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:
When was the last time you wrote a letter? In fact, have you ever written one? It would seem that the art of handwriting letters has long become a thing of the past. Well, why would you write a letter when you can spend half the time producing a more professional looking one on a computer? Whilst this option is definitely more convenient, there does still exist a fondness for more old-school methods of communication.
Handwriting a letter is a very personal and heartfelt way of sharing your thoughts. For a start, your handwriting is completely unique to you, making anything you write on one of a kind! Secondly, taking the time to physically write and/or post a letter, is an extremely thoughtful gesture in a world where digital communication is not only quicker, but also expected.
Letters are also physical things. The digital world sometimes lacks tangibility and authenticity. What this means is, you can't hold a text or an email in your hands. It also means that by texting and emailing, we're not leaving a physical legacy of ourselves in the world. The proof that we were here beyond our social media profiles, snapchats and instagram posts - will be in our diaries, and the letters, scribbles and notes that we wrote and gave to other people.
With this in mind, why not handwrite a letter to your future self!?
Writing a letter to your future self can be a really insightful way of helping you to figure out who you really are. Pretend you are writing to yourself a year in the future... What would you say? What kind of person would you want to be? What goals will you want to have achieved by then?
When you open your letter in a years time, you'll get to find out if you met your own expectations, and if not, reflect on why that’s the case. Our goals are often subject to changing circumstances and priorities - so don't be too hard on yourself if you haven't achieved what you expected.
Reading your letter also lets you see how your direction in life may have changed - allowing you to stop and think about how happy you really are about where you're at with your life. Because your letter was written by you, it's almost like being contacted by the old you, giving you a different, but familiar, friendly and authentic perspective.
So, what are you waiting for!? Grab a pen and some paper and get writing! Just incase you're not sure where to start though, check out the link below to Sophie's blog for ideas and tips where she wrote a letter to her past self instead.
Sanyha is a young person who has a passion for all things art, beauty and mental health related. As a Muslim and someone who has struggled with her mental health, she hopes you find her reflection of fasting during Ramadan helpful.
Ramadan is one of the Holy months of the Islamic calendar, a time in which Muslims dedicate to refocus on purifying their souls and perform through self-reflection, self-sacrifice and prayer. It is a month of fasting and abstaining from any bodily pleasures which helps Muslims develop self-control and a closer connection with God. This month has many positive benefits, however for those who may be suffering from an illness, fasting can become quite difficult to practice - physical or mental illness.
Over the last few years I have personally struggled with fasting due to how deep my mental health issues had gotten with my depression and anxiety. I was on anti-depressants which is one of the reasons why both my doctor and therapist advised me not to fast but also because of my own triggers and habits which I was aware of such as self harm. Being in that state of depression, it would have been unsafe for my well-being to practice the fasting and this took me a while to accept as religion is something very close to my heart but also something that I struggled with due to the effects of my mental health.
It is known that physical health can have a huge impact on mental health so this is another factor as the lack of nutrition led me to become quite weak. Combining that weakness with the battles going on in my mind at the time, it was not a healthy mix.
This seems to be a controversial topic to some however I believe that everybody must do what is right for them regardless of the thoughts of others. I continued the month through prayer and worship despite not fasting, which I believe is one of the main explanations of my mental health improvement overall.
Now with a better mental state, I find fasting is something that actually boosts my mental health through the ability to focus on self-reflection and worship. But it is important to know that this is a very personal situation as each individual has different reasons, beliefs and stories.
You can read more of Sanyha's blog posts on her website.
This blog post was written by Jo Fitzsimmons, a member of the SelfharmUK Team.
I literally don’t know anyone who looks in the mirror every day and says to themselves...
“Wow, I look great!”
Our bodies are incredible – they allow us to move, enjoy food, laugh, cry, dance, draw, sing, think, sleep; they are incredibly complex. We have 27 emotions that we feel; we think up to 80,000 thoughts a day; we are made up of electric impulses, chemicals, tiny nerves, muscles, tendons and 79 different organs!
We are complex for sure!!
And yet, this body that is so complex, so intricate, so finely balanced that it can feel like our enemy at times.
Perhaps we don’t feel ‘at home’ in our body?
Perhaps we feel trapped inside this shape we are in?
Perhaps our body doesn’t work in the same way as others?
The reality is, at times, we all (yup, every single one of us) feels like this.
We feel frustrated at our body (it doesn’t work right), we might dislike this outer shell of our body that ‘traps’ these thoughts and feelings, we might feel angry at how we look, we might feel scared of the strength of feelings encompassed inside us…
Take a minute:
Sit still. Breathe.
How incredible is that? Your body, that you might not be keen on, allows you to breathe oxygen which gives you life.
Look at your hands.
Check out those tiny hairs, your finger nails…think how tiny they once were…Think about the last hand you held, the comfort that was…Hands link us to those we love; our body links us to those we love.
Find one part of your body that you are most comfortable with - perhaps your legs? Maybe your elbows? Your back?
Look at it. Think about your that is woven together and connected to all your body. Our body functions as it is linked together – tendons, sinews, organs, nerve endings, microbes, white cells, red blood cells.
This is incredible stuff, and yet….we mostly just only look at our own face in the mirror because that’s the bit we think everyone else notices and judges us on…
How crazy is that!?
We have just reflected on how complex, intricate and awesome our body is and yet we define ourselves (our 80,000 daily thoughts, 27 emotions, our skilled life giving body) by a few inches of our face (where our nose is positioned in relation to our eyes; if one ear is slightly higher than the other...)
There is no such thing as body perfection. Not in real life.
Instagram might make us think everyone else is perfect. They aren’t.
We ARE unqiue, we are complex, our body is capable of allowing us to feel, think, laugh, cry, love – try and give your body the respect it is due.
Giving up self harm was one of the hardest parts of my recovery from my struggle with mental illness. I don't remember the exact moment I chose to stop, it was more of a gradual happening. For years I used self harm as a release from all the pressure of negative thoughts and feelings that built up inside my mind from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to sleep. I remember sitting waking in the night and wrestling with thoughts of self harm.
That first night I resisted the urge to self harm was the hardest. It was like I was fighting someone/something harder than I had ever fought before in order to gain back power over my life. But once that first battle was over, it became easier and easier to win.
There are ways you can overcome self-harm urges, but you have to make a choice to fight them when they come. I was told that urges usually last 3-5 minutes. Try to focus your mind on other things for 3-5 minutes, and if the urge has passed - you did great! You may give in, and that's okay. Really it is! If you give in to an urge, pick yourself up and dust yourself off. Give it another go because there will be a time where you can do it and you will win.
Here is a list of things I found helpful to distract me:
- Blow some bubbles. This may sound silly, but it can help to calm you down.
- Do some drawing. It doesn't need to be a masterpiece, just scribble away!
- Get some play dough or plasticine and roll it in your hands.
- Create a box and fill it with things that make you smile. This may be photographs, it may be a blanket, bubbles, some music and phone numbers of your friends or family. You could even put the numbers of some helplines in there too.
- Sometimes it helps to write down how you're feeling. If someone has made you angry, why not write them a 'no send' letter. These are letters which, like it says on the tin, means you don't send them. Perhaps you could even write a letter to your younger self and tell them how you've learnt to deal with different situations in a positive way?
- Speak to a friend or someone in your family if you can.
- And remember... you are stronger than the negative thoughts, the urges, and the situations you find yourself in. Keep going.
It can be really hard to know if you have a diagnosable anxiety disorder. After all, anxiety is a matter of perspective and what causes one person anxiety, may not cause anxiety for someone else. How do you diagnose something that's different for every person?
Fortunately for you and me, it's not our job to do that as we aren't doctors who've had years of medical training and understand how to diagnose and begin to treat mental health disorders like anxiety. It is our job however, to say when something isn't right with us.
The NHS website says "If you're experiencing symptoms of anxiety over a long period of time, you may have an anxiety disorder."
There are several types of named anxiety disorders and you can read all about them on the NHS website. Before you do that though, read this...
Know that you don't have to tick every box to qualify for getting some help.
Know that just because you had that panic attack last week and you're ok now, does not mean you don't need any further support.
Know that just because you know someone who is really struggling with anxiety, and your's isn't that bad, that what you're feeling still matters.
And know that if you don't feel right. You're allowed to ask for help. Always. Even if this is the first time, or the tenth time.
You matter, regardless of what other people think.
If you think you're struggling with anxiety - book an appointment with your GP now. You can do it.
What's a 'To-Don't List' we hear you ask? Well, lots of us probably keep a to do list to remind us of the things we want to achieve in the near and distant future. But did you know that keeping a 'To-Don't List' can be just as useful! Instead of writing down all the things you wan't to do, you just remind yourself of all the things you don't want to do 👍
Here's our top 4 things you don't want to do in order to make sure you stay on top of looking after your mental wellbeing 😊
❌ Tell people you don't trust about your problems
It's not that you're being mean, the bottom line is if you don't trust someone, don't tell them everything that's going on with you as you'll just worry about who they might tell! If you feel like you don't have many people you can trust, you can always talk to a trained counsellor on Childline's 1-2-1 online chat.
❌ Promise yourself that you're going to write down all your thoughts and feelings in a journal if you're not
Journalling isn't for everyone. You don't have to commit to writing in a journal, especially if writing down your problems just doesn't work for you. If you've never tried journalling before and fancy giving it a go, check out our Head Strong Journal as it's full of helpful prompts and activities instead of empty pages.
❌ Force yourself to go outside
Going outside and getting some fresh air can have a profound impact on how you're feeling, particularly if you're feeling stressed or panicked. However, forcing yourself to be in nature when you don't like nature or just don't want to be outside isn't very helpful. This might sound silly, but try sitting near an open window so you can feel the breeze on your face. If it's a bit too cold for that, try holding something natural in your hands such as a pebble or plant leaf. Focus on the weight of it and how it feels in your hands.
❌ Say yes to things you don't want to do
If you're prone to saying yes to things you don't really want to do even when you're doing well, this is always going to be something you're going to struggle with. If you find saying no hard, give yourself a chance to prepare for it by saying "maybe" or "I'll let you know" when someone first asks you to do something. This way you can think about how you're going to say no so that the person understands that a) you're not being rude and b) you're not going to change your mind.
THIS IS A JOURNAL FOR LOOKING AFTER YOUR MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL HEALTH.
Thinking. Talking. Doing. Moving. Eating. Resting.
These are the six areas that Head Strong explores, each of which relates to healthy state of mental and emotional wellbeing. This journal will take you on a journey by talking you through each area and how it relates to your mental and emotional health, as well as suggesting loads of fun, creative and reflective activities relating to your mental and emotional wellbeing.
If you're a young person interested in understanding what wellbeing is and how to look after it, this is the journal for you!
If you're a youth worker or school worker working with young people aged between 11 and 19, this could be an incredibly helpful tool to guide them in understanding what wellbeing is and how to look after it.
To find out more and to get your copy for just £10, visit the Youthscape store now!
Hollowing out and painting eggs is an easter art activity you might remember doing at nursery or school. Sometimes, when you're feeling stressed or anxious, engaging in art activities you did when you were younger can remind you of a time when life was simpler! Simple and reflective activities like this can really help you to feel relaxed by focusing your attention and distracting you from your worries.
Follow these 5 steps to hollow out your egg... and then it's time to get creative!
1️⃣ Wash and dry your egg.
2️⃣ Make a hole in the top of your egg by pushing a needle through it and breaking the yolk inside. Then, make a smaller hole at the other end of the egg.
3️⃣ Blow into the small hole whilst holding the egg over a bowl.
4️⃣ Wash the empty egg out by holding the larger hole under the tap. Allow your egg to dry before you start painting it.
5️⃣ Place the egg in an egg cup or carton so that it won't move whilst you are painting it.
Hi. My name is Jess and I have been working for SelfharmUK (which is part of a bigger young people's charity called Youthscape) for just over three years now. As well as running the SelfharmUK website, I also spend one day a week running face-to-face groups and activities with young people either in school or at our drop in space here in the Youthscape building in Luton.
For a long time now, it's been one of my dreams to set up an art and wellbeing project for young people. If you're not sure what the word 'wellbeing' means, let me explain... Your wellbeing is pretty much how well you look after yourself. You do this through six important actions - thinking, talking, eating, resting, moving and doing.
...is all about making sure you think positively about yourself and your life as often as possible.
...is all about making sure you talk to other people about how you're feeling and don't keep things bottled up inside.
...is all about exercising but doing activities that you enjoy doing.
...is all about doing things for other people (and yourself).
...is all about eating the right foods but also enjoying what you eat.
...is all about making sure you get enough sleep and time for yourself to chill out.
Now that you know what wellbeing is and what comes under it, let me tell you more about the project I'm going to be running.
'Created' is an eight week programme which will run here at Youthscape on Monday 29th April 2019. On the programme, you will learn all about how to use art to look after you wellbeing, and we will be making art pieces related to the six themes above. At the end, there will be an exhibition of everyone's art work, and you'll be able to invite your family and friends along to come and see it!
If you LOVE art, are in year 7, 8 or 9 at high school, and live or go to school in Luton or the surrounding area, you can email me to find out a bit more information 😄🎨
Today is the 1st April, otherwise known as April Fool's Day! To celebrate (and because pranking can be overrated and a bit mean), we've got 8 mental health memes to make you want to laugh out loud and share with your friends...
Have you ever ordered something online and forgot when it was arriving? That feeling you get when you arrive home from School or College and your mum says "oh, a parcel came for you today by the way" and you suddenly remember that that thing you ordered is FINALLY here! You race up to your bedroom, excitedly rip open the box and then carefully lift out the item(s) you've been longing to receive.
Few things make me more happy than receiving items I have purchased in the post. In fact, ordering things online is actually one of the ways I practice self-care.
Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental emotional and physical health. It's key to a good relationship with ourselves.
So what are self-care subscription boxes?
Delivered to your door every month, the subscription boxes below all suggest different ways to look after yourself, whether it be through receiving a new piece of jewellery or grooming product, or a simple postcard with suggestions about ways to take time out for yourself.
This #InternationalDayOfHappiness, why not treat yourself (or someone you love) by ordering a self-care subscription box in the post? If you order one - let us know by tagging us in a pic on Instagram!
What Blurt Foundation say:
The BuddyBox is a subscription box with substance, designed to counter the pressures we face in modern life. Packed full of thoughtful, mood-lifting treats, the BuddyBox comforts, delights and gives you that warm, ‘I’ve been cared for’ feeling inside. In other words – it’s a hug in a box.
What Birchbox say:
Get a monthly curated box of 5 top-shelf samples from the greatest grooming brands on the market.
What Boxcitement say:
It's a box of exclusively designed goodies sent to subscribing customers on a monthly basis, rather like a magazine subscription. Our boxes can also be bought as a one-off purchase if you want to try us out or buy a gift.
If you want to know more about International Day Of Happiness - you can check out their website here.
😴 If World Sleep Day isn't the BEST day of the year (apart from your Birthday or Christmas) then we don't know what is!?
😴 Did you know that as a teenager, you ideally need between 9 and 10 hours of undisturbed sleep a night (you’re not always going to get this, but the more often you do, the better).
😴 In honour of World Sleep Day, we’ve got a short mediation you can do to calm your mind before you go to bed. You might feel a bit silly doing this at first, but trust us, it really can help!
Get comfy, lay down, sit in a squishy chair, wherever you want, just make sure you’re comfy and not going to be distracted.
Close your eyes.
Now breathe, big deep breaths, try breathing in for a count of 4, hold for a count of 7 then breathe out for a count of 8. Do this a few times.
Once your breathing is steady, start being aware of your senses. What can you feel, smell, hear?
Can you feel your heart in your chest? Take a moment to be thankful for your body, how it all works and what it is capable of.
Now think about the last 24 hours. What has been difficult? What has made you feel drained or sad?
As you breathe out, try and let go of these things, it might take a while but give it a go.
Once you have done that, think about the good things in your day, what has brought you joy, what has made you feel alive?
Take a moment to be thankful for them.
Think of the next 24 hours. How can you bring more joy into your day? What can you do to notice the moments that make you feel alive?
When you're finished, open your eyes.
How was it?
If you want to know more about World Sleep Day - you can check out their website here.
The blog below was written by Gill Peck. Gill works as a Service Manager for Community Partnerships. She is passionate about emotional wellbeing; enjoys meeting people from all walks of life and journeying with them to reach their full potential.
That voice that creeps in, it lingers, hanging around when it knows it isn't welcome. That voice which can be self critiquing about my appearance. That tells me nothing looks good on me as I get ready to go to work in the morning; which makes me think for a while I am all that I can see in the mirror. That voice. That voice that makes me doubt the size I actually am. Knowing I'm a healthy size 10 yet the mirror making me feel dissatisfied at times with the reflection looking back at me. That voice that then makes me annoyed, knowing it isn't welcome and I shouldn't listen to it. Knowing I've developed a healthy relationship with food, no longer comfort eating my emotions away.
But If I could change one thing it would be that voice. That voice that pops up once in a while and then stays a little longer than welcome.
Over the years I've learnt to become more and more satisfied with life, with what I have and enjoying life in the present, not wishing for the future or longing for the past.
Yet that voice still pops up every now and then... And when it does, it makes me doubt myself.
When I was given the theme for this blog post, I decided I would be vulnerable. Decided I'd let some of my guard down and share that battle I still face at times.
So often, people can be quick to look at pictures of my slimmer figure and assume everything must be perfect. Yes, I do feel better, so much better in myself since losing some weight to benefit my health and yes, I am in a good and happy place with life overall. However, that doesn't mean I don't still struggle at times with that voice.
I had been in a great place with loving myself and all that I am. But the other night saw me burst into tears when someone asked me an innocent question and that voice told me they must have thought I had put on weight. Yet as I processed how I was feeling, I was reminded that anxiety can have a way of lying to you, of making you believe things which aren't true and can leave you feeling exposed, vulnerable and raw.
Thankfully time and time again, I am reminded that vulnerability is strength.
Choosing to tell someone when you're struggling brings a sense of freedom. Knowing you're not on your own. Knowing someone cares and not only listens but hears what you're saying.
I've found speaking out and saying how I feel when that voice visits, lets me fight it quicker and stops it getting louder and bigger. I continue to enjoy my food, good meals out and love cooking, that voice isn't related to that, it's related to appearance.
It can be a scary concept telling someone how you're really feeling, but by doing so, it can also be the very thing to help you work through situations you face, knowing you're not alone.
Despite me telling my boyfriend how stupid I was for crying and feeling rubbish and horrid, and a load of other things; he comforted me and told me I wasn't any of those things but he heard me. He didn't try to dismiss how I felt but he reassured me and worked through with me how I felt and helped me corme out the other side. Sometimes we need to find another voice, outside of our own to help guide us through.
I wonder if you have a voice, whatever that voice may be that you could sit with and share with others? Choosing to be vulnerable can be the steps to rising above it and moving forwards. After all, as Brene Brown says 'vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change."
What is out there that could be new for you?
Self-harm in its broadest sense incorporates eating disorders as a type of harm to your health and body. But there are also links between self-harm and different types of eating disorders. Both behaviours affect a lot of young people, and they share a lot of the same traits, such as low self-esteem, a perfectionist personality, anxiety and sometimes a history of trauma, abuse or family difficulty. Of course every person and situation is different, though, and so we recognize that although these are the common themes they are not the only reasons behind such behaviours, and not everybody will cross over between the two.
The prevalence of self-harm in people with eating disorders is thought to be about 25%, and is particularly high among people who engage in the binge-purge cycle of Bulimia Nervosa. For many, self-harm and an eating disorder co-exist, but for others self-harm can develop to replace an eating disorder or vice versa. If someone tries to give up their harming when they are not psychologically ready (for example, doing it to please someone else) then another self-destructive symptom can easily develop in its place. This is because both conditions act as ways for an individual to cope with, block out, and release intense feelings of anger, shame, sadness, loneliness, or guilt. A person needs to be able to address these feelings and find ways of dealing with them in order to break free of the harming cycle.
For some people self-harm and eating disorders could also be a type of punishment and way of expressing self-hatred towards the body. If somebody has poor self-image and is suffering with an eating disorder, they probably experience feelings of self-loathing, which in turn leads to a lack of respect for their body. This can then open the door to something like self-harm. Within the world of someone with disordered eating, especially one built around control and routines, the addition of self-harm might then also become a way of punishing the self for not sticking to a strict routine, or provide relief from the constraints of that routine. The relationship between the two conditions is complex and can differ from person to person.
Self-harm often goes alongside other emotional difficulties and it is really important that all things are considered together and addressed fully, even if it is decided that the different symptoms will be treated separately. Self-harm and eating disorders, especially when occurring together, can seem like an impossible cycle to be trapped in, but recovery from both is very possible. Seeking professional support gives someone the best chance of making a full recovery.
If you or anyone you know is affected by an eating disorder, you can talk-one-to-one with someone from Beat via their web chat service.
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...
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 😄
Ever wondered how the rest of the world celebrates Valentine's Day? Well wonder no more! From the UK to South Korea, we've got 8️⃣ #valentinesday traditions from around the globe to inspire you to get a bit more multicultural this Feb 14th! 🌍❤️
1️⃣ Send a bunch of British red roses 🌹🇬🇧
In the UK, Valentine’s Day is traditionally about showing appreciation for the people you love or adore. Many people will take their loved ones out for a romantic dinner at a restaurant, as well as giving Valentine's Day cards, chocolates, jewellery or roses.
2️⃣ Pray with your loved one like the Chinese 🙏🇨🇳
China has it's own day for celebrations of love, however February 14th is also recognised as Valentines Day. The Qixi festival tells the tale of two star-crossed lovers - a cow-herder and a King’s daughter, who were forced apart and only allowed to reunite on one day a year. During the festival, couples go to temples and pray for wealth and security, and at night they look up at the sky as the stars, Vega and Altair (symbolising the cowherder and the King's daughter), pass close by each other once every year.
3️⃣ Create a white pressed flower card from Denmark 🌸🇩🇰
Denmark celebrate Valentine's Day with a little bit of a twist. On the day, people don't only give and receive roses and chocolates, but friends and lovers exchange handmade cards with pressed white flowers on them, also known as snowdrops.
4️⃣ Give some chocolate with Italian love notes inside them 🍫🇮🇹
The well-known Italian chocolate maker, Perugia, celebrates Valentine's Day by making a special edition of their Baci chocolates with a red wrapper and a cherry centre (rather than the usual hazelnut one). Each chocolate also contains a 'love note' with a romantic phrase.
5️⃣ Show your friends some love instead with the Mexicans 👩❤️👩 🇲🇽
In Mexico, Valentine’s Day is also celebrated on February 14th but is known as 'El Día del Amor y la Amistad' (The Day of Love and Friendship). On this day, Mexican's don't only celebrate love for their significant other, but for their friends and family too!
6️⃣ Celebrate being single with the South Korean's 👍🇰🇷
Traditionally, women in South Korea give chocolate on Valentine’s Day, and receive presents in return on 'White Day' (which is a month later on March 14th). The Koreans also have a third day on April 14th called ‘Black Day’. This is an informal celebration for single people, who dress in full black and gather with their friends to enjoy 'jajangmyeon' (Korean noodles with a black bean sauce).
7️⃣ Send a Norwegian 'joke letter' 😂🇳🇴
'Gaekkebrev', which is a Norwegian tradition dating back to the 18th century, roughly translates as 'joke letters'. Secret admirers write poems to their Valentine, and sign off with a dot for each letter of their name. If their Valentine correctly guesses who their admirer is, they win an Easter egg at Easter. If not, the joke is on them and they have to give one instead!
8️⃣ Have a Ghanaian dinner party 🍴🇬🇭
As well as going out for dinner, Ghanians like to cook local delicacies on Valentine’s Day. Why not surprise your significant other with his or her favourite Ghanaian dishes? You could also organise a dinner party and invite family and some friends round to celebrate with!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I don’t know about you, but I knew very little about harmful online imagery before I came to work for SelfharmUK. I knew that images of people self-harming existed online, but I had no idea about how easy they were to find.
Within the first few months of working here, I was asked to do a bit of research into what pro self-harm sites were - and was quite shocked by some of the imagery I came across.
I guess it’s easy for me to say that I was shocked by the images I saw, mostly because I’m not a harmer, and at the time, I didn’t fully understand exactly why anyone would choose to self-harm in the first place. Fast forward to almost 3 years later, I now know a lot more about self-injury and harming behaviour than I ever thought I would. For example, I know that physical pain often provides people with something less painful than what they are actually feeling, that physical pain is easier to explain than emotional pain; that self-harm is not an act of attention seeking, but rather an act of self-expression (or in other words, a cry for help from someone who is finding life difficult to manage); and lastly (but most importantly), that people who self-harm don’t usually want to take their own lives.
Despite all the knowledge I’ve gained, I still struggle with the idea of harmful online imagery. Taking photos and sharing these types of images isn’t something I can easily understand. Why would anyone seek out these images (accept for recognising that for them, it is harming behaviour)?
Firstly, let’s confirm what I mean by ‘harmful images.’ These are any images that have been shared online that present or depict self-harm or suicide because they are triggering and/or upsetting. Some of these images originate from unregulated sites and forums, whilst others are being posted and shared across social media using hashtags that are constantly changing.
The images themselves aren’t always real images that the user who posted it has taken. They’re generally recycled images that have been shared and re-posted from other places.
Harmful images fuel self-harming behaviour and make it harder for those affected to recover. Why? Because anyone viewing these images uses them to normalise their own behaviour and validate their hatred towards themselves. This in turn, leads to the creation of online communities where people feel like they are being understood, when in fact, they’re being fed this lie that this is as good as life is ever going to get for them.
Whether you’re tempted to look at harmful online images, have been looking at them for years, or are worried about someone who is - it’s not too late to do something about it.
We’re not judging you for being tempted to look, but you need to know that these images aren’t helpful for you, and are damaging to your mental health.
If you or a friend are already involved with a site that is encouraging your self-harm to get worse - tell a trusted adult about it. If you don’t have one of those, you can always speak to a trained counsellor at childline using their app, or by calling 0800 111.
No matter how you’re feeling, next time you’re online, challenge yourself to find supportive sites and uplifting images that inspire hope and recovery - instead of toxic online communities that push you to hurt even more. Here are a few places you cold try...
Remember… things can always get better, but only if you let them.
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!
Feel like you're having a bad day? Why not give the below homemade Pop tart pies recipe a go to help you feel a little better? 🙃
EVERY DAY MAY NOT BE GOOD, BUT THERE'S SOMETHING GOOD IN EVERY DAY HOMEMADE POP TART PIES RECIPE
Some young Japanese men are refusing to leave their bedrooms and are choosing to withdraw themselves from society. The reasons aren't always very clear, but in Japan, it's known as hikikomori.
Hikikomori refers to the act of isolation, and to the young men themselves. The word translates as 'pulling inward' or 'being confined'. Often, a hikikomori's family are both ashamed and at a loss as to how to help their child. Some men have not left their own houses in over a decade!
Isolation and loneliness can have a major impact on our mental health. A scheme called 'Rent-a-sister' in Japan is being used to help these hikkomori men to begin to recovery from their reclusiveness. You can watch more about this here.
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
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
So, this isn’t Derren Brown stuff...
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’:
Now, try it on yourself too – positive people have a better outlook on life!
We asked some people we work with the top things they like to do to look after themselves. They didn't have to be clever or super creative suggestions, all they had to be were real. 😉
💭"I recognise that sometimes I need time away from people and that’s OK. Yesterday I was feeling angry and stressed so I took an hour out in the middle of the day to just sit and read something that was nothing to do with work. I felt much better afterwards and was probably a much nicer person to be around too!"
💭"I’m hopeless at it but I know my mental health is better when I’m running regularly. It’s good for my physical health but I also appreciate the break from screens and conversation and a chance to sort out my thoughts while I run. The sense of achievement afterwards is a great encouragement too."
💭"I like to get up early in the mornings and walk to a park near my house. There’s a bench at the top of the hill where you can see the whole town. It’s usually really quiet - just the birds singing and a handful of dog walkers. It’s a great place to pray and reflect on the day ahead."
💭"Shower, tidy my room, and make myself a good dinner."
💭"I stretch! I like to do a few minutes of simple yoga stretching which makes me feel much better physically."
💭"I love taking time out for myself, and reading, with a cup of tea. I know it sounds boring, but taking some time for yourself is so important, and often overlooked as a form of simple self-care!"
💭"I walk my dog. I have made friends." 🐶
💭"I have a bath. Or a snack. If at all possible I take myself out for coffee. I also like to re-read my favourite books sometimes."
💭"I try to do one good deed every day in order to always take something positive out of the previous 24 hours. I also like to appreciate what God has provided (one way I do it by seeing the beauty, diversity and produce in my garden). Another thing I sometimes like to do is to look up “worse day than you” on YouTube!"
~~~~ 🎊 How do you like to look after yourself? 🎊~~~~
The blog post below was written by Deanne.
I’ve never been good at introductions so here we are. My name’s Deanne, Im 16 and like many other teenagers struggle with my mental health. I’ve chosen to write for Selfharm UK because I want to share my story, advice and for you to all know that you’re not alone.
Anxious, paranoid, scared, lonely and isolated. Those five words describe who I was for a long period of time. For someone at the age of 16 this can be an overwhelming experience.
On the day that I found myself in the A&E department with two police officers I couldn’t feel anything but pure fear. Afraid of the two ladies sat with me, afraid of the outcome of this assessment. I had no clue what my future would hold for me and I didn’t care. This lead to the destruction of my life, not being able to remain in school, and ruining relationships with those who cared for me the most. As I sat in that chair, I was in denial. I was blaming everyone else for what had happened rather than accepting that I had responsibility.
It wasn't until they reached out to me (I had spent hours crying, unable to move, paralysed and stuck to that spot) that I was able to receive help. I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression, and I went on to receive CBT under the NHS. This helped me to take my first step on the journey of recovery which I am still invested in and still on now.
1 in 5 children suffer from a mental health illness. Knowing this, I urge anyone suffering to speak out. Whether it’s to a trusted adult, your GP or a family member - please speak out. Struggling with your mental health isn’t a sign of weakness and is much more complex than fixing a broken arm or a broken leg. Offering support, a shoulder to cry on or just being there could mean the world to someone who is struggling.
After years of self-hate I now realised the mistakes I made. I needed help, and thanks to the fantastic support from the NHS, I am back on track. Next year I will be 17 and I plan to start working towards having a career. All it took was for me to be gentler, kinder and fairer to myself. In the hardest of times, please remember to stay true to yourself and not lose sight of who you really are.
Please don't be too hard on yourself, lose sight of yourself, or feel ashamed if you have or haven’t asked for help. Together we will grow, together we will rise and we will thank our lucky stars that we are all alive.
The blog post below was written by Ellen.
The arrival of the New Year can make us feel like we should be transforming into brand new people, and while having New Years Resolutions is a great idea, sometimes the pressure can feel overwhelming.
If you’re reading this then you probably know that self-harm isn’t an easy thing to quit. Like with any addiction, it takes time to get to a place where you’re ready to stop. It’s important to remember that it’s okay to slip up; just because you take a few steps backwards doesn’t mean you can’t then take some strides forward.Megan McArdle, author of ‘The Up Side of Down’ writes that, “failure is a roadmap for what not to do next time.”
Sometimes setting ourselves concrete New Years Resolutions can be incredibly daunting; in fact, it seems more of us give up on them when we’re overly strict with ourselves. It might be an idea to think of more flexible goals: e.g. you could aim to ‘self harm less’ rather than saying you’re going to ‘stop self harming completely’. You could also approach it from a slightly different viewpoint: ‘This year I’m going to find another way to cope with my feelings.’ Maybe you could aim to understand what triggers your urge to self harm and develop ideas of how to beat the urge before it gets too much.
One good thing about New Years is it provides a neat opportunity to wipe the slate clean; stop holding onto all those times you felt bad, or felt like you’d let yourself down, and draw a line under the past year.
While there is an emphasis on parties and extravagance at this time of year, try to remember that what really matters is your own health and happiness. Take things at your own pace; set yourself goals that are realistic; be proud of yourself for all the good things you did in the year gone by. It’s easy to focus on what we’ve done wrong, or the disheartening stories we see in the news, but it’s important to remind yourself of what you’re grateful for and what you’ve achieved.
Jeremy Eden, author of ‘Low Hanging Fruit’, advises that we recognise the things in our lives that deserve “gold plating”, and realise that good is good enough for other things. And Bob Rosen, author of ‘Grounded’, reminds us that it’s perfectly okay to be selfish and take care of our own needs; “Our theory of human development is based on a model that you’re either selfish or you’re community orientated... The truth is that you need to be both. It’s not either-or.”
If you or someone you know self-harms it can be difficult to keep incidents in perspective. Yes, you should aim to (eventually) stop, but allow yourself enough time and expect a few bumps in the road. So maybe you have physical or metaphorical scars, but scars fade, and pain doesn’t last forever; start afresh and move on from what’s behind you.
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?
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...
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!
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.
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.
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.
The SelfharmUK Team
Who’s been watching I’m A Celeb this year? Every year, before the busyness of Christmas begins, this live, reality show appears on our TV screens most evenings for a period of about three weeks. Over that time, a lot of funny, emotional, disgusting and jaw-dropping things happen…
This combination of funny, emotional, disgusting and jaw-dropping moments not only make for great TV, but also make for quite a transformational journey for many of the celebrities that take part.
This year, Emily Atack (an actress from The Inbetweeners) came into the jungle feeling unsure of who she was and where her life was heading. On her first day, she faced her fear of heights and jumped straight out of a plane, skydiving thousands of metres onto a beach!
By her fourth day in the jungle, Emily was using her acting skills to make her fellow camp mates laugh, by doing impressions of celebrities like Dani Dyer and Gemma Collins.
On her ninth day, Emily found herself screaming and sobbing her way through a terrifying challenge that saw green ants crawl into her MOUTH!? (Can’t say I blame her.)
In fact, the more time Emily seemed to spend in the jungle, the more fears she faced, the more obstacles she overcame and the more confident she began to become.
Her time in the jungle gave her a sense of self-acceptance.
After leaving the camp, Emily said that she worries constantly about things at home and she’s feels as though she has now learned to accept who she is. “I’ve just learned to accept this is my skin, this is my hair and this is what I look like!”
Emily went on to say that she will never ever doubt herself ever again. She said “I spend my life doubting myself, telling myself that I can’t do things and that I’m not good enough for things. But I just learnt I can survive in a jungle, so I feel I can do anything!”
Emily learnt a lot about herself during her time in the jungle. What we can learn from her experience is that the more we are out of our comfort zone, the more we grow and learn about ourselves.
So what could coming out of your comfort zone look like for you? Well it definitely doesn’t mean that you should go camping in the Australian jungle for 3 weeks and start eating insects. But it could mean that you finally ask a teacher for extra help with that subject you are struggling with; or that you do go to see your GP to talk about your self-harm.
Whatever it is, accept yourself for who you are and for the things you are struggling with, and you’ll probably find that other people will be really accepting too…
PS. Emily was also born in Luton, Bedfordshire which is the home of Youthscape and SelfharmUK!
You can watch Emily talk about her jungle experience here...
Trigger Warning: This post mentions rape and cutting.
A few weeks ago, I was talking with a friend about what happened to me and how I coped. I mentioned that I used to cut myself and suddenly it wasn’t a nice conversation anymore. There was an uncomfortableness and palpable awkwardness. To me, I was simply listing a fact about my life and sharing a way I coped when I felt I had no better options. But to him and so many people, self-harm is shocking and horrible and possibly disgusting and not to be discussed. I am not here to say that self harm is ‘good.’ That’s not my aim at all. I just wish that people understood it better and didn’t make me feel bad for sharing a way I coped during the darkest times of life.
Let me explain a few things. I was raped on 17 September 2011. Going through the rape and aftermath was more devastating than I could have imagined. It was the most isolating time of my life and though I tried, I did not truly get help until about four years later. Alone and in immense pain, I turned to cutting as what I felt was the only way to relieve myself of my devastating emotions, self-hatred, and often times, feeling numb.
Cutting was not completely new to me. I had started cutting myself in middle school. I cannot remember the first time I cut myself, but I can remember the desperation of that time and the immense school pressure, bullying from my peers, and the depression I had just started to experience. The cutting then didn’t last for too long. I switched schools and made friends, but that seed had been planted.
When I was 18 and dealing with the horror of rape, cutting became what seemed my only ally. If I was crying, cutting helped. If I was scared, cutting helped. If I was angry with myself, cutting helped. But the more I cut, the more I needed the endorphin rush and the feeling of calm. It suddenly took less of a trigger for me to cut myself and it was hard to get through the day without cutting. Cutting no longer took away my fear. I was scared of what I was capable of.
I wish I could say that I was able to just stop. That wouldn’t completely happen until I finally started therapy and dealt with the underlying causes of my cutting. I learned that self-harm is very common after sexual assault and knowing this helped me to not feel ‘crazy’ and alone.
I sometimes still struggle to not cut myself when things get hard, but I tell my therapist about this when it happens and this helps me not feel so alone and I now have other coping strategies, such as ways to distract myself.
I wish that cutting wasn’t seen as so shameful and hidden. I wish that my friend had had a better reaction, but I can’t blame them.
If you are struggling with cutting, please know that help is available and cutting does not need to be a part of your life. And if someone discloses that they are self-harming or did so in the past, listen to them, don’t make them feel worse about the ways they processed their pain, and if they are still cutting, help them find resources to stop.
Cutting was once a ‘friend’ but I was able to stop and I am so grateful that this so called friend is no longer welcome in my life.
Laurie Katz is a 25 year old elementary teacher and rape survivor. A book about her rape and recovery is now available for pre-order here.
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?
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...
Now here's some GIFs to really get you in the mood 😂
Enjoy caring for you this Self Care Week!
I have always drawn, ever since I could hold a pencil. It was a foregone conclusion that I would become an artist in some way, so it was no surprise to anyone that upon graduating from Art College in 1983 I became an illustrator and animator. I draw every day for my work but over the last few years that has become increasingly electronically based (drawing on a screen) so in 2016 I decided to keep a daily diary, drawing in pen every night something that happened that day. Sometimes funny, sometimes sweet, occasionally angry! Then, on October 27th2017 my life was turned upside down when my beautiful wife Joy died as a result of Sepsis aged just 41, leaving me to bring up our two young children (Ben, 8 and Lily, 11) alone.
It was at this point that my diary took on a whole new significance. I continued to draw on a daily basis, still documenting my life but now it had become a medium through which I could channel my grief. I found on those days when the pain was too great that just drawing the events that had triggered that grief went a long way to easing the pain. A little like a pressure cooker – letting out little bits of steam. It was also a great way to help me remember the good things and the funny things that still happened – and to remind me when looking back through them that life continues, in all its ups and downs, despite the tragedy that had affected us. I post the drawings on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and it was a way for my friends to see how I was doing. I never shied away from the dark days but always celebrated the good ones too. The messages I received back would help to buoy me up when I felt down and kept me going.
Then the media noticed what I was doing and the whole thing exploded! Cue a massive rise in my Twitter followers, radio, TV and Podcast appearances… the whole thing was quite surreal. Now the messages I received were from all over the world but the sentiment was still the same – the drawings were striking a chord and showing others they were not alone in their feelings of grief etc. Many people say to me “I wish I could draw like you, what a great way to express how you feel.” To them I say “Just do it anyway. It doesn’t matter what the drawings end up looking like. Just do it for YOU.” The very act of scribbling something, anything, down is a little release – an exorcising of a demon, a twist of the valve. Maybe not a drawing – maybe a poem, or prose; a tune on the guitar or piano. The most important thing is don’t keep it in – let it out.
What are the things that weigh you down, hold you back and drain you?
We were thinking about this during the Hope Group earlier this week. If you don't know what the Hope Group is, you can read more about it here. What we found was - often the things that weigh us down, hold us back and drain us, are the things that bring us the most joy too.
For example, I really love my family, but sometimes it feels like they make my life a living hell at times! My mum in particular often weighs me down with lots of nagging and asking questions about what I'm doing at the weekend, and why I can't tidy up after myself. This type of criticism can make me feel increasingly drained, knocking my confidence and holding me back from doing things incase I'm no good at them.
Sometimes, writing down all the things in our head that we know are weighing us down, holding us back and draining us is a good exercise to do. This is because taking thoughts out of our head and onto paper can make them appear a lot less powerful and give us more control over them.
Here's the activity we did during the group...
Bandaged Mummies activity
To make your own Bandaged Mummy, you will need:
- Plain A4 white paper
- A photo of your head
- A piece of A4 black card
1) Use the black card to cut out a body shape
2) Cut out the photo of your head and stick it onto the body shape
3) Cut up strips of white paper and stick them like bandages on your mummy
4) Think about all the things that weigh you down, hold you back and drain you, and write them on the bandages
5) Keep your mummy as a reminder of all the things that can weigh you down, hold you back and drain you - BUT REMEMBER - you have control over how they make you feel!
Happy Halloween 🎃
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:
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? 😊
The blog post below was written by Helen. She hopes you find it helpful.
Happy National Baking Week everyone! If you’re a fan of the Great British Bake Off, understand what a “soggy bottom” is and want to know more about how baking can help your wellbeing, then this is the blog for you!
Let’s start with what even is National Baking Week? You can find some information about it here… sure it’s sponsored by Pyrex and really what they want is for you to buy their products. BUT, it is also a celebration of so much more, the art of home baking, family time, creating something from scratch, and being able to gift your friends with a yummy treat.
The real push for the day is about the importance of family, especially time together. My dad taught me to cook, but my mum taught me to bake, she would always ask my siblings and I if we wanted to help her when she was getting ready for a bake sale or a birthday. She would let us choose our birthday cakes from her special books, for my 7th birthday I had the most spectacular Snow White cake, alas it was decorated with marzipan which I discovered that day I didn’t like. Any way, the point is in my home baking was something we did as a family, whether it was helping by measuring ingredients or by licking the mixers we'll got stuck in.
As an adult I still love to bake, I don’t have any kids to bake with at home but I do, occasionally, teach the young people I work with how to make something yummy. I also love to bake for my friends, family and colleagues (around the office my banana bread is legendary).
Most of the time though I bake for me. I don’t really like cakes, but I love to make them. The smell of something freshly baked is one of the most heart warming smells there is for me. I love the process of looking at a recipe, following instructions, weighing things out, mixing, and waiting. I also love to tweak recipes so that they become my own, or for my gluten free friends or my vegan friends. The whole baking process is really soothing for me.
When I see the doctor about my mental health they always ask what I do that helps, and for me, baking is always in the top 3. I adore that it makes people happy and that it gives me a boost. But mostly, I find it is really helpful in calming me and helping me stay focused. When it seems like everything is a bit too much, baking helps me put order back in the world, it helps me make sense of things. When I feel lonely or sad it helps me think of all the people I can bless with my baking. Even watching GBBO fills me with joy at seeing other people doing wonderful things with the things that I love.
Baking might not be for you, but I challenge you to give it a try and see if it helps you on a bad day. Below I’ve included the recipe and the equipment you will need for my banana bread, including additions to make it gluten free and/or vegan (which I often have to do) - it’s still yummy I promise!
- Hand mixer
- 2lb loaf tin
- Large bowl
- 55g baking margarine
- 200g caster sugar
- 3 ripe bananas, mashed
- 1 egg (if vegan use 4 banana's and 3 tablespoons of golden syrup instead of an egg)
- 2 tablespoons golden syrup
- 250g self raising flour (gluten free flour requires an extra table spoon of syrup, or if not vegan an extra egg)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- Preheat oven to 160
Mix the margarine and sugar, then mix in mashed banana's, syrup and the egg (if using). Once nice and gloopy sieve in flower and baking powder and then fold it all in. Put it in a tin then in the oven, after half an hour turn the oven down to 150 and leave in for another half an hour.
Leave to cool for 10 minutes, then prick the top with a fork and drizzle a spoon of honey on!
Now on your marks, get set...
In this article, SelfharmUK Web Manager Jess chats to colleagues Jo and Helen about mental health and being a teenager for #WMHD
SHUK: Who are you and what do you do at SelfharmUK?
J: I am Jo, I run the Alumina programmes most nights of the week. And this is a photo of me when I was a teenager...
H: My name is Helen and I head up the emotional and mental wellbeing work that we do in Luton, this work feeds into what we do with the website and gives the young people of Luton a voice in what we do. I also deliver training and give lots of talks on mental health. This is a photo of me when I was a teenager...
SHUK: How has your understanding of the importance of looking after your mental wellbeing changed from when you were a young person?
J: I didn’t have a clue about it as a teenager; I was told it was attention seeking behaviour if you were down, sad or angry. Now, because i have struggled with anxiety and depression at times, I understand that that is so far from the truth.
H: When I was a teenager and you were struggling with your mental health it was put down as "hormones" or "attention seeking" because of this I didn’t understand that your mental health was something you had to look after and just thought it was something you had to be ashamed of. Now I know it is just as important as looking after my physical health, I go to the doctor for my asthma, which means that I also go to the doctor when I’m struggling with stress or anxiety.
SHUK: What do you think was your hardest life change as a teenager to adapt to?
H: Being noticed maybe? Every few years my mum would have another baby and so I just spent a lot of time feeling lost and unimportant. Especially as three of my siblings were in school with me and they all had better grades and didn’t get into trouble like me. I felt like an outcast at home and in school and with my friends.
J: For me it was bereavement. My best friend was killed in a car crash and I lost my much loved grandma all within a month. Loss effects our mental health greatly, I just didn’t realise how much when I was 12.
SHUK: What do you think is the hardest change for young people to adapt to now a days?
J: I think social media plays a huge part in how we feel about ourselves; how we want to look perfect and look like we are having fun because we believe everyone else is. I know it’s not true as everyone is struggling with their own stuff, also trying to make it look like they are having an awesome time. It is hard to turn away from social media.
H: I think the change from being a child to an adult, it’s hard to adapt to when you are expected to be an adult and make adult decisions (such as choices about your future) but at the same time being treated like a child and still dealing with the physical changes of becoming and adult.
SHUK: When you were having a bad mental wellbeing day at School, what did you do? Was there someone you could tell? What did they say? Did you tell your friends? Did they understand?
J: I struggled to talk about my feelings when i was a teenager as my family didn’t encourage us too so , I didn’t tell anyone until I was in my late teens about how hard i had found certain things. I regret that now, which is why I do my job: I know the value of someone listening to you.
H: I didn’t really have anyone to talk to. I would yell at people or walk out of lessons or get in fights. When I expressed how much I was struggling to a few of my friends they would call me a "psycho" and would walk away from me until I was “normal” again. I just felt ashamed.
SHUK: What advice would you give to young people struggling with any aspect of their mental wellbeing?
J: Find help - whether that’s through a friend, parent, counsellor, online safe place (Childline, The Mix or Young Minds) - and begin to explore why you feel like you do. Don’t stay silent, there’s people who want to help.
H: Ask for help, people are much more understanding now, it’s not something to be ashamed of and there are loads of different places you can get help from, online, in person, over the phone and more (as Jo has mentioned above). Also find healthy ways of expressing how you feel, art, music, baking, writing, working with animals. Mostly be kind to yourself.
Happy National Poetry Day friends! To celebrate, we've got an inspiring poem by Nikita Gill titled 'A Conversation with My Mental Illness.' If you read it and want to share your thoughts, you can comment your answers to the below questions on our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Tumblr accounts. We'd love to hear from you!
What do you think is the main thing being said in this poem?
How does the poem make you feel? Why?
Are there any lines or words which you specially like?
A Conversation with My Mental Illness
Every sleepless night I am interrogated
by the darkness that lives inside of me.
It says to me:
'You are pointless.'
'No one in this world is pointless.'
It scowls at me:
'You are a terrible person.'
'I am a good person who did terrible things.'
It rages at me:
'No one needs you.'
'There are people who have adored me.'
It seethes at me:
'And what of those who hated you?'
'Being unforgiving of others is a sign of insecurity.'
It finally explodes:
'I will make sure you always doubt yourself!'
And every night
I gather my courage
as my armour and say:
'And whenever you do,
I will look at the vastness
of the every changing style
the presence of a moon
that helps the sea
the same sunset that has been going
around the earth
for billions of years
and remind myself
that the same universe that made them
and gave them such purpose
also made me.
And nothing you say to me
will ever convince me otherwise
because that is a fact
I will never question about my journey.'
Taken from the book Wild Embers by Nikita Gill, p14.
Winter is no less lonely than any other time of year…
But why does it make us feel lonelier?
Perhaps it’s the dark evenings, perhaps it’s when the Christmas adverts start, perhaps it’s when everyone else seems to start getting party invites…
The fact is that more young people than ever feel lonely. A recent survey by the BBC suggests that 40% of 16-24 year olds would say they feel lonely.
Most of us check our social media pretty often, and it looks like everyone else is having an amazing time doesn’t it? Pictures of them with friends at a party, on holiday with their family, chilling with friends that we don’t know, checking into the cinema with their partner…it looks like they aren’t lonely at all doesn’t it?
The reality is far from it – some people have many acquaintances to make it look like they aren’t lonely. They fill their lives with people who aren’t really friends and people they possibly don’t even trust much because they want to block out that feeling of loneliness.
Some people struggle to make friends and their online friends are the ones they talk to most because they can ‘pretend’ to be something they aren’t… but then end up feeling lonelier.
The common factor in the increase of loneliness in young people, is the rise in social media use because it doesn’t often create deep, meaningful friendships that are based on trust and shared lives. Ironically social media makes us feel lonelier, not less lonely.
So, let's look at some of the ways you could combat feeling lonely:
1️⃣ Seriously reduce your social media time.
2️⃣ Do something that creates connections with people face to face.
3️⃣ Find a hobby group – fitness, craft, music?
4️⃣ Eat with your family at mealtimes.
5️⃣ Say ‘yes’ to trying something new.
6️⃣ Connect with cousins, siblings, grandparents and wider family more.
There are lots of Organisations out there that offer opportunities to join groups or clubs in order to connect with other young people your own age. Do some research in your local area to find out what's going on and what you might like to get involved with.
If cooking's your bag - here at Youthscape, we offer something called Open House, which is a cookery project run by Gemma, our Drop-in Manager, and a professional chef! Over the eight weeks of the course you will learn to cook different dishes, improve your kitchen skills, and host a dinner for a disadvantaged group from the local community...
The aim of the project is to develop confidence in abilities, build relationships, integrate into our daily after-school Drop-in project, engage with a different group in the community, and through this become more connected, improve self-esteem, and begin to gain the skills that will enable young people to recognise and manage their feelings of loneliness and social isolation now and in the future.
If you are a young person aged 11-15 and living in Luton, why not get in touch with Gemma to find out more about our Open House project?
No one is to blame for feeling lonely: it’s not your fault, nor is it anyone else’s; so – this week; begin the journey to feeling less lonely.
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?
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 you 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!
What have all these people got in common?
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!
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 👍 ------>
Shared what helps us when we're having tough days 👎 ------>
Discussed the things we're looking forward to 👀 ------>
And the things we're always thankful for 💝 ------>
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
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 thoughts as they aren’t based on any fact!
But irrational thoughts 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:
When preparing for a CAMHS appointment, 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.
Follow these 8 steps before heading off to you 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
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, a fidget cube or your favourite book to read while you are waiting. The appointment is about you, so you need to feel comfortable.
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!
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?
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:
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.
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!
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!
‼️TW: Post mentions scars from self-harm‼️
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
💥NEWSFLASH💥were never an issue to begin with & then seeing them photoshopped out, hit a nerve with me & left me with lots of questions.
📸Are they something I need to feel ashamed of?
📸Are they flaws?
📸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 ✅
THEY ARE NOT FLAWS❌
THEY ARE NOT IMPERFECTIONS❌
THEY DO NOT HAVE TO BE HIDDEN FROM THE WORLD❌
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
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...
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.
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...
2. Doing your exams...
3. Worried about leaving School...
4. Getting your results...
5. Or concerned about a long summer break...
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?
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.
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.
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.
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:
...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.
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.
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.
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?
If you aren’t able to keep a pet of your own – perhaps volunteer in an animal shelter or look at something like ‘borrowmydoggy’ ?
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?
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.
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:
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.
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 email@example.com
‘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:
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.
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.
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!
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;
Use your free time to work on one (or however many!) of the following;
Take care of yourself
Try to do one of the following atleast twice a week;
Take time for you
Find something YOU love doing and make time to do it each week. Here are just a few ideas;
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.
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?
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.
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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:
When these feelings come into our body, it can be hard to take control. Don’t filter your feelings:
Once the feeling has subsided:
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.
The SelfharmUK Team
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you have any questions, concerns or suggestions please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
The SelfharmUK Team x
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:
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.
You can read more about Dame Kelly Holmes struggle with self-harm here.
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.
Lahna talks to us about 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
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?
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 email@example.com 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
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