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:
It's the start of a new year. Some of us love a fresh start and a clean slate, and we can feel like we have a shot at it when a new year (let alone a new decade) starts. But maybe it feels for you as if nothing has really changed. You're stuck in the same place with the same problems.
But maybe this year could be a time to reach out from some help from new places.
If you've not tried out Alumina before, why not try it out in 2020?
Alumina groups run online in the evenings. You log in to a kind of chat room where we can't see or hear you but you can see and hear us - real, adult humans who are here to listen and support you. You can type in the chatbox or just sit and listen. Either way, people tell us it helps them to feel less alone. There are usually between 2 and 6 young young people in each session.
We talk about some big questions - why do we self-harm, why is it so addictive, will it always be something I do, who can I talk to, are there any alternatives that work - but we never tell you what to do. Alumina is a safe space, a non-judgemental space, and a place where you can think about what it might take for you to move towards recovery.
We'd love to give you some extra support, and help you to feel less alone. Why don't you have a go?
We have new groups starting up with week, but you can join them anytime in January. Just sign up here. (Don't worry, when you sign up you're not totally committing yourself to Alumina - it just means we can start an email conversation with you).
This week The Guardian reported that “British girls have finally made the global top table … for fear of failure.”
Every year a selection of the world’s 15 year olds are assessed by a program called PISA, and typically governments look to see how well their teenagers are doing in English, Maths and Science. But they also measure other things like purpose, happiness and levels of stress.
The major finding for us this time round? Britain’s 15 year old girls are terrified of failure. The only countries with more terrified 15 year old girls are Taipei, Macau, Singapore, and Brunei.
I wonder if you maybe know from experience what they’re talking about. Are you terrified of failure? Failing exams, or failing to meet someone else’s expectations?
There’s something normal and natural about fearing failure – no-one likes to fail. But when it starts to dominate our thinking, to overwhelm our wellbeing, then we run into problems.
This fear of failure can affect our mental health, massively. It can lead to anxiety (which can take many forms), it can contribute to depression, it can leave us reaching for harmful coping strategies (like self-harming) just to keep it under control.
So where does it come from (and why does it affect so many girls)?
There’s definitely something about our education system and all the testing that has a negative effect. And schools and families that want us to do well often try to scare us into working hard by telling us how badly things will go if we fail.
When the truth is that failure isn’t as bad as everyone makes out. Failing an exam. Disappointing someone. Getting something wrong. People come back from those experiences every day. And lots of them have a story to tell about how they’re a better person because of it.
Social media has a role to play as well, because mostly what it shows us is people who look successful. Which puts more pressure on us, because we know all the ways in which we don’t measure up.
Of course boys experience it too, but some research shows that boys are more likely to respond to the fear by withdrawing from work to protect their self-esteem, whereas girls keep working and stressing…
What can help us get over such a fear of failure? Well, as someone recovering from that same huge fear myself, let me share a few things that have helped me over the years.
1. Not following people on social media who make me feel rubbish about myself
It might be a celebrity, it might be vlogger, it might be someone from school. But if following them leaves you feeling rubbish about yourself, and feeling like you don’t measure up then you just don’t need that. Let them get on with their life while you get on with yours. Carve your own path. As Oscar Wilde famously said “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”
2. Remembering that I’m not at school or college to pass exams, I’m here to learn stuff.
Yes, teachers and parents obsess over exam results. But the point of getting an education isn’t just to pass exams so you can either get out, or go somewhere else to take more exams. The whole point is that you are learning about the world, and yourself, and other people, and working out where you might fit in all of that – what you love and what you might like to do. There’s a bigger picture than exams (which can be taken again if need be).
3. Reminding myself that many things are true about me that have nothing to do with exam results.
I like making things. I can sing. I’m a good friend. I can cook dinner for people. I like learning new things. I’m a good listener. These things have nothing to do with how well or badly I did in my exams, and they are a huge part of who I am. My value as a human being, as a friend, as a part of humanity, is not defined by school success. What kind of list could you make of positive things that are true about you – things you like, the kind of person you are – which will be true regardless of exam results? Maybe those things are actually a lot more important.
‘Tis the season to be jolly?
Christmas isn’t far away, and we’re all supposed to be excited. Or so the songs and the shops and the films all tell us. But for a lot of us, Christmas is something we dread, and look for a way to survive. And all kinds of support services – charities, helplines, the NHS – tell us that they see a lot of people over Christmas for whom this is actually the worst time year.
Why is Christmas so hard? Is it something about Santa? Or even baby Jesus?
You might have specific reasons why it’s tough for you. Your family situation might be difficult, awful, painful. You might have lost people this year that you would otherwise have spent time with, and so Christmas now feels unbearably lonely. It might be the anniversary of something bad. It might be that the expectations, the pressure, all that socialising and the things you’re meant to do, cause you high levels of anxiety that are difficult to manage. Or maybe it's something else, something I haven't even thought of, something that no-one else really understands.
There are also plenty reasons why it’s an inherently stressful time – for everyone, even those who are pretending it’s all FINE. Sometimes the people who are working the hardest to make everything AMAZING are the people who are finding it hardest underneath.
Everyone seems to have expectations for Christmas. Presents. “Fun”. People. Food. And especially when we’re young we don’t get a lot of say in all of that. We either have to join in with everything, or maybe we don't get to do any of it. We don’t get to choose who we’re with or how we celebrate. Other people make choices for us that might not actually be the best thing for our well-being. And we’re supposed to go along with it.
So maybe the first thing to do this Christmas is just to be honest with ourselves. Admit what we don't like, what we wouldn't choose, what doesn't feel like a healthy choice for us. And then think of somebody we might be able to confide in. It might be someone in your family, but it really might not be. It could just be a friend. But have an honest conversation about what is hard for you at Christmas and what you wish you didn't have to go through.
Just being able to tell someone helps.
It's really important that you take care of yourself this Christmas. The presents and the food will be long gone and forgotten, but you'll still be here - you're more important than the rest of it.
We’ve got a blog coming later this week with our top survival tips, but in the meantime, remember – there’s nothing weird about finding Christmas tough.
Need some extra support right now?
If you're looking for some extra help right now we have new Alumina groups starting where you can find encouragement to take steps towards recovery, at your own pace.