own, not wanting to join in but at the same time wanting to be invited to join anyway; hoping it might rain so you don’t have to make up a excuse for wearing long sleeves; feeling isolated without the structure of the school day which makes each day feel long; getting fed up playing online games with your sibling….

There used to be a TV programme called ‘why don’t you?’ and it gave you ideas of things to make, do, places to visit with your mates. It wasn’t too bad for the 90’s!

There was a line on the opening song which said ‘why don’t you switch off your TV and do something less boring instead?’ which used to annoy me because if I turned off the TV then, I wouldn’t be able to know what do to!

We want to give you some ideas to get you to turn off your TV (or wifi!) and make the summer feel more positive:

  • Make a plan – draw up a calendar, write on any firm plans you have,
  • Keep to a daily time schedule – the later you wake up, the harder it will be to get to sleep that night. Sticking to a routine might be helpful.
  • Keep active – whether that’s doing a yoga youtube, go for a run, walk the dog, do sit ups – something that keeps your endorphins working (the happy chemical in your brain),
  • See positive people – now it’s the holidays, you don’t have to see the annoying people from school – choose 1 or two people that you feel comfortable with and plan to see them at least once a week
  • Get a project – an art one, paint your bedroom, rearrange your furniture, do the gardening, start a photography project, do an online course (groupon always have cheap ones), build a bench or a window seat. Basically keep your hands and brain busy!
  • Learn a new skill – teach yourself to knit, design tattoos, learn a language, join the library and get some reading, volunteer in a charity shop…..
  • Get in touch with us and write a blog about your journey and wellbeing this summer

At SelfharmUK we recognize that summer can be hard with lots of additional stresses due to the changes in routine and weather – we will be running our online Alumina self-harm support group each Monday and will be adding new videos and support material weekly.

We hope it helps your summer!

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Taking Pride in who I am

The Pride celebrations in London are over for another year, but coming out can still feel like a struggle. The blog post below was written by Lydia. She hopes you find it helpful.

Coming out for many people is hard. But not for everyone. My own experiences shone a light on how enlightening this experience and care free it can be. In the past month I have finally come out as bisexual. 

Before it happened I was petrified, being bisexual was never something I was completely sure on. Liking someone of the same sex I had never denied the possibility but I had also never embraced it until it happened. My own experiences of coming out might be or have been extremely different from anyone else. Everyone is different that's how we're made and how we experiences life is also extremely different from one another. 

Coming out for me felt like I was finally being able to be who I wanted to be and like who I wanted to like. I had decided years before I was going to wait until I found someone of the same sex before I came out as bisexual. This decision was made by myself so I could find someone who I liked and take it at my own pace. The decision was also made so I myself I knew I like the same sex more than as friends since it was something I had questioned. And it happened. I found her. And it was like a tsunami sweeping me away when it happened. It was the most liberating and freeing thing I could have ever experienced. But fear also began to consume me. I had never dated a girl before so what would everyone think? But I thought about it, a lot. And I came to realise that there's millions of people out there who identify themselves in the LGTBQI society. I wasn't alone in this and this wasn't uncommon thing to be going through. Telling my family was the easy bit, luckily for me they were accepting and weren't phased by me being with a girl. My friends, what can I say? They were great about it, confused and questioning where it had come from but supportive. 

The impact coming out has had on my life has been incredibly positive. It's helped me overcome so many battles and issues and made me realise that it's okay to be myself. I've realised that the people who will talk are the people who don't understand and that's ok, that's not your fault, it's up to them to educate themselves. It also been a way of me accepting myself more and learning to love myself for who I am. Because I am a strong independent woman who falls in love with whoever I want to and I won't conform to  anyone's expectations. I highly recommend for those still in question about coming out to do it. Because you in yourself will feel so much better for it. 

To sum coming out in one word I'd use ‘empowering’. 

You can check out Lydia's blog and vlogging links here.

You can also visit the Stonewall website for further support.

For more information about self-harm in LGBTQI young people, check out our Facts page.

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Green tea and Netflix enthusiast

The blog post below was written by Lydia. She hopes you find it helpful.

I’ve never been very good at introducing myself so here I go. Hi there! I'm Lydia, most people know me as Lid. I am an 18 year old green tea and Netflix enthusiast. One of my favourite Netflix shows is 13 Reasons Why. I also have a passion for sport, Disney films and music. My favourite time of the year is summer, when the nights get longer and the weather gets warmer. Being able to go for long walks on the beach till late and watching the sun set over horizon. However I also love winter, being able to curl up in my window watching the snowflakes fall, wrapped in a blanket with and note pad writing. My favourite colour is blue and I hate the colour yellow, I find it extremely patronising. I also love doing my makeup and trying different eyeshadow colours. I'm not a pro at it but I try aha! I guess you could say I'm your average 18 year old. 

I wanted to write for SelfharmUK because I personally deal with a lot of issues myself and have found through my own experiences, I can help other people which I’ve found extremely rewarding. I have suffered from a number of mental health illnesses since the age of 14, and whilst on my journey to recovery, the experiences I have encountered have shaped me into the person I am today. Not only do I want to write to help others, I have found writing extremely rewarding and beneficial to challenging the thoughts and voices inside my head. Yes, I am still recovering and struggle daily - but that doesn't stop me wanting to share my voice and challenge the issue I see within the mental health community. 

Being diagnosed at a very early age has meant that I have encountered lots of other people with similar issues and experiences of self-harming from school, hospital (when I was hospitalised) and later Sixth Form. Not only have I had self-experience, but I have supported peers and friends when they too have struggled by helping them to understand my approach to the topics and see a broader view of the opinions of self-harm and mental illnesses as a whole. I have for some years now vlogged on YouTube about mental illnesses and reached out to as many people as possible by starting conversations about the importance of mental health. 

When I'm not partaking in breaking the stigma of mental illness and starting conversations on mental health - you'll find me touring the countryside, taking photos or in bed relaxing. I'm excited for the future and steps I will be taking in the next year… and can't wait to start writing for SelfharmUK of course! 

You can check out Lydia's blog and vlogging links here.

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Will alternatives work?

The road to ‘recovery’ from self-harm can be full of twists and turns: you may feel that you are ready and want to look for alternative coping strategies – here are some things to consider:

Deciding to stop, or reduce your self-harming behaviour is a huge step forward: it shows a mindset desperately wanting to find a ‘new way’. Go gently on yourself.

Many people talk about reducing gradually before deciding to finally stop. This may be helpful for you or you may decide you need to separate yourself from it immediately. Either way is fine – don’t put too much pressure on yourself though.

Take a day at a time, or even half a day. This is will depend on what your pattern of harming is, the frequency of it, how long you have been engaged in it and what are the external things that might be causing you stress. Perhaps set yourself a timer, and add an hour/half day/day to it each time?

Plan when and how to reduce or stop. Think about what else is going on for you currently  -how are you coping with school, exams, family stuff, friendship issues? If you have any major stress factors (like exams), consider waiting until they have been as resolved as they can be, before reducing or stopping. This way, if you are struggling, you won’t be putting yourself under impossible pressure.

Recognise it may take a while. Whatever form of harming behavior you have been using to cope, it will be an addiction and a habit. Retraining your brain to find a new way of coping will take time – allow yourself time to experiment with different coping strategies to find what works for you.

At the start, it’s important we are honest with you: none of the coping strategies will give you the same relief you have found in your harming. Wearing elastic bands, using ice cubes or exercise are alternatives; your brain will take a bit of time to rewire itself to recognize this as the new way of coping. The physical and emotional relief you might get from your harming, may not be fully relieved immediately by using alternatives.

The most important thing is, however long it takes; even if it’s two steps forward and one back; you move forward at your pace. Don’t go too hard on yourself. Be as kind to you, as you are to your friends.

Always show yourself love, patience and kindness.

We have list of tried and tested alternative strategies, but please, let us know others as the longer the list, the more we can all offer other young people who are seeking to looking for a new coping strategy.

We are with you in this, you aren’t alone. Literally thousands of others are with you in this journey through self-harm to recovery; let’s take small steps forward together.

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World Music Day

The article below to celebrate World Music Day was written by Sophie, a previous Graduate Volunteer with Youthscape.

I am a massive lover of music; I’m constantly listening to it. I’ve actually got my headphones in now as I write this!

Music is powerful. It can be so influential, and can be used as a way to express feelings, share a particular message, tell a story, and bring people together. There’s always something for everyone’s taste. You can study music, create it, or simply just listen and appreciate it. There is so much I love about music, where do I even start?

I’ve grown up in a musical family. My dad led the music at Church and was always playing his guitar and singing around the house.  Whenever we would see his side of the family, it would always end up in a good ol’ sing song, and it still does! My brother is also very musical and I’d say I am too, though not to the same extent – my guitar playing skills are a little rusty! However, as I said, I’m always listening to music, and it has certainly helped me through life.

Music is everywhere we go; most shops we go into will always have music playing in the background, and I’ve even been in some shops that have a DJ! I also particularly like the pianos at St Pancras train station, free for anyone to play. It amazes me how much talent there is out there, and being able to hear a performance live is always so great! I love when you can literally feel the music, the bass in your chest, those songs that give you goosebumps, music that really resonates with you.

I love that music is for any and every mood, from when you need a good cry, to when you’re absolutely pumped and feel on top of the world! Music would help me through times where I felt alone and it would sometimes express my emotions – you know, when there’s a song that completely describes how you’re feeling or what you’re going through? Or when a song puts into words what you struggle to? Music helps calm my anxiety and has distracted me when I need a break from what’s going on around me – headphones in, world out! Music can put me in an amazing mood, it can lift me if I’m feeling a bit down,  it can bring back great memories and can make me want to sing and dance around wherever I am (and I will do so where appropriate!)

Music has got me through many hours of work, revision and essays. I know a lot of people who need silence to work, but music motivates me and helps me concentrate (most of the time). I remember my friend once telling me how she got around music being a distraction - she had started listening to songs in a different language so it meant she couldn’t get distracted by singing along to it!

I absolutely love how music brings people together, through the love of a song, band/artist, cause - we recently saw how so many people came together for the benefit concert, to help raise funds for the victims of the Manchester attack and their families. As well as people actually being at the concert, so many people tuned in to watch from home too. Music can connect people across cities, countries and continents, and in a way, it’s like a language we all share.

I just couldn’t imagine a world without music, could you? There are so many reasons to celebrate it today!

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What songs say that I can’t…

It’s more than ‘liking’  a song or favourite band; it’s more than ‘having a sing song’;

When you find a song that says how you are feeling, it opens up emotions that are trapped deep within us.

For me, right now, there are two songs that connect deep within me, both very different in mood and lyrics but both are able to say what I can’t find the right words to.  I play these songs over and over; I cry to them, I scream the lyrics when I am on my own, I hit the air at the words that connect hardest to me and after, I feel much better.

Why?

Because song lyrics are poetry. They speak emotions, they resonate feelings, they help us find words for pain that we can’t express; song lyrics complete us.

Songs tell a story; one that we ‘get’. We all have songs we play at different times depending on our moods  - happy songs we sing to with our mates, angry songs we blare out loudly at home when we are feeling cross and frustrated, sad songs that open up our feelings of pain.

Songs make us feel alive because they are about our story.

Radio 1 are doing a fantastic piece on songs and mental health – getting musicians to tell their journey through poor mental health by relating to the songs they wrote on the dark days. It’s inspiring and comforting to know that those songs were written when that person was feeling like we are – that’s why we can sing with the same feeling they did; because they can put words to our thoughts.

Think about what you are listening to, perhaps write the lyrics to keep near you, maybe send them to a family member or friend so they can understand how you are feeling and what you might be wanting to say – songs are the poetry of our souls: let’s use them to speak out.

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Learning Disabilities Week 2017

The below article was written by Jo Fitzsimmons, a member of the SelfharmUK Team.

At some point in our life we have all struggled to understand something: whether that’s algebra, a friend’s response to a situation or a decision made by others.

What if most things were a struggle?

Learning disabilities can make many situations a struggle. ‘learning disabilities’ can cover a huge range of struggles; dyspraxia, dyslexia, autism, adhd, down syndrome…..Whatever the struggle, behind it is a real person with humour, a smile, good days and sad days, perhaps though, the struggles are harder than many of us face.

Statistically those young people with additional needs will have higher rates of self-harming behaviour than those without any additional needs. This is due to a number of factors:

Communication difficulties. Finding the right words to express feelings, having confidence to ask for help, having limited verbal communication to speak are all huge obstacles for someone with an additional need to overcome. Having feelings trapped inside and feeling prisoner to them, can cause self-harming behavior.

Physical needs. The feeling of frustration at being unable to physically manage what others can; the fear of having people stare at us or treat us differently because our physical needs are different; the impact of living day to day with a routine focused on managing basics needs – all these will impact the mental health and wellbeing of a person with additional needs.

Sensory needs. Have you ever found noise too much? Hated someone hugging you? Wanted to hide in the dark to get away from people, sounds, smells? If so, you may be able to understand the impact our senses have on us feeling overwhelmed. Sensory disorders are far more common that we think and they can affect us by making us anxious of crowds, fear noises and hate strong smells. People who struggle with these areas find ways to soothe themselves, sometimes through harming behaviours.

How can we support those with additional needs?

  • Tackle any isolation you see by befriending, listening and taking time to learn about them – not just their need.
  • Enable and enhance their ability to communicate with you – whether that’s through using specific forms of communication (PECS, sign language, writing, singing), have fun finding out the best ways to communicate together.
  • Find out what environment suits them best – somewhere with lots going on, somewhere quiet, group work or 1:1 chats, coffee shops or at home?

Put simply: go out of your way to be a friend to someone with additional needs. 

You will find more information about SEN and self-harm here.

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Long sleeves in a short sleeves world

Everyone seems to like the summer – long hot days, sitting in the park and eating ice cream…well, maybe not everyone.

If you have scars, recent or older, from self-harm, you will probably be feeling very self conscious – and also blooming hot! Here at SelfharmUK, we know that the whole issue of covering scars is very complex.

The questions around it are often based on whether anyone knows – what would they do if they noticed it; what would they say? Will people judge me? Will they make fun of me?

Schools and colleges often ask students with scarring to cover up – with the notion that it may entice others to self-harm by cutting, or because it draws attention to scars. If that’s your school’s policy, then I guess you need to stick to it. However, maybe, if you feel able to either write or talk to the school about it, it may challenge them to consider why they have this policy and open up the conversation about how the school deals with it.

You see, the longer we cover up, the more we feel we are in the ‘wrong’ and it’s a bad secret to have: self-harm isn’t a ‘bad secret’, it’s a way of coping for a time until we feel able to manage our emotions in a way we feel ready to.

If you choose to cover your scars, there’s nothing wrong with it.

If you choose not to cover your scars, there’s nothing wrong with it.

It’s personal preference and will depend on how you feel that day, who you are with, where you are going, if you feel able to deal with anyone who might ask …. Some people are happy to explain their scars, others make up a white lie, others ignore the question and move on….however you choose to you respond, ensure you are in control of it – they are your scars, part of your story, for you to choose whether or not to share.

You can visit our Dealing with Scars page to find out more information, advice and links to other organisations who might be able to help.

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I feel the urge

The piece below was written by Jo Fitzsimmons, a member of the SelfharmUK Team. The urge to self-harm is often all consuming and when it comes, it's hard to think of anything else! Next time you feel the urge to self-harm, try slowly reading this outloud, whilst breathing deeply.

 

I am twitchy, full of nervous energy

I can’t sit still, I can’t focus,

I am breathing quickly,

I am wringing my hands.

 

I try to calm myself

I try to take control

The thoughts are coming quickly

Spiralling into my head

My breathing gets faster

 

I must take control

 

Slow

Slow    slow      slow      slow

Slow

I tell myself

 

The battle is done – I make the choice

 

Run on the spot

Clench my fists

Breathe          Breathe          Breathe

Run on the spot

Clench my fists

Breathe         Breathe           Breathe

 

I feel the urge

 

                             Slow                             Slow                                     Slow

 

I match my breathing to the dogs

I bite my hands and wait

 

And wait

 

And wait

 

The tears begin to flow

 

The urge has passed

 

I made the choice

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Fear

We don’t often recognise fear in ourselves – perhaps we cover it with anger (at the thing we are fearful about) or shame (that we feel scared); fear is powerful and hinders us in so many areas of our lives.

As humans we are built with a ‘fight or flight’ response in our brains, this means we either stand and literally fight when we are scared or we run from the thing that scares us. But what do we do if the thing that scares us, is us?

Whether it be fear of our feelings and that we might act on those deep feelings; whether it be of a person we fear for what they might say to us or do to hurt us; whether it be the fear of feeling which cripples us – Fear is hard to overcome.

Often the feeling of fear is mixed with feeling anxious. Perhaps you get a bad tummy and have to run to the loo, maybe you take too many pills to ease the worry, you might cut to try and take away the fear – however you try and deal with it, here are a few ideas to help reduce the fear inside:

Acknowledge it. Learn to recognise which feelings inside you are which; fear feels different to anger, but often anger is an emotion that is secondary. If you are feeling angry a lot, ask yourself ‘is there another feeling underneath it’?

Get fear out of you. The more fear comes out from inside us, the less power it has to stop us living our life. Whether you are able to speak it by telling someone, whether you write out what it is that you are fearing, whether you draw it, whether you text it; get it out. It’s like a Harry Potter dementor, it will suck life from you.

Breathe. The more scared we are, the less we breathe, the less we breathe, the more we have panic attacks.

While you are calm, practise breathing slowing, count breaths in and out, teach yourself to breath slowly so the blood and oxygen allow you to continue to think clearly and remain calm.

Be active. Fear creates adrenalin in us, this makes us feel on edge and twichy. Work with your body, if you are feeling like this; do a work out, find a yoga clip on youtube, go for a run, repeatedly punch a pillow – let the adrenalin out of your system so you can calm down.

Deal with the fear. The hardest one of all: can you deal with the actual issue of your fear? Is there any solution or resolution in facing the issue or person that is making you feel this fearful? Currently the person or situation is ruling your life and hindering you flourishing: what, if anything, can you do to change that?

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Heartbreak

A broken heart hurts. It doesn’t matter how long you knew someone for or how often you saw them. If you have feelings for them and they don’t feel the same, they broke your heart and nothing will ever change that.

This may be your first heart break or you may have had your heart broken too many times to count. However many times it’s happened, it still hurts EXACTLY the same.

That pain in your chest that you’re carrying around makes you wonder if you’ll ever feel truly happy again. Sure, you can still smile. Like when your friends make you laugh, or you see something funny on Facebook. But you don’t feel it on the inside. All you feel is pain and emptiness, because the only person who can really make you happy right now - is gone. And they are never coming back.

OK, so they didn’t die. But they may as well have. They aren’t a part of your life anymore and all the things you loved about them are gone too.

I’m not talking about love here. Well I am, but you don’t have to be in love with someone to feel sad when they decide not to be a part of your life anymore. A friend of mine once said “I’ve been in enough relationships now to know that I haven’t really been in love with the people I’ve dated.”

She liked them A LOT. But the older she got, and the more couples she met, the more she came to realise that to love someone (and to be loved in return) is much more than just texting every day and spending time together at weekends.

Whilst you may not have truly loved them, you’ve still lost someone important to you through no choice of your own. And even though you might have known deep down that they wouldn’t be in your life for ever - you still secretly hoped they would.

If you type ‘heart break advice’ into Google right now, you’ll get a lot of tips (particularly around listening to Taylor Swift songs) about how to ease the pain of a broken heart. After you’ve read this blog, I suggest you do this (listening to Taylor Swift songs are optional however!).

I didn’t write this blog to give you advice about how to fix your broken heart. I wrote it because heart break can sometimes feel like the loneliest pain in the world, and I wanted you to know that you’re not alone. It can often be the type of pain that gets joked about or only associated with books or films. Sure, heart break will forever be a GREAT excuse to sit around watching Netflix for a whole weekend, not bothering to wash and eating as much ice cream and chocolate you can get your hands on! But what if the pain you’re feeling goes deeper than that?

Have you ever tried explaining to someone else that your heart feels like it’s been smashed to bits? Not easy is it. And that’s how heart break can so easily be dismissed. Because you can’t explain how you feel. Plus, even if you could, you feel pretty embarrassed and foolish that you trusted someone with your heart in the first place.

However you feel, know that your feelings are valid. Know that the pain you feel right now, is OK to feel. Sit with it. And cry with it. Don’t try to understand it or fix it. Just know that when it goes, you’ll be a stronger person because of it. 

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Dear Reader

The blog post below was written by a lovely lady called Emma, who got in touch with SelfharmUK to share her story about her recovery from bulimia and self-harm.

Dear Reader,

What I am writing here is really a love letter to my younger self, and I hope that it will help you too.  You see, I grew up not knowing how to love myself.  In fact, it felt selfish to do that. I felt, for many, many years, that I was somehow a bad and unlovable person.  I developed a lot of ‘coping strategies’ to keep myself feeling that I could not be hurt by other people.

I don’t know what tactics you are using, but mine were mainly around pretending: pretending to be confident, pretending to be friendly, pretending to be happy, pretending to be transparent and open – and all the time, inside, I hated myself (and many of them), I didn’t trust anyone, I was self-harming, bulimic and generally wishing that I was dead. 

There is so much stigma about mental health, when all it really is – is some sad memories and an imbalance of the chemicals in our brain. Isn’t it weird that society makes it seem more than that? That we feel embarrassed to be sick? Stupid, isn’t it. Well – I’m not embarrassed anymore. I am proud – very, very proud for having the courage to say I was sick, and continuing my journey to get well.

People often think that when we have depression and anxiety or hurt ourselves, we are being selfish – that we are ‘wrapped up’ in ourselves. I often found that people criticised me in that way. And yet I felt that I was living for others. I must have been – because I didn’t love myself enough to be living for me – back then…

You know what? Self-harm is not selfish. It’s self-preservation. The pain in the heart is so strong that sometimes you feel like you want to just smash the world apart, hit people, break things, scream, set the world on fire, destroy your life and that of those around you.  So, instead of doing those things, we turn the pain inwards and cut, scrape, pick, harm our own bodies… or stuff our bellies and throw it up… or refuse to eat… because for a little while we get to be in control, we get to decide - and while we are feeling that physical pain, we get some relief from the torture inside our chemically unbalanced little minds and our sad hearts.

I don’t know your exact circumstances or what you are doing to yourself in order to try to handle those very difficult feelings. But let me tell you something, I know for a fact that you are trying! I know for a fact that, right now, as you read this blog, you are doing your very best to try and get well.  People who want to stay depressed, anxious or unhappy do not surf the internet to find blogs like this one. Because you are looking for advice and help, you are on your way towards health.

Let that be a source of hope for you. I am so proud of you for investing in yourself by reading this blog. We have never met, but I promise you, you are more deeply loved than you can ever imagine. Recovery is not easy, but you can get well – and you have already started your journey of recovery. Keep going! I promise you, you can do this. I know you find it so very hard to believe – but I promise you, you can.

Lots of love,

Emma

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Staying Instagram smart

Jess Whittaker, a member of the SelfharmUK team, shares her thoughts about how you can stay smart on Instagram.

Today, as I was driving in to work, something I heard on the radio caught my attention and immediately made me turn up the volume. It was a report claiming that Instagram is one of the worst social media platforms when it comes to the impact on young people’s metal health.

In the UK, a survey of 1,479 people aged 14-24 were asked to rate which social media platform they felt had the most negative effect on them. They then scored each platform individually around issues like anxiety, depression, loneliness, bullying and body image.

Once the report had finished, I turned the radio off and thought for a moment. Like everything, Instagram has positive and negative sides to it, depending on what you use it for.

For example, lets’ say you’re someone who’s suffered from a mental health issue, such as self-harm or bulimia and are now in full recovery (well done you!). You might choose to use Instagram to share your story by posting inspiring quotes and photos that show the positive things in your life. There is no denying that Instagram is a really great way to visually spread positive messages quickly.

But what if you’re someone who spends hours on Instagram late at night, alone in your room, constantly comparing yourself to other people? You’ve stopped posting selfies because you’re so convinced that your photos look awful compared to your friends, that all you really use Instagram for now is to re-inforce your negative thoughts about yourself.

If you can relate to the above, don’t be embarrassed or afraid to speak up because… whoever you are and however you choose to use it, we have some great tips about how you can protect your mental health on Instagram:

  • Limit the time you spend on there: like all social medias, Instagram can get kind of addictive. Whilst you might feel like time stands still when you’re on there, it doesn’t. You can literally Insta-away your whole weekend and before you know it, it’s Monday already and your back at School or College again! Just think of all that time wasted and all the fun things you could of been doing instead!? Next time you’re on there, set an alarm to ensure you don’t stay on there for too long, or only look during a short car ride somewhere. As soon as you are where you need to be, close your Instagram app and engage with your surroundings.
  • Stop comparing yourself to others: this is a tough one. It’s easy for people to tell you not to compare yourself to others, but the truth is, it’s something that everyone has to deal with throughout their lives every now and again. It becomes a problem, however, when it starts to affect your self-esteem, so how you feel about yourself, and you stop doing the things you used to enjoy because you can’t see the point anymore. If you think Instagram (or any social media for that matter) is starting to make you feel that way, tell a family member or trusted adult. Speaking up isn’t easy, but talking about how you feel is the first step to getting help.
  • Think that if it looks too good to be true - it probably is: chances are you already know this, but lots of photos we see on social media have been digitally manipulated. This means that they have been edited on a computer using software like Photoshop to make them look better than they are. Many of the Fashion brands or Celebrities you follow will use this technique, but it’s something we constantly have to remind ourselves of as they can become the norm and start to look real. Next time you see a photo of someone on Instagram, who looks too perfect to be real, have a laugh about the fact that nine times out of ten, they probably aren’t!
  • Know where you can go for support if something you’ve seen is bothering you: if you see something on Instagram (or any other social media platform) that upsets you for any reason - report it using the options available, then tell a family member or trusted adult immediately. If you don’t want to talk about it with someone you know, you can call The Samaritans or Childline at any time.
  • Don’t go on Instagram alone: at the end of the day, if you’re someone that has always struggled with how social media makes you feel, schedule times to login with your friends after School or College. This way you can instantly discuss anything that you have seen that is upsetting you and find out what your friends think. Again, if you’re still unsure, you can always talk to a family member or trusted adult.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-39955295

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We are family

The blog post below was written by Sophie, a previous Graduate Volunteer with Youthscape. She hopes you find her reflection of what International Day of Families means to her helpful.

When you hear the word ‘family’, who do you think of?

Family can be amazing; family can be where you feel most yourself, most loved. Family can be a great support. On the flip side, family can be complicated, it can be messy, it does not always look perfect and family does not necessarily need to be those you’re directly related to.

Today is International Day of Families, so let’s celebrate those we have in our lives.

For me, family is an interesting one. My parents divorced when I was four and my brother was two. After a while, my dad got married, giving me a step mum, step brother and step sister, but after 13 years, they got divorced. My mum also remarried, so I also gained a step dad and another step sister. When I was nine, my mum and step dad had a daughter together, my little sister. My family has been really dysfunctional at times, there has been a lot of drama, people coming and going, but it’s not been all bad. I know that my parents, my brother, my little sister will always be there for me if I need them and vice versa. Even though I may not always feel like we are that close, and there will be times we don’t see eye to eye, I’ll always love and be there for them.

There are people I consider family, who aren’t related to me at all. I have two childhood friends who are practically like sisters to me yet they live miles away! Then there’s a whole bunch of people I’d call family. This group of people are so much fun to be around. They will always encourage me, lovingly challenge me, and truly want the best for me. They are people who I feel I can be vulnerable around, without the fear of judgement. We all support each other.  I may not see them often, but there’s a deep bond we have, of a shared faith and values. We all have our own interests, talents, quirky ways and struggles, but around these people, I feel totally accepted and loved for who I am.

We may not have the best experiences of family, and family for you may not look the same as it is for someone else, but if you had a ponder now, who would you consider as family?

*Inserts pause for thinking time*

Got those people in mind?

Okay.

Today, let’s make that extra effort to let these people know that we love and appreciate them. Family is an important thing to have, as we all need people around us who we can laugh with, cry with, share our lives with, and feel supported by. We need family and your family needs you!  A lot of the time we can take who we have in our lives for granted, but let’s grab an opportunity today to be thankful for who we do have.

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10 tips for managing your mental health

As Mental Health Awareness Week draws to a close, Jo Fitzsimmons shares her thoughts on how you could think about managing your mental health going forward in our latest blog.

Here are 10 things you might not have known about managing your mental health:

  • Extroverts can have poor mental health – ask them! They like to talk!
  • People who are appearing to hold it all together; might not be, and in fact, probably aren’t.
  • Most people only have 1 real friend (yep – my counsellor told me that, honest!) Find your 1 and learn to be open with them.
  • Get rid of people in your life who don’t return your calls/texts/FB messages – don’t put energy into unreturned ‘friendships’, some people are fun to be around, some people aren’t. reduce your friends!
  • Caregivers are often overlooked – the people who put others first are often taken for granted, so when they struggle they don’t have people to ask for help.
  •  Conserve your energy – some days give yourself permission to rest, tomorrow might require more energy than you currently have.
  • Consider medication for your mental health: if you had a physical illness you would take something for it; perhaps you need to consider it as a real option and talk to your GP.
  • Consider coming off your meds if you have been on them for many years – talk to your GP about the implications and risks of it; perhaps taking up exercise or having a project may help your mental health (watch Mind over Marathon on the BBC iplayer if you need inspiration).
  • Get a dog. It’s the best thing I ever did, it gets me away from my kids, house and work long enough for a walk around my council estate to calm down.
  • Get rid of your phone, or swop to a cruddy basic one that doesn’t make you wonder what everyone on ‘bragbook’ (facebook) is doing or bring worrying news headline alerts to your hands.
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Mental Health Awareness Week 2017

Physically we are all well, or unwell; it’s easy to spot an unwell person in a queue next to a well person – there are physical signs like runny noses, pale skin, perhaps reduced mobility, sleepless eyes.

What does a person who is unwell emotionally look like?

Nope? No guesses…? That’s because a person can look ‘well’ on the outside but be very unwell in their self esteem, their confidence, their ability to think clearly, to sleep well, have high anxiety which leads to panic attacks, or deep depression. The fact is this: with 7 in 10 young people having poor mental health now, you don’t know if someone is well or not in their thought life.

The recent report on behalf of the government states that young people have the highest levels of poor mental health. Young people aged 18-25 report not being able to think clearly, have positive relationships, feeling like they aren’t able to contribute to society and feel devalued. Wow, what a frightening picture this shows.

Contrast this with people over 55 who have the best mental health and what can we learn:

- Older people feel confident to make new friends and join groups; young people feel nervous about joining a new group for fear of being judged;

- Older people take up new hobbies and activities; young people often can’t afford new hobbies or expensive activities;

- Older people have built up trust worthy groups of friends; young people struggle to know who their ‘real friends’ are rather than those who just ‘like’ or ‘retweet’ their thoughts.

Let’s face it; age does bring experience and knowledge – but can we wait 40 years for teenagers to grow up into confident older people?

So – if you are a young person struggling with your emotional and mental health here are some ideas for you to try in Mental Health Awareness week:

  • Accept it. Today is the day you face it; you may have been feeling low for quite sometime but just keep thinking ‘tomorrow will be better’, well maybe it will – but how about recognising that the last few days, weeks or months haven’t been great and your mental health isn’t in a good way?
  • Talk. To trusted friends. To someone who will listen. To childline. To Samaritans. To Self-Harm UK if you have been feeling so low you have hurt yourself in some way. Talking doesn’t magic your feelings away, however, it is proven to reduce anxiety, feelings of isolation and increase confidence in your own decision making.
  • Do something! When I was a kid there was a TV show with the line’ get out of bed and do something else instead’ – not easy if you are finding life overwhelming and filled with worry. What about asking a friend to try something with you? How about finding a ‘how to knit’ clip on youtube? What about taking a run? Like reading – join a library? Exercise is a proven way of helping you sleep and making you feel better by the chemicals it releases in your brain. If outdoors stuff isn’t your thing – tire your brain out by reading, knitting, drawing, doing sudoko, writing….find your ‘thing’ that relaxes you.
  • Get ‘real’ friends. Consider gently avoid those you don’t think have your best interest at heart. It doesn’t need to be communicated but, gradually, just loose touch with people in your life who aren’t good for you. Find friends in real life; not just online. Joining a group can be hugely daunting, but at some point, everyone in that group was new once: give it a go!
  • Look after yourself. If we are down, the first to go is often eating well. Followed by sleeping well, combined with not getting dressed or washing your hair. A few days of it is fine, but, maybe not a few weeks. The less care we take of ourselves, the more we are showing the world we feel we don’t matter and they shouldn’t think we do either. Not true. Honestly. It might be how you feel, but it isn’t a true fact.
  • Get out of bed earlier. Start by getting out of bed half an hour earlier each day; add in a shower; a walk around the block; making yourself some lunch; take another walk (see if anyone needs their dog walking or an elderly person needs some shopping)
  • Write a ‘thankful list’. Write happy days, memories, lists of people you are thankful for, the bed you have, the clean water you have, your pets – whatever makes you happy. Pin it up and read it every day.

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/surviving-or-thriving-state-uks-mental-health

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13 Reasons Why: the what's what

“Hey, It’s Hannah. Hannah Baker. Don’t adjust your… whatever device you’re hearing this on. It’s me, live and in stereo. No return engagements, no encore, and this time, absolutely no requests. Get a snack. Settle in. Because I’m about to tell you the story of my life. More specifically, why my life ended.”

Have you seen it yet? The compelling and heart-breaking story of Hannah Baker, because most of the young people I work with have. 13 Reasons Why is THE show we’re all talking about.

Here at SelfharmUK two members of our team spent a whole day watching the show from beginning to end. We had heard a lot of things about it and so we wanted to make our own minds up.

In the end, we realised there were several different things we wanted to address so decided to split them up. We’ve written an article for parents and adults urging them to take seriously the issues addressed in the show; bullying, sexting, sexual harassment, self-harm, suicidal ideation, drinking, drink driving, abusive families, loneliness, adults not listening or paying attention to what young people say etc. These are all things young people face daily, this story rings true for so many of the people we meet.

We wanted parents to know they need to listen and talk to their kids about stuff, but we don’t need to tell you that. We want to tell young people something else.

So now we are writing something for young people because we have some important things we want to tell you.

We want to tell you to speak up before it’s too late. We want to tell you that someone else choosing to take their own life is never your fault. We want you to look after yourselves especially when it comes to what you are watching. We want to tell you it gets better.

Let’s start with the obvious, Hannah isn’t real, her experience might be something you or someone you know has experienced but simply put, she’s not real. Her story isn’t your story. Her decisions, her life, is made up by an author and a screen writer and a few others. But they aren’t real.

Hannah’s story also doesn’t show the finality of her decisions, we still hear her voice, it’s not like she’s really gone.

Outside of the show it is final, it is real, and it leaves behind a lot of pain.

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide then PLEASE ask someone for help. There are some contacts at the bottom of the page.

Suicide is not the easy way out, it is not selfish and it is not for the weak. It is what people do when they feel like they have no hope, when they can’t see things getting better. Suicide leaves behind a lot of people who will be blaming themselves

Hannah’s family and friends are seen asking why? How did they miss the signs? They are already feeling guilty, like they failed her. But they are not responsible for Hannah’s decision.

Hannah is.

Nobody can make that choice for her, nobody told her to do it, nobody else is to blame. Yes, people hurt her and didn’t listen. But that does not mean it is their fault that she chose to kill herself.

What Hannah does to her friends is awful, she blames them for making mistakes, or in the case of Clay, for listening to her.

Clay had done nothing wrong, yet she made him feel guilty when all he did was care about her. It wasn’t fair of her to put that burden on him, to traumatise him that way. What does she think the impact those tapes will have on people? We see how it affected Alex, Jess and Clay, making them question their reality, leading them to hurt themselves

We need to take responsibility for our own actions, how we treat people and how we ask for help.

There are many things Hannah Baker could have done but chose not to do. She could have asked for help from her parents of a teacher. She could have been honest with her friends about how she was struggling. Instead she pushed everyone away and blamed them for her final decision.

We can ALWAYS ask for help, and people do listen. Think of the incredible friends you have around you, that one teacher who supports you, the person at the end of the line of the online chat. The story shows one bad example of her asking for help. That’s it. What it needs to show is the great help that is out there.

This show, whilst talking about real issues, lies to the viewer. It says that it is ok to blame other people for what we do, it is says that telling an adult is a last resort and that they won’t handle what you say well.

We want to tell you that this isn’t true.

13 Reasons Why tells a story of a broken young person who chose to make a very final decision without ever really asking for help. Hannah is gone, her story might live on but she doesn’t.

Hannah doesn’t know that it gets better. She didn’t get to see what life outside school would be like. What changes might have come her way if she had told people about what was happening her. She makes a decision that she can’t take back.

We don’t want that idea to be something that young people take from watching this show, we don’t want them to think suicide is ever an option.

As we said earlier what we want is for you to speak up before it’s too late. We want to tell you that someone else choosing to take their own life is never your fault. We want you to look after yourselves especially when it comes to what you are watching. We want to tell you it gets better.

Have hope. 

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Why that person?

Loosing someone you love is one of the hardest things in the world to come to terms with. In the blog below, Ben, a trainee Youth Worker currently living in Oundle, talks about his experiences of loss.

Over the last two to three years I have been unfortunate enough to go through the pain of grief and loos. Some of natural causes, some of unforeseen situations. The first of which was a guy I used to serve when I worked in my local shop. He was elderly and addicted to alcohol, so wasn’t living the healthiest of lifestyles. I came into work, expecting to see him, to buy his bottle and newspaper, but that day he never came. I found out later that he had died of a heart attack. I remember the shock, the last I saw him he was fine, I couldn’t get my head around not seeing him anymore, the grief came and passed quickly and I moved on with my life.

The next two were far more difficult to deal with. The first was a family friend. A family man who was the father of three young children and the husband to a wonderful woman. I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news I was having a family dinner with my girlfriend to celebrate the end of the school year, then the phone rang. He’d died, gone, never to be seen again. The loss was sudden and no-one could believe it and although everything was done to keep him alive, it wasn’t to be. I remember to this day being told and my heart sinking. The thoughts running through my head; “what do I say to the family? How do I support the family?” and then it hit me, the grief of thinking these things through, imagining life and what it must be like, but also knowing the family myself. I sometimes feel like I didn’t have the right to grieve, after all, he wasn’t my direct family. Then I realised, I still knew him, I had been around the family for a long time and it was obviously going to be tough on me too, but it was more the thought of everything that had been left behind. This caused me to ask a lot of questions and to get very angry at God; ‘why did he do this? Why of all people did you take him?’ I still don’t know the answer to this, but what I do know is that it has brought a close family even closer.

Just after I moved to Peterborough, I was scrolling through Facebook when I saw something that shook me to my core. A friend from my home in Essex, aged just 20, had passed away in his sleep. What on earth was going? I couldn’t believe that someone who was so healthy, so full of life and so joyful was taken in one night! It was only a few months before this I saw him daily and spoke with him. I couldn’t get my head around it. I remember thinking, this could have been me! A selfish thought maybe, but the truth. it made me realise that our lives are not everlasting and we never know what will come next, what’s around the corner. I remember coming home for the funeral though, there were so many people there, the church was full and not everyone was able to fit inside. My first thought after this was not of grief, pain, anger or hurt, although I did miss him, it was of thankfulness, thankfulness of a life lived and people re-connecting because of this sudden and sad loss.

I didn’t know why any of these things happened, or why those people were taken, I want to be able to say stay strong when these things happen but I believe that the right thing to do is to grieve. We are made to feel emotions for a reason, so don’t be afraid to get angry, don’t be afraid to scream and cry but remember, you will get through this and no matter what happens in life, live every second of it, because you never know what’s next. 

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Self-harm Challenges

Hope is the author of 'Stand Tall Little Girl', a book about her eating disorder struggles. Here she talks openly about why young people struggle to express their emotions and why self-harm challenges might be on the rise.

When you walk down the road you have no idea what other people are going through, what they are thinking, or what their history is. When people look on at me they assume I am a happy young girl living in London. But in reality everyone has their own story and their reasons for acting the way they do.

Researching methods of self-harm have never been easier, and the world we live in sometimes means that people find it easier to self-harm than to admit they are struggling. 

Last year, NHS figures showed that the number of young people self-harming had increased. It was sad but at the same time intriguing. The figures emphasized that numbers of young girls being admitted to hospital for self -harm had quadrupled, and the number of young boys cutting themselves had also increased by 186%.  This got me thinking – why now?

Why did I as a young person and why do so many other young people struggle to express their emotions? Is there more pressure today on people generally and do people feel that self-harm challenges are becoming more of a thing? More fashionable? 

I believe the answer to all those questions is yes. Much of this is fueled by self-harm methods such as the salt and ice challenge or the blue whale challenge being discussed so openly in chat rooms. If you scroll through these pages you come across people from around the country offering advice, methods and their thoughts. 

These chat rooms fuel this epidemic. They bring young people in to a false sense of security.

For me growing up, my self-harm came out in not eating and damaging my body through over-exercising. Anorexia was my way of challenging emotional pain and my way of being in control. I challenged those intense emotions that I did not know how to cope with and emotions that I definitely did not want to feel. And I had an element of what I thought was control over my life through limiting my food intake.

When I was 17 I was admitted to a mental health hospital where I lived for a year recovering. I spent a year talking about how I felt, putting on weight so I was healthy and learning how to manage moving forward. It was one of the hardest years of my life but it taught me about the importance of sharing how I feel.

For people with any mental health problem, sharing how you feel can sometimes feel so hard. You might feel like a burden or afraid of what will happen if you do share how you feel, but you mustn’t feel like that. It is so important to talk, share your feelings and find people that you can be honest with. I know that from talking about how I felt - this is something that has kept me well.

You are probably reading this blog feeling like I am lecturing, feeling like I have no idea where you are or why you feel how you do. But I get it. The thrill of missing a meal, surviving off of nothing before going for long runs left me with a similar sensation.  

Self-harm may feel like it sorts you and comforts you, gives you some element of control… but in reality it is not doing that.  

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Living with Self-harm

Living with dark thoughts is like living with any invisible illness; no one knows what’s going on in your head.

You are wearing a mask and no one can see what is going on behind that; maybe you don’t take the mask off because you fear what people will think of you if you did; maybe you don’t take the mask off because you are fearful of what you will find; maybe you keep the mask on because it feels easier at the moment.

Feeling low and out of balance in yourself is the same as if you had a bad pain in your arm: you wouldn’t leave it too long before getting it checked out. We all have bad days that sometimes-become bad weeks- when the week becomes a fortnight and sleep becomes effected it’s time to get checked out.

In the same way a broken arm doesn’t heal without help; your low mood may not heal with some help. Sometimes some exercise, relaxation techniques and talking can help; sometimes you may need a little more than that.

Going to a GP can feel really threatening, if you are over 16 you can go on your own. Maybe write down how you are feeling because saying it can feel really tough.

Self-harm may be happening because your mask wearing days are causing you anxiety; fear; pain and making you feel at odds with yourself. Self-harm maybe happening because you are angry at yourself for not coping how you feel you should; self-harm may be happening because something horrid has happened to you.

Again, think of it as feeling ill, uneasy with yourself – get yourself checked out. If you don’t feel like making the step to the GP, how about a trusted teacher, a friend, an adult, a family member. Self-harm doesn’t define you; self-harm isn’t going to be your way forever. It is for a short time while you work out a better way.

At SelfharmUK, we know how unwell you must be feeling to be harming yourself, we know it isn’t the choice of someone happy in life. We know we can journey with you through some of your questions and difficulties to help you take off your mask.

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My Story

The blog post below was written by Ben, a trainee Youth Worker currenlty living in Oundle. Ben reflects on his life so far, the choices he made and how those choices brought him to where he is now.

School and social life can be tough for everyone at some point, but more so when you suffer from various behavioural problems such as anger management, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder) and ADD (Attention Deficit disorder).

When I started school, I was just an ordinary young teen who blended into the background and wasn’t even noticed. As I started to grow up, around the age of 13-14, difficulties began to show in my attitude in the classroom. I was starting to show tendencies of an angry, disruptive and argumentative young person. This started to show more during my move into year 10. During that summer I made loads of severe mistakes and managed to get myself into trouble with the police. It wasn’t long after that, when I began to act horribly towards my parents and other people around me. This led through to my massive downfall at school where I had my first suspension for fighting. This had a huge ripple effect on me and my family, as the repercussions from my actions where massive. Towards the end of my time in year 10 it was clear that I had just given up and I couldn’t care what I did and what happened to me. Throughout this time there were moments when I was ready to give up on everything as I didn’t feel or believe I was worth the hassle.

Going into my final year of school I was at my worst, I began to lash out at everyone who even looked at me, and would say and do some horrid things to the teachers around me, including those who were working hard to help me. Midway through year 11 I got into a significant amount of trouble with the police for a fight that I was involved in, this was the breaking point, I had to shape up, or leave home. I narrowly avoided being permanently expelled from school. This lead to me failing my GSCE’s.

I began to go to church pretty much straight after school was finished through a friend who had supported me through my time at school. In my friends’ mind, he felt as if church was the best thing for me, knowing the people who were there and what the church did for him. It was at that church I met several people who were willing to help and support me with my different problems. Ultimately I was very lucky to have met the main youth worker of the church who was willing to give up his time to sit and listen to how I felt for once and was able to relate to me as well as leading me onto a path of respect and change. He even helped to get the relationship between my parents and I stable. I was still not very nice to any of the people who were helping me, but they never gave up on me and made sure I felt listened to and valued!

Within the space of 6 months to a year, I managed to make a full transformation in my life, thanks to the amazing people who gave up and made the time for me. I was finally diagnosed with ADHD, ADD and anger management and received the support I needed. It wasn’t all easy, and I still struggled, as I do now as a 20-year-old man, but I now have the control and help I need to keep myself grounded. As years, have gone on many things have changed and I am now studying at Cambridge University, training as a youth worker, despite being told that I would never amount to anything. My passion is now working with those who are going through what I did.

I just want to say, don’t let what what’s happened in your life define you, don’t let your past mistakes stop you, and don’t let people tell you you can’t make it. You can change your life. You have the power in you to be the best you can, so know that support is there and people understand. This is your life, you can all succeed. 

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Blue Monday

The article below was written by Graeme Bigg, a member of the SelfharmUK training team.

Christmas leftovers have been eaten, decorations have been tidied away and presents are either now in use or have been returned for store credit, and you’ve now been back at school or work for over a week.  Some people find it easy to return to the routine of regular life, with all the promise of a new year and a new start, but others can find it much tougher, particularly if there are stressful situations going on from which the holidays offered a all-too-brief break.

The third Monday in January has been labelled as ‘Blue Monday’  - the reasoning being that as the wait for the first pay day since Christmas goes on and the weather gets colder, there is very little to raise the mood.  Indeed, everything from mock exams to presidential inaugurations can add to that existing weight.  So, if you’re feeling glum at the start of this year, here are a few things that might help:

Blue Monday is made up.  The concept of this being the most depressing day of the year was made up twelve years ago by a travel company[1] – who understandably have a lot to gain by people looking to cheer themselves up by booking a holiday.  Marking out a particular day as ‘the most depressing day in the year’ offers a lot for retailers, who would like you to make comfort purchases, but the meaning behind the day in question is even emptier than November’s Black Friday.  So while the media might play it up, try to remember: Blue Monday is a lie.

January can be depressing.  Although the science behind Blue Monday is rubbish, part of the reason the term persists is because we can see why it might be true.  Punishing New Year’s resolutions that involve depriving ourselves of things we enjoy (our favourite foods, our favourite TV shows), the struggle for funds, the return to our work, going to and returning from school in the dark[2]: all of these can get our mood down.  If you’re struggling with these things, you don’t need to hide them, and because January is a month where people are more aware that life can be hard, you might find it easier to chat about it.  Samaritans are running a campaign this year called ‘Brew Monday’, encouraging people to meet up for a conversation over a cuppa[3].  Whether you’re finding January tough, or actually life is always tough, why not meet up with someone to chat about it.  And if you’re not finding it tough, check in on those around you to see how they are.

New Year, new start.  The tradition of New Year’s resolutions is one I sometimes find a bit daunting, as people ask me what commitments have I made for the next twelve months.  Memories of resolutions that were quickly broken add to the pressure, as does the fear of not making any and what that might say about my character, or thoughts about what ambitious scheme I could set myself.  This year I’ve been reflecting on, when it comes to resolutions, smaller might be better.  A New Year’s resolution is, ultimately, a personal target: it’s for you.  Devising something massive that, when you fail, just crushes you, is not helping you.  Attaching such great value to a resolution that your value becomes wrapped up with it has a similar risk.  You are more than your resolutions; don’t let them define you.  Instead, try to create something that is achievable and fun, something that will build you up rather than knock you down.  I do think making resolutions is a good idea – it helps us focus and be positive – and so I would encourage you to make one (or some) and write them down, so that you can see how you get on  However, they are also not exclusive to New Year’s Eve/Day, so if you do break a resolution, start again.  Make it a year of new starts – however many are needed.

Don’t look back – not yet.  Janus, the Roman god from whom January traditionally takes its name, famously is depicted as having two faces, one looking forwards and one looking backwards.  Because the New Year start in January is an annual occurrence, sometimes we can get tied up remembering Januaries from the past, with their joys and pains.  Let’s aim to live this January (whatever it may bring) and not the ones of the past. We don’t need to ignore of forget the good or (particularly) the bad moments from the year and before, but at the start of this new year try to put them to one side and see what this year has.  There will be new conversations, new experiences, the chances to try new activities and make new friends.  It can be good for us to reflect on these new things and the old things together, but leave that for now.  Let’s get this year started first, and see what it has in store.

[1] http://www.independent.co.uk/n...

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/sc...

[3] http://www.samaritans.org/medi...

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Letter to January 2016 Me

Whilst Sophie was part of the Graduate Volunteer scheme at Youthscape, she worked closely with the SelfharmUK team. The blog post below is something Sophie found extremely helpful to write as it's helped her to reflect on her year and to think positively about the year ahead. Sophie continues to write blogs for us even though her time as a volunteer has come to an end. She hopes you find this blog helpful.

Christmas is almost here, and with that, the end of 2016. I’m sure there are many mixed feelings out there about this, and I am one of those people with mixed feelings! When I reflect on my year, I feel as though so much has happened, both good and bad, but I don’t have an immediate “2016, wow what a great/bad year” reaction. Recently, a friend told me about a letter she had written to her younger self, and I thought it would be the perfect way to help me reflect on my year and encourage myself for the year ahead. Maybe it’s something you could try?

So here goes:

Hi Soph,

Future you here (it’s currently December 2016). 2016 is going to be an interesting one, it’s going to have highs and lows, but don’t worry, it looks like it will end on a high.

I know you’ve just come off your medication, and I’m not going to lie, it’s going to be a tough few months, but I promise you; your body WILL adjust, so bear with it. Yes, at some points during the year you’ll slip back into self-harm, anxiety will get the better of you every now and then, some ‘sucky’ things happen, and at times life is going to feel pretty overwhelming. BUT, good news! As horrid as it may be, those times don’t last.

You grow so much this year, Soph. You FINALLY start making decisions that are looking out for your own wellbeing rather than based on making other people happy, how great is that?? I won’t tell you what these decisions are, but just go with your gut and know it’s okay to look after yourself. Oh and remember, admitting you need a bit of help again doesn’t mean you’re back to square one.

You know this already, but you have some really amazing people in your life who are totally going to be there for you – try to not feel guilty or ashamed to reach out to them if you need it – they HONESTLY don’t mind and only want the best for you. And be honest, Soph, I know being vulnerable can be scary, but opening up to these people is so safe.

You’ll start worrying about what to do job-wise after July, and then you’ll freak out about not having a job. Again, things work out; don’t put a load of unnecessary pressure on yourself. You don’t need to try and live up to the expectations of other people, this is YOUR life, and you need to do what’s best for you.

Spoiler Alert! You voluntarily say you’ll get up on stage and talk to 100+ people, AND you actually go through with it… AND it goes pretty well! Who would have thought it!?

2016 will be okay, but here’s a little peak at what I’ll try to remember and take into 2017 with me:

  • You are SO loved
  • You are SO blessed. Even when life is tough, keep what you’re thankful for close to your heart.
  • It’s okay to ask for help
  • Fight the fear
  • Being vulnerable is not weak, it shows strength and courage
  • Keep writing down what goes on in your head; it’s a great way to get it out!
  • Keep your chin up girl, you can do this!

Love, almost-2017-Soph

If you were to write a letter to yourself this year, what would you say? How would you encourage yourself for 2017?

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Let’s be honest: Christmas isn’t always fun is it?

This article was written by a member of the SelfharmUK team, Jo Fitzsimmons. Jo is our Alumina Program Manager and has parented a child who was a self-harmer for many years. She has an acute understanding of the impact self-harm has on not only young people, but their whole family. She hopes you find the below helpful.

All those lovely adverts on tv of families playing board games, watching each other open their presents laughing and smiling, the Christmas films where families realise they love each other more than any present they have ever had….

In my house reality looked like:

Smiling when you got a knocked off Care Bear that was misshapen and looked nothing like the ones my friends had; watching your parents  argue by 10 am as the pressure to be nice to each other all day is too much; my missing my Nan who passed away recently but we never mention her; once the presents have been opened we all disperse and meet up 3 hours later to eat too much food (that I hate myself for doing) and then fall asleep watching a crud film….

Sound like yours?

Or Maybe YOU LOVE Christmas?

Perhaps having people around you is a good thing as it makes you smile, gives you chance to see people who you actually like spending time with and you feel you can talk to; maybe the Christmas films take you back to feeling younger and happier…?

Either way – we can’t ignore it…It is Christmas! However we feel about it….

We know for some young people the idea of endless days spent at home with family is hard; perhaps being told you have to see relatives you don’t like causes you anxiety; perhaps you are missing a person you love at Christmas. However you feel, we want to get you through this, so here’s our tips for you:

Surviving Christmas Tips:

  • If you struggle spending time with family you don’t often see – find the nicest one in the room and zone in on them (easy if it’s someone you can play on an ipad or wii with so your family can’t complain too much about you ‘not being sociable’!
  • Give yourself breaks on your own if you need them- song lyrics, art, writing, music, reading, knitting are good ways to relax, sometimes our hands and our minds are best off busy so we focus in things other than how we feel.
  • Plan- maybe do yourself a daily plan to keep busy, combining gentle exercise with your fav hobby…try a new thing you have been thinking of.
  • Have a ready made contact list of friends if you need to – people you can text/message day and night.
  • If you are missing a loved one, how about making a present for them and putting it under the tree? It can be very helpful to acknowledge them over the Christmas time. Memory boxes out of shoes boxes, stars to put on the Tree, letters to the person – might all be helpful things to try.
  • Relaxing is so important especially if you find this time of year hard- slowing your breathing and relaxing your muscles helps reduce your anxiety, try downloading a Mindfulness app, give it a try a few times….
  • Eat healthily and sleep well – try and keep routines as much as possible, and yes, we know how tempting it is to eat the whole box of Quality Street and we all deserve a treat but….
  • Alumina on Demand is our on demand support for young people aged 14-18 who are struggling with self harm – while it’s the Christmas holidays, maybe join up and begin to work through the programme while you don’t have school and college pressures? Most days of the Christmas break someone on the Self Harm UK team is working, you can email us.
  • If you happen to feel very low, you can call Childline or Samaritans anytime at all.

May you know Hope this Christmas.

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My friend self-harms

It sounds like you are worried about your friend, and it’s great to hear you want to support them. Self-harming can be risky and it is understandable that you are concerned.

Firstly, it is important to remember the following things;

- you are not responsible for your friend’s actions.
- you cannot make them stop self-harming if they are not ready to.
- there is no quick fix or magic formula that works for everybody.

But here’s what you can do.

Friendship can be a powerful thing, and just being there for your friend may be a great comfort to them – to know they are not alone.

This doesn’t mean you should feel a pressure to be able to be around for your friend at all hours. Helping them create a bigger support network may be of great benefit to you both. Maybe you could tell them about this website or the young minds website. They could contact Childline and chat to a counsellor in confidence at any time of day or night, (for children and young people up to the age of 19). Or perhaps you could find out who else they trust that they could talk to.

People try all sorts of different ways to cope with their feelings – and different things work for different people. Some people keep a diary, others like to read or listen to music. Some people find it helpful to stimulate their senses – so they might put on their favourite perfume or aftershave for the nice smell, eat their favourite snack for the taste, cuddle their pillow or pet for the soft touch and so on. Maybe you could think about telling your friend about this.

Perhaps your friend might find it helpful to have a think about the things that trigger their self-harm. Perhaps they need support more so for the trigger than the self-harm itself. For example, if bullying is triggering their self-harm, perhaps reporting this will help take the trigger away. Or if exam stress is the trigger, maybe asking a teacher to help with a revision timetable will help.

Many people who self-harm and try to stop, feel like they’ve failed if they do hurt themselves again. Reassure your friend that it is normal to find stopping self-harming difficult, and that every urge they do manage to conquer is a victory.

Just by reading this article shows you are an amazing friend and doing a great job. It is a real balancing act to support a friend and look after your own feelings at the same time. It is a good idea to make sure you have support too, whether that be from another friend, an adult you trust or from a reliable website like this one, young minds or Childline

By Sam Firth who works for Childline

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Self-harm is real

Sanyha is a sixth form student that the SelfharmUK team met at the Priory School Mental Wellbeing Fayre. Sanyha has suffered with depression and self-harm and uses this blog to talk to us about the reality of self-harm urging us to break the stigma.

"You only self-harm for attention."

The number of times I have heard this comment is ridiculous, whether it was aimed at me or somebody else; to be completely honest it does make my blood boil when people think its acceptable to make assumptions like this. However, I do understand that there are people out there who are uneducated about mental illness and self-harm therefore they may not "get it". But do you not think that this assumption comes across at least a tad judgmental whether you are educated or not?

I started self-harming in 2014 due to feeling uncomfortable in the body and self I lived in, it started off as a very small type of self-harm - a few intentional scratches on my wrists every week. At first I didn't think of this as self-harm because I had no knowledge in this topic, this was also the case even when I started actually cutting my forearms and thighs in 2015. This form of self-harm seemed to be an on and off method of coping for the two years. When I developed a hate for myself as a person to a bigger extent, and began to convince myself that I deserved the pain that I inflicted upon myself, the cutting became more frequent - there was a phase of cutting everyday or every other day. The spring of 2015, I went through a few months of being close to starving myself as I only allowed myself to have one full meal a day and if I was to go over that limit then I would punish myself further through cutting – I did this as another form of self-harm.

By the end of 2015 I started to break away from self-harming as I realised that it was not going to solve anything and yes I know you may be thinking, why did it take me this long to realise this? This is what having a mental illness does to you, you cannot always think like you 'normally' would and your mind prevents you from the realisation. I started to find out alternatives but it was difficult for me, however keeping a hairband on my wrist seemed to work for a while; I even do that to this day to give me a sense of relief at times when I feel irritated. Another thing that made me break away from self-harming is the fact that my scars started to make me feel even more insecure than I already was. Therapy helped me to learn many strategies that I could use during my low mood episodes as well as being able to control certain thoughts I had.

Self-harm is real. Mental health is real.

So stop assuming and start helping, we cannot stop this stigma without you.

You can see more about what Sanyha is up to here  http://sanzshares.blogspot.co.uk

There are books that can help with your own recovery here http://www.youthscape.co.uk/store/project/selfharm

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How Zayn’s pain helps us to think differently about eating disorders

One Direction: the biggest boy band on the planet; the one with all the screaming fans and everyone wondering about their every move. People will often assume these pop stars and many others in the public eye have a perfect, pain-free life. We might think, if I could have one day in their life, all my problems would seem to disappear.

This week Zayn Malik released his book, “Zayn”. It offers an insight into what he describes as the darkest and most difficult times of his life. It’s even refreshing to hear that sentence isn’t it? Don’t get me wrong – I would not wish dark and difficult times on anyone, but I think that sentence causes us to take a step back and realise that those times come to and are felt by everyone.

Zayn openly expresses in his book that during the last few months of One Direction he had an eating disorder. He says this:

“I think it was about control. I didn’t feel like I had control over anything else in my life, but food was something I could control, so I did, I had lost so much weight I had become ill. The workload and the pace of life on the road put together with the pressures and strains of everything going on within the band had badly affected my eating habits.” (Taken from Zayn Malik’s autobiography Zayn 2016)

There can be many reasons why people can develop eating disorders, and most of us instantly assume it is about being thin. While this can sometimes be the case, as Zayn so eloquently points out one big reason can be about gaining some control.

The online resource Eating Disorder Hope talks about anxiety and control linked to eating disorders:

"Often, it is the case that anxiety precedes an eating disorder. In struggling with severe anxiety, for instance, being able to control the aspect of one’s life, such as food, weight, and exercise, indirectly gives the suffer a false sense of control, which can temporarily relieve symptoms experienced due to anxiety." (Taken from Eating Disorder Hope website 2016)  

Zayn has also spoken in depth before about his own anxiety and how he has at times been unable to go on stage due to feelings of overwhelming panic. This is actually one reason he gave when he left the band back in March 2015. Popular vlogger Zoella has also created a fantastic video about her own panic attacks and anxiety, you can see it here

I think it is important for us to try to realise a couple of things from stories like Zayn’s. Firstly, we must remember that all people – whoever they are and whatever they do for a living – feel, live and experience pain. Secondly we should be challenged to think about our own recovery, so ask yourself:

What are the things that are causing you to try to gain some control?
How does controlling food help to make things better?
What things may need to change in order for the need to control to fade?

From there you can begin, as Zayn did, to find a place of freedom. 

SelfharmUK eating disorder resources can be found here

A Parents guide to eating disorders can be found here

B-eat are another eating disorder charity that are there to help you 

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Instagram's Best Kept Secret

What do you think of when you hear the word Instagram? Filters that make your eyes stand out more, blurred edges and something that looks picture perfect, even if the image didn’t start off that way. I don’t know about you, but I can sometimes find social media hard, I become weighed down with seeing images of peoples “perfect” lives and their always happy families. Sometimes, just sometimes I feel like I don’t want to be around that or always be happy. Social media can be great on so many levels and whenever the big bosses of such social media platforms do things that raise awareness around self-harm it is always so positive.

Imagine my delight when I realised the beauty magazine Elle had compiled a piece about an introduction by the CEO of Instagram that allows people to do a few things if they are suffering with or have suffered with self-harm. Instagram already have a heap of tools available, such as deleting and reporting comments as well as blocking and reporting accounts. Now users can go to their settings icon and make a list of words that they find upsetting or triggering and ensure that posts containing those words do not appear in any of their feeds. If you want to know about Facebooks best kept secret, you can...here

Here is a helpful guide to show you the tools I am talking about on Instagram

If you have an Adroid look for this icon in the far right hand corner:

#

If you have an iPhone, look for this icon in the far right hand corner:

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Hit that button and scroll to settings;

When you are there hit the comments button, you will then see this:

#

From there you can hide all things that are innoproriate or put in your own key words, like this :

#

I will leave you with some words from the CEO of Instagram himself...

"My commitment to you is that we will keep building features that safeguard the community and maintain what makes Instagram a positive and creative place for everyone. To learn more about comments on Instagram, check out help.instagram.com." Kevin Systrom CEO & Co-founder, Instagram (Taken from the post made on Instagram by Kevin System).

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Finding Myself

Sanyha is a sixth form student and the self-harm team met her at the Priory School Mental Wellbeing Fayre, Sanyha has suffered with depression and self-harm and uses this blog to talk to us about where she has come from and where she is now. It's really inspiring to read and we hope this helps some of you think about a life without self-harm. 

Imagine being so confused with yourself to the point where you can't even recognise who you are anymore; well that was me roughly two years ago.

I was diagnosed with severe depression in January 2015 when I was fifteen years old, at this time I was referred to CAMHS where I had regular therapy sessions since until October 2016. I have been discharged from the services, however in the past two years I had an incredibly difficult time in living my life as the thoughts of worthlessness and uselessness overwhelmed the positivity that I once had. Fortunately, I have regained my usual self through therapy as well as medication which I was put on in December 2015 as this was known to be a better route for me. I went through more than 3 suicide attempts and I am near to 11 months clean from self harm which is such a proud achievement for me.

I can honestly say that, I would never wish any of the experiences I went through on anybody at all because feeling like you want to leave the world is such a horrible feeling and us teenagers should not be thinking such a thought when we have our whole life ahead of us. The same goes for anybody of any age group as everybody has a purpose, whether you can see it yourself or not. This is why mental health awareness is vital and too important to ignore. Since my diagnosis, I have learnt so much about mental health and this has added to my passion about mental health and getting people to start talking about this topic rather than viewing it as a weakness and a taboo thing to talk about. It is my mission to do my best in raising awareness to mental health as it certainly does not get the attention that it should do. I raise awareness through my blog, YouTube Channel, Instagram, Twitter and my Snapchat Vlogs.

Currently, I am at Sixth Form studying Art, Sociology and Philosophy & Ethics and I am absolutely loving Sixth Form life! As well as studying my A Levels, I am beginning an Art Therapy group for the younger students at my school. I have started doing freelance makeup artistry as I have a passion for beauty as well and I also attend blogging events and meetings.

I have huge plans for my future which I did not think I would have as I honestly did not think I would get this far in life but I have, which is saying something – if I can then anybody can! I want to make a difference and I want to inspire, those are my main goals.

Mental health is like physical illness; how long will it take for people to realise this?

You can see more about what Sanyha is up to here  http://sanzshares.blogspot.co.uk

There are books that can help with your own recovery here https://www.youthscape.co.uk/store/project/selfharm

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