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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.

No Words

When someone we care about is going through a difficult experience that we have no control over, we often feel powerless to help them. We say what we think is best and what sounds the most supportive, but our words never quite feel like enough when compared with the difficulty of their situation. 

I don't know about you, but I've read lots of blogs about what to say to people who are struggling with their mental health. I try to use phrases like 'That must be hard for you' and 'You sound like you're really struggling' when listening to my friend's troubles, but I can't shake the feeling that I'm simply stating the obvious.

As a Christian, I grew up in Church listening to people offering each other spiritual words of encouragement. Phrases like 'You're in my prayers', 'God has a plan for you', and 'Put your trust in him' were often said to me, to people I knew, and now by me as I've gotten older. Even though I believe that these phrases are true, I sometimes worry that they are far too easy to say, and that they simply aren't special enough.

I guess that's the thing about words though - sometimes there just aren't any that feel right to say. 

And that's ok.

The act of doing something to show support for someone who is struggling, doesn't have to involve spoken words.  Below are links to 5️⃣ things you can buy someone who is struggling with their mental health from some fantastic organisations that deserve your support...

1️⃣ EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE OK A4 NOTEBOOK by Blurt Foundation

2️⃣ AFFIRMATION CARDS by Youthscape

3️⃣ 'YOU'VE TOTES GOT THIS' TOTE BAG by Young Minds

4️⃣ DINGY SKIPPER HEADWARE by Dingy 

5️⃣ BE LOVED (BELOVED) ENAMEL PIN BADGE by Beloved

PS. You don't have to spend money to show someone you care. You could make them something by drawing, baking, knitting, building, creating, designing, filming or decorating for example 😄

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When Mental Health Meets the Outdoors

The blog below was written by Marc. Marc is the founder and owner of Dingy Life, a small active clothing brand based in the UK.

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I am a veteran mountain biker and outdoor activity enthusiast and mentor. I have competed in endurance events and races at national level and around the world. In the past years my health has suffered through various traumas in my life and I suffer from depression, anxiety and self-harm.

Along with SelfharmUK, who have some amazing resources and provide some invaluable help, being active and connecting with the outdoors has been a great medicine and helped enhanced my health and mental wellbeing. With the combined help from SelfharmUK, CBT and outdoor activities all have helped me get through some dark and testing times.

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So through my journey came a positive outcome - to inspire others who are suffering with mental illnesses, to connect with the outdoors, to enhance health and wellbeing, and to provide information and support. This year I will be competing in a 24hr mountain bike race raising awareness for mental health in the process. 

We ride, we climb, we paddle, we swim, we run, we wild camp, we visit some great places all to inspire others. We also design our own branded clothing and sell second hand clothing to raise money for some great causes... and with that in mind, Dingy was born. 

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Dingy is an outdoor inspired clothing brand based in the UK, who design their own clothing and sell recycled clothing to support people with mental illness. 20% of our profits are donated to SelfharmUK and Mind. 

You can support Dingy Life, SelfharmUK and Mind by purchasing products here.

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My Mind is My Canvas

The blog post below was written by Ellen.

When I was 11, I began to suffer from intense panic attacks and I turned to self harm to alleviate some of that pain. Seven years later, I’ve got a long list of diagnosis, including anorexia nervosa, depression and anxiety.

Throughout my GCSEs I barely went to school. I taught myself the courses at home and pushed through my exams. I managed to get A*s, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I wasn’t really living. 

The school I was in at the time was very focused on getting the top grades and getting girls into the ‘best' universities. But even at 11 I knew I didn’t want to be a lawyer or a doctor or an accountant or an engineer… but I couldn’t work out what I did want. And I’ve realised that that’s okay. 

One of the biggest steps I’ve taken was starting therapy again. I stopped going for a long time because my body and mind were too weak to benefit from it because of my anorexia, but once I was at a stable weight I went back. My therapist has allowed me to open my eyes to the beauty in the world and always encourages me to chase my dreams, even if I’m not sure exactly what I want. She’s helped me to look for coincidences in life; the world starts to connect up and forms a safety net around you. 

She was crucial in helping me transfer to an art college for sixth form, and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Things are still really hard sometimes but I am learning to get in touch with myself more and I feel like the universe is there to support me. 

I have found myself in art; I joined weekend classes in a London photography studio when I was 15 and I realised I could explore a format people want to see and that makes sense to me. I love to create narratives through both words and images; I am interested in psychology and colour theory and I use art to try and understand myself and others.

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I created a scanography series in which I expressed my mental health journey through distorted self-portraits and eerie colour palettes. I was inspired by Amy Hughes, a painter I found reading Aesthetica magazine. Encased (2017) is psychologically and physically charged; I was struck by the strong highlights arching over a figure's back with an agonised, scrunched up face, distorted by the reflected light and texture of a plastic prison. I reached out to Amy and interviewed her for my project - she even invited me to the opening of her show! She encouraged me to express my true-self, which helped me develop my interest in the nature of mankind. 

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According to a survey carried out by the Mental Health Foundation 2018, 74% of adults in the UK alone report feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope. 51% of these adults felt depressed, and 61% felt anxious. 16% had self harmed and 32% said they had experienced suicidal thoughts. It is hard to tell whether we are just noticing and appreciating the effects of mental health more nowadays, or if there is a crisis as dramatic as reported. Either way, to experience mental health issues or to support someone with them is incredibly, painstakingly hard. I know from my own experience how isolated, hopeless and empty these problems can make you feel. Some of my images are my attempt at describing how you can feel like you're living multiple lives; we lie to people and tell them we're okay, we are misunderstood by others, and we don't know how we even really feel. 

As the scanner moved, I lifted my head and lowered it at regular intervals to create the more frozen style of image. I’ve also tried to depict the feelings of isolation, disorientation and sadness. I pressed my face against the scanner to create visible pressure on my nose and forehead; the world is so vast and scary, yet we can feel caught-up and claustrophobic living in it. The qualities of the images create a kind of wavering mood-line - a bit like a line graph - as well as confusion and feeling out of control. I moved my face along with the scanner, not worrying about the slight shake of my body as I did so as this is what created the wavering effect. 

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I didn't want to make them specific to any one mental health issue; they are universal and can be understood by many. For instance, some images may as a representation of schizophrenia. I wanted to create a sense of understanding for those suffering due to mental health issues, be it the one  who is ill or the one caring for them, and also to educate those who think the mentally ill are simply 'over dramatic' or 'not worth helping'. 

Reasons to try being creative 🎨...

1️⃣ Creatives activities can help to reduce stress levels, aid mental calmness and serve as a relaxing distraction. You can get absorbed in your mental flow when creating.

2️⃣ Art also helps creative thinking; it can better your problem-solving skills. There are no wrong answers in art and we are allowed to imagine our own solutions. Flexible thought can stimulate in the way that learning a new language can.  

3️⃣ Art can improve cognitive abilities and memory for people with serious brain disorders, such as dementia, by stimulating cell growth in the brain. 

4️⃣ Chronic health conditions can be left behind while you create; a positive experience,  and a chance to achieve allows you to express your feelings and help you find your identity.

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How to Overcome False Hope Syndrome

The blog below was written by Aurora.

Even if you’re like me and don’t go in for New Years resolutions, you probably started January with a lot of excitement, great expectations and ideas of what you were going to do differently, and how you were going to accomplish all the things you didn’t get to do last year.

And now, a few weeks later, you’re probably finding that you haven’t even started on half the things you promised yourself you would do, and that your energy and motivation have taken a big dive. If that’s the case, then you’re probably feeling angry and disappointed with yourself. Maybe embarrassed, if you’d boasted to your family, friends and colleagues about what you were going to do. This disappointment can often reinforce the bad habits you were trying to beat, and this can make it even harder to get up and try again.

There are two important things to keep in mind if you’re in this situation.

The first is that it’s always difficult, after the Christmas break, to get back into the regular swing of school or work. It’s always going to be a bit jarring, so it’s natural that you’re going to be more tired in January than in other months of the year. So you shouldn’t be disappointed in yourself just because you’ve been struggling to find the necessary energy.

The second, and most important thing, to remember when planning your New Year goals is to keep them realistic. It’s very easy, at the dawn of the New Year, bursting with excitement and optimism, to set yourself really big objectives, or aim to achieve them in a brief amount of time.

For example, if you’re overweight and want to get fit, you might have said to yourself: “Okay, this year I’m going to hit the gym three times a week, and I’m going to go on a diet. No more Fried Chicken Fridays...” Or something along these lines.

You have to bear in mind that just dieting, or developing a regular exercise routine, is hard enough by itself. Especially if you’re not used to it. So attempting them both at the same time would be very difficult; particularly if you’re struggling to adapt back into school or work. You may have a better chance of success if you keep your goals small and specific. Set yourself a measurable plan instead of a few abstract ideas about what you want to achieve.

To be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with challenging yourself. It’s better to set the bar too high than to just skate through life with no challenge. But in order to accomplish your goals, you have to balance your desires with what you can realistically achieve, and remember that nothing worth having comes without time and effort, and the occasional lapse. Having a well thought plan will better prepare you for dealing with failures.

And remember, don’t be too hard on yourself if you stumble. It’s only January after all!

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Hills and Valleys

A New Year reflection by Elizabeth.

First and foremost a shout out to SelfharmUK, they have been doing such a fantastic job of providing a platform for people to speak out. 

When I started to open up about the challenges I was facing, (most of which only existed in my mind), things started to change for me. We all go through tough times, but know that without the valleys you can’t enjoy the hilltop experiences. So, here’s a little bit of my journey to where I am now. 

Reflection for me is something I don’t do very often, I find it hard to do, particularly in the business of life. I find myself either constantly planning for the next thing and not enjoying each moment or being distracted by things around me (like pointless new feeds on my phone!). I noticed that I got to the point where I found it quite hard to remember what I was doing throughout each day. So, in January as we always do, I decided before I went to bed, I would reflect on the day and be thankful for conversations I had that day, people I’d met and moments I would learn from. Well like January resolutions happen, it started and stopped. One thought I do remember though, is how excited I was for the year ahead as I had several opportunities of leading at events and I had a few little breaks away with family. Little did I know that on one of my long weekends away, my boyfriend would propose to me! You never know what's around the corner. 

In January I was starting a new job as a youth and children’s worker in my hometown, Leighton Buzzard. It has been my passion to be able to work with young people in my local area. Having struggled a lot, myself at school with friendships, self-confidence, and academia, I wanted to give back where my youth leaders had helped me.  This new role couldn’t have come at a more poignant time. When I returned home, I found out that sadly there were three suicides in quick succession over the Christmas period. For me this just solidified the reasons why I wanted to go back. There desperately needed to be more support for every family, schools, and community.  

Throughout this past year I’ve learned many lessons from this new role, some of which have been very painful, but all of which have helped build my character for the better. People pleasing, rest and time management are a few of those things I needed to change. I know that if I want to work with families, schools and communities I won’t please everyone. Not only that, I can’t take on other people’s problems, I can be there as someone to be listening and supporting, but I must learn to rest and take time out for me. Otherwise, I’ll burn out! This is something I find very difficult and I am constantly being reminded of that. For me, my relationship with Jesus is paramount to my everyday life, my identity is not in how much I do, or if something is successful or not, it is that I am loved by my father in Heaven.  

One reflection this year I have enjoyed remembering is, the priceless moments of being able to tell those who needed to hear, listen to those who needed an ear and walk alongside those who needed a peer. Whether it be in our mums and tots’ groups, Sunday Celebrations, or our youth connect groups. I have been given the chance to have those one to one times and hear other stories. We have all taken some helpful insights from each other and been able to apply it to our life. 

As each month has passed, I could easily have forgotten all the amazing opportunities I had. One, because I wanted to forget, and two, because of sheer busyness. I was being drawn out of my comfort zone so many times. On a few occasions, I was so anxious that I wanted to turn around and run away.  I had to battle in my mind, constant negative thoughts, and the lies I kept hearing in my head like “I can’t do this”, “I’m not good enough”, “people are annoyed with you” etc. I can’t say I loved being in that place, but I can say we all go through hills and valleys. Without the bad experiences, you can’t appreciate the good ones. What good moments have you had this year that have helped shape you for the better?

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World Kindness Day

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

Try googling ‘the kindest person in the world’…

Weird isn't it?

It wasn’t people I had ever heard of; it was all very random. Some are global business people doing amazing things with their money; others are travellers who give away all they have; others still are people who have passed away and their families recall them as being the kindest person in the world.

Kindness isn’t measurable. There isn’t a kindness scale which we can ‘achieve’ kindness or check on our Social Media profile to see what marks out of 10 we have been given for kindness. Why?

🌎 Because kindness is quiet. 

🌎 Because kindness is done every day a billion times over.

🌎 Because kindness doesn’t need a fanfare.

🌎 Because kindness only needs one person to know about it – the person on the receiving end. 

Today is World Kindness Day.

There are incredible sad and desperate situations happening today all over the world that we are limited in what we can do to help – but, perhaps, we can buy a homeless person a hot drink? Perhaps we can volunteer at an animal shelter? Perhaps we can help tidy the house? Text a person we have been angry with? Say ‘thank you’ to a teacher who has helped us?

Perhaps the hardest and most challenging thing to do on World Kindness Day is be kind to ourself.

The ultimate person to be kind to is us.

What can you do to be kind to you today? Give yourself permission to rest? To laugh without feeling guilty? To tell that small critical voice that it doesn’t speak truth?

What would it look like to you to be kind today? 

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Self Care Week

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

Caring for others is often far easier than caring for ourselves, don’t you think?

Listening to others is one of the best gifts we can offer someone – the chance to be heard, to empty their worries and fears with us and for us to offer care, support and hope – is an incredible life giving gift.

Yet; how much do we listen to ourselves? Do we allow our own fears, worries and thoughts to be hard by others?

How do we offer ourself the same care and friendship that we extend to those we love?

I’m getting a bit older now and (I like to think) a little wiser. I now recognise I can’t help everyone or rescue them from their situations, but I can offer a listening ear or kind word... Only if I offer myself the same self compassion and care that I offer them!

To do this, I like to write a list of all the nice, encouraging, kind, thoughtful things I do to help others – and I apply it to me.

I tell myself how strong I am; how brave I am; how proud I am of me; and how thoughtful I am. I encourage myself to speak out my worries to a trusted person so I don’t feel alone with my fears; I allow myself to appreciate the things I am good at - and I outrightly laugh at myself when I make mistakes and look a bit silly!

For every person I help; I aim to help myself – by giving myself a break, by watching my favourite soap (Hollyoaks everytime!), by treating myself to a nice shampoo or baking a cake.

This week, on Self Care week, try one of these actions each day. It’s not selfish; it is life giving and will help you to become a better friend, a better son/daughter or a better sibling...

  • Look in the mirror and say one thing you like about yourself
  • Today, think of one good thing you have done to help someone and think about how it felt
  • Encourage yourself – you are braver and stronger than you will ever realise
  • Name one thing you are proud of in your life
  • Do something thoughtful for yourself in the same way you would for a friend (bake your favourite cake/watch your favourite tv show)
  • Take yourself to a place you enjoy
  • Spend time with people who love you and make you smile

Now here's some GIFs to really get you in the mood 😂

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Enjoy caring for you this Self Care Week!

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Relaxation Week

Last week at drop in was ‘relaxation week’. What’s drop in and why was it relaxation week we hear you ask? Well, drop in is basically what we call our after school club for young people. Every week night from 3.30pm until 6pm, young people from Schools all across Luton come and hangout here at the Youthscape building as soon as the bell rings for their final class. When they arrive, they usually head straight for the PlayStations, the pool table or to buy themselves a milkshake or a toastie! But that’s not all there is to do.

Every week, we have a different theme a drop in. The idea of each theme is to offer advice and to encourage young people to reflect on what that theme means to them and their life. To do this, we often set up activities and games based around that theme. For relaxation week, we were specifically looking at:

  • Why rest and relaxation are important
  • Different ways to relax and look after ourselves 
  • Relaxing physically, mentally, and spiritually

One of the activities we invited our young people to take part in order to explore what the word ‘relaxation’ actually meant, was collaging. If you search in a thesaurus, you’ll find that there are lots of words and phrases that mean ‘to relax’. ‘Unwind’, ‘loosen up’, ‘calm’, ‘sit back’ and ‘feel at home’ are just some examples. Can you think of anymore? 

Using these words and phrases, we asked young people to pick the one that resonated with them the most, and to create an image or collage that visually represented how they interpreted it. Here’s how they got on…

👆 Some chose to create images that related to their lives specifically, by drawing their house or showing how they relax by sleeping.

👆Others made images that were very literal of the phrase they were trying to represent.

👆And some were a lot more abstract and emotive.

Whatever 'relaxation' means to you, make sure your taking time to look after yourself. This week, it's half term here across the Schools in Luton. We really hope our young people found this relaxation activity helpful as they prepared to take a break from their studies. If you wanted to try this activity at home, all you need is some bits of coloured and patterned card, some glue and some scissors. What does relaxation mean to you? 😊

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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 💙 ------>

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And did some decoupage too 🦄 ------>

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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 💪 ------>

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Love, the Hope group x

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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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Feelings

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

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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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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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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...                                                           

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2. Doing your exams...

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3. Worried about leaving School...

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4. Getting your results...

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

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  • 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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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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