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:
Let me tell you what kindness has looked like for me this week.
It’s come in the shape of a takeaway pizza, possibly the first meal I haven’t had to prepare for myself and my family in 9 weeks, gifted to me at a 2m distance by a friend.
It’s come in the form of texts and calls to check I’m ok after hearing some really difficult news.
It’s come from other people in what they’ve said, and what they’ve tried to do for me.
And here’s what kindness to myself has looked like: morning runs alone in the park; coffee; rereading Harry Potter; chocolate; letting myself sit in the sun and stare out the window.
When I think of kindness I think of what it means to be gentle with one another. I think of that quote that gets attributed to lots of different of people (including Bob Dylan’s grandma) – “Always be kind, because everyone you meet is fighting a battle.”
So in this mental health awareness week, when our focus is on kindness I find myself asking – who can I be a little more gentle with?
Kindness connects us to people in a deep and wonderful way. When we are kind to people we can’t help but make them feel like we might be a good, safe person to be around. So kindness builds up trust and makes it feels safer to be together.
And kindness is infectious, I think. If someone has been kind to me I feel more able to be kind to someone else. When I feel touched by something you did, there’s a natural response that leads me to want to make someone else feel good.
So kindness has this amazing energy that connects us together. And it doesn’t get used up, it actually keeps generating more energy as it goes. It even helps me learn how to be kind to myself. If someone has been kind to me – and made me feel lovable, and worth some kindness – it can feel easier to be kind to myself afterwards. And that makes me more likely to reach out towards others.
When we feel bad about ourselves we usually want to isolate ourselves. We put ourselves out of the reach of kindness, believing we don’t deserve it or won’t get it. We punish ourselves, we criticise ourselves. We stay alone. We're more likely to self-harm because we're cut off from the things and people that can help us.
But kindness has the power to reach us there. It can make connection possible again.
I don’t know if what it feels like to think about kindness today. Perhaps you feel starved of it yourself and wonder if it will ever reach you again. Or maybe you feel like you could do something small for someone – a tiny gesture of gentleness and care that will make them feel seen and appreciated.
I hope that if you feel you have it in you, you’ll seize the day and do something kind – even to someone who doesn’t deserve it (remember Bob Dylan’s grandma!).
And if you are the one aching for kindness, if you’re the one who feels alone and beyond the reach of someone’s gentle care, could you let me give you permission to do something kind for yourself today? Call it a way of marking Mental Health Awareness week, a way of casting your stone into the ocean of the world’s indifference in the hope that ripples will come back to you somehow.
Routine. You love it or you hate it. It sucks your soul or saves it. You probably know which is true for you.
But like it or loathe it we're people who like habits and patterns. If you've made you way to selfharmUK it's probably because self-harm is, or has been, a habit you've relied on to help you cope. So you're not a total stranger to routine.
Psychologists (like our good friend Dr Kate Middleton at Mind and Soul Foundation) have been telling us for weeks the routine is going to help us through lockdown. But how do we do that in a way that feels meaningful and helpful rather than just artificial, pointless and soul-sucking?
There are probably some routines being forced on you. School work. Family meals. But that leaves a lot of the day free.
The choices we have can be paralysing. I know that a lot of our choices are curtailed right now, but there are still a bazillion TikToks or YouTube clips we could watch, social media posts to scroll through, and streaming services offering us endless entertainment.
When we're stressed, or dealing with hard emotions like anxiety, grief, fear, anger (and to some extent, we all have those going on right now) we find it harder to make choices - any choices - let alone good ones. It's harder to be rational.
And that's where routine can help us out. With some kind of plan or pattern in place, we don't have to make so many choices. We can structure our time so that we do the things that are good for us but that we're not good at choosing (getting out of the house, if we're allowed; talking to someone; doing something creative).
And routine helps us to escape from the sense that every day and every moment are just blending into one long meaningless blob. (Does anyone else feel like they're living out this story, or is it just me?).
So here are some practical tips from one routine-loving gal, to help you make your own version that does your soul some good.
1. Start with your meals (especially if someone else decides what time they happen), and the time you want to be asleep. If you have to be in online lessons at specific times put them in too. That gives your days a basic shape.
2. Put in a trip outside if you're allowed to. When will you walk the dog, or ride your bike (or roller-skates, or skateboard), or stroll through the neighbourhood? Make a plan so you don't just keep waiting till you feel like it.
3. Think about what things you enjoy and make sure they get some time in your day. I wrote out a list early in lockdown of things that left me feeling good, because I realised I was spending so long looking after everyone else in my house that I wasn't making time for those things and then that was making me grumpy. My list includes reading novels, talking to my best friends, watching romcoms (guilty pleasure), making clothes and doing yoga. What's on your list?
4. It might overlap with your last one, but and a way to connect with someone you like. It might be FaceTiming your mate, calling your nan, chatting with your sister, or messaging your school friends. But connection fires our brains in good ways. And even though it's not the same as being in the room with them, connection still counts for something. So put it in your day.
You don't have to account for every minute or hour in your day. And don't make a super-long super-tight schedule, because you need some margin in it. Others may disrupt it, and you might just hit a wall and need to crash in the middle of the afternoon. But give some shape to your day. Help out your poor, tired brain and give it a break from constant decision making. Help it to forget all that time stretching out ahead of you.
Routine can really help you. We hope you'll find one that works for you.
As I write we're a few weeks into a global pandemic. A few months ago we would have thought that the whole idea of that was a bit loopy. None of us could have imagined how much life was about to change.
I wonder how you're doing? If it seems ok to be at home, or if it has brought you unimaginable levels of anxiety, stress, fear, anger and sadness?
The truth is that we're all grieving right now. It might not always feel like it, but we are. We've all suddenly lost the lives we knew and recognised. With very little warning, everything has changed. We can't see people we love, except through a computer screen. We can't go anywhere except the supermarket and maybe the park once a day. We can't be at school or uni or the places we want to be.
Stuff has been cancelled. Exams we’ve been working towards. Trips we were looking forward to. Parties, proms, weddings, celebrations.
We don’t know when it’s coming back.
And none of us knows how to do this. None of the adults in your life have ever had to do this either.
(You’re wondering now when we’re going to get past all the dark stuff to tell you how to cope).
No-one has a blueprint for how best to survive. How do you manage your self-harming when things have maybe just got more difficult, and it feels harder to cope than ever? How do you get through your anxiety when you are stuck in your room and can’t go for a walk? How do you find the motivation to leave your room when there’s nothing to leave it for?
We’ve been trying to listen to wise, thoughtful people who are willing to be honest about how hard it is. We’ve been trying to find our own ways of coping. And so we have some things to suggest that we hope will help.
(We're most especially in debt to our amazing friend Dr Kate Middleton - who is part of the team who advises and supports us at Selfharm UK - who shared these tips recently on the Youthscape podcast. You can find loads more of her wisdom on the Mind and Soul Foundation website).
1. Find routine.
All your usual routines might have disappeared in a puff of smoke, but anything you can do to bring some routine back into your life is going to help your mental well-being. When we're stressed out (which we ALL are right now, whether we know it or not) we need some predictability to calm us down. Even if it's just a time you get up, a time you eat, a time you do some working, a time you walk the dog.
2. Express your negative emotions.
Frustration. Anxiety. Loss.
We're all facing them. They might surprise you in the middle of the night, or wrap themselves around you all morning. Ignoring them makes them worse. So does feeling guilty about them. You're allowed to feel all of them.
We need to express them. Journal. Talk to someone. Paint. Draw. Don't lock them up inside.
3. Pursue the good stuff.
There is still good stuff around. Projects or work we can be part of. Encouraging someone else. Writing a nice email. It doesn't have to be something enormous or world-changing, but looking for positive things you can do will help.
Someone this week told me they were creating their own set of playing cards. Someone else is knitting. Someone else is writing cards for their friends. What could it be for you?
4. Get out whenever you can.
Yep, it's only allowed once a day, and not if you're in isolation. But anything we can do to get into the sunshine and breathe in some fresh air is going to do our mind and soul some good.
5. Allow yourself alone time.
It might be difficult if you're locked up inside with your family. But we all need it. Time to process. Time to switch off. Time to escape. Time to regroup.
So that's what we have for you right now. Go easy on yourselves, and keep washing your hands.
If you need some extra support right now, it might be a great time to try out Alumina, our free online support groups for 14-19s struggling with self-harm.
We're back again with another blog drawing on the wisdom of the brilliant people doing Alumina this term. A few days ago we published a blog in which they shared their "what people often don't understand about self-harm" and today we're thinking about what actually helps...
I asked four young people who were happy to be quoted what kinds of things help someone when they're self-harming, and here's what they had to say:
"Sometimes finding gentle ways of communication first rather than going straight in helps." (F)
"When someone really listens and isn't trying to just 'fix' the problem." (S)
"Don’t freak, be observant rather than judgmental...guiding but not controlling and be a support throughout to gain trust" (F)
"I think its important to express that it must've been difficult for them to reach out if you find out by them telling you" (T)
"I find someone giving me a resource such as a leaflet or website less invasive and as I gained trust I could look at bigger long-term options" (F)
And I think the thing that all these words are getting at is...
The kind of support and communication that these young people talk about - non judgemental, supportive, gentle - is actually the kind of support we all need. Because we all need friendship and some help, no matter what our challenges are.
Self-harm can scare people, intimidate them, and often makes them feel like they don't know what to do to help. But what the young people in our Alumina groups tell us is that they don't want to be isolated but they fear being a burden. They keep quiet because they fear rejection and judgement, or being told they have to change.
So we need to find ways to come together. And the best way to do that is gently.
Do you think someone you know is harming? It's a really hard thing to talk about, or to bring up. So maybe there are other ways to start.
"I know that things are really hard for you at the moment. I just want you to know that you can talk to me, if you want. I would really like to understand what's going on, so you are less alone."
It's supportive, it's gentle, it's non-judgemental. And you're saying you want to listen, which is the really important bit.
Friendship and support might not feel like they are doing anything meaningful to help, or to change the situation, but they really are the foundation for recovery, because it's so hard to do alone.
But what about finding more professional help for someone?
This brilliant blog lays out some concrete options (and some great things to say and things not to say) but here are some headlines:
1. Talk to your GP. They might be able to refer you to some other kinds of support through the NHS (but also you should know that these services are really stretched).
2. Talk to someone at school you trust - they might have a counselling service or a pastoral advice centre where you can talk to someone who can help support you.
3. Explore counselling or therapy. Self-harm is usually understood as a way of coping with or managing painful experiences or feelings, and counselling or therapy give us the space to explore and process those things so we can move on. A great place to look for someone is through the BACP or UKCP websites (they are the professional registers of counsellors and psychotherapists). Or if you prefer to work more creatively, look for an art therapist at BAAT.
4.If all of that feels too intense a great place to start is our Alumina support programme which is based online and so can feel less intimidating.
It's our total joy and privilege to get to spend time each week with groups of young people who are trying to take steps towards recovery from self-harm. We often want to share their experiences with you, but actually it's a really important part of Alumina that you get to be anonymous. You tell us what name to call you, and that's all that most of us know about each other.
But just last week we had one of our regular drop-ins for people who have been through Alumina, and I asked if I could share what they had to say here, on the blog. So that's the inspiration for these next two blogs. The voices of young people who are struggling with self-harm right now, and moving towards recovery.
I asked four young people who were happy to be quoted what people don't understand about self-harm, and here's what they had to say:
(The letters refer to the different people!)
So let's talk about some of them, and why they're not true.
When people find out that someone they know is harming there are all kinds of reactions, and often they are extreme. It can make them afraid. It can cause them to freak out (never helpful). It can make them anxious for someone's safety (and it is important to care about that).
But when our reactions are so extreme it can be hard to remember that there is more to this person than their harming. If they were your friend, that's still true. if you know them to be kind, or funny, or clever, or thoughtful, those things are still true. We can never reduce people to one behaviour and it's important that we don't. If someone starts to think that their identity is completely wrapped up with self-harm, how would they be able to imagine a future without it?
It's still one of the biggest misunderstandings of self-harm, that people do it because they want to die. When in most cases it's actually because someone wants to live. They want to find a way to survive and to cope, in the face of overwhelming feelings or experiences. And for now, they way they have found to do that is through self-harm.
Most people who self-harm don't want to need it. They want to find a way to recovery - and that's overwhelmingly our experience in Alumina. Young people sign-up because they want help. They want to find other ways to cope. But it isn't an easy or a quick journey. And it's a journey that requires some support (unless you have superhuman resolve). So stopping harming for a while is an amazing thing to celebrate, but it also doesn't mean that there won't be relapses. In our experience, stopping self-harm grows out of some practical work trying out alternative ways of coping, but it also involves becoming more aware of the reasons that have brought us to the place of needing to self-harm, and more aware of our own emotions.
So what about the idea that it's just a teenage phase? Or that it's all about attention? There's a brilliant blog post in our archives about how these lies stop people reaching for the help they need. When you are self-harming you need support and understanding. Writing off the depth of someone's suffering as a phase or a play for attention is cruel. Instead of looking for excuses or ways to minimise what someone is going through we need to learn how to listen, and then perhaps begin to empathise with what they are going through. Every person's story is unique, and it is never "just" about a tired cliché.
You might have some ideas about why people self-harm. But everyone's reasons are a bit different. Most people who self-harm struggle with feelings of shame about their experiences and their harming, and behaving in a way that makes them feel worse helps nobody. It makes them feel more ashamed and more judged.
So let's be a bit kinder!
And finally, is self-harm contagious?
The short answer is no, but we've got more to say on that one so we'll save it for another blog post soon.
There are always those days that come along and feel like they make everything a bit harder. Sometimes it's anniversaries of things that happen, and other times it's random days when everyone is expected to be happy. Like Valentines' Day. When we're all supposed to feel romantic.
And sometimes it's the little things - like a ridiculous day in the calendar - the that can push us over the edge, and take us from 'just about coping' to 'not coping'.
So we're here to help.
If you love Valentines' Day - woop! Go out and enjoy it! If you're not so sure, here are some tips for getting through.
1. Remember, loads of people are trying to do romantic things and are actually having a rubbish time.
It might look like everyone is all loved up, but often people are paying crazy money (because everything costs more on Valentines' Day) and having a not great time.
2. The whole Valentines' cards thing can make things awkward.
When I was 14 I sent a guy a Valentine and it was all he talked about for ages, bragging to all his friends. Until he found out who it was from. And then he never said another word about it.
When I was older I sent an anonymous Valentine to a friend because I thought it would make her happy. But then when she found it wasn't actually from the person she fancied, but from me, she was actually angry.
(From this I have learned: I should never send Valentines' cards).
3. If you want to be faithful to the origins of Valentines' Day, the original St Valentine had no connection to romantic love, that came about 1000 years earlier. He was killed for being a Christian and actively trying to tell other people about Christianity in the time of the Roman Empire. I don't actually know how you'd commemorate that.
4. Celebrate love. In your own way.
Let's not be so boring and narrow to just leave it to the couples. Who do you love? Your family? Your hamster? Your best friend? Think of something that would make them smile and do that. You could even keep it a secret.
Or think of someone who might not get shown any love this Valentines' Day and do something that would make them happy. (Although remember no.2 and be careful).
We hope it's an unexpectedly good Valentines' Day for all of you.
What does brave look like to you?
At the risk of sounding like an idiot, finding my brave would look like walking towards a crowd of geese, or into a pen of chickens, or (and I'm shuddering just writing this) holding out bread for pigeons to come and eat. From my hand.
Have you seen Mary Poppins, and that scene with the Bird Lady? That song when she has pigeons crawling all over her just freaks me out beyond reason.
(Once I put together a mash up of that song, 'Feed the Birds' with a much darker one 'Poisoning Pigeons' which was one way of dealing with my fear of birds.)
There's a reason I'm so afraid of birds, but most people would never know that about me, or why it's hard to take my kids to feed the ducks.
Being brave looks different for everyone.
Sometimes keeping going, just getting up in the morning, is the brave thing. Turning up to school, or college, when it's a place you experience bullying or exclusion, or feel desperately alone or misunderstood - that takes huge courage.
Sometimes it's admitting that we're struggling. That we can't hold it together. Sometimes it's confiding in someone else. That can feel terrifying - the risks of being rejected, misunderstood, persecuted or ignored are always there. But maybe someone might be able to help, in a way we didn't realise they could.
Sometimes being brave is trying to delay self-harming, when we have come to depend on it. Or trying out an alternative even though though we don't think it'll work and we really don't want to.
For one person I know it's sitting with his feelings. For someone else it's talking to their mum. For another it's talking himself through his urges to harm until they go, and for another it's just trying to be kind and not criticise herself constantly.
Tiny steps. They might not look brave to anyone else, but they are. We promise. They're huge, and we have so much respect for you taking them.
And we somehow find the courage needed for that next step, because we believe (some of the time at least) that there might be something better ahead. That life won't always feel like this. That there are good things in the future and days of feeling good. So if we can get through today, that's a step forward (however small) and a step closer to things feeling different.
So don't let anyone else tell you what brave looks like. Only you know.
May you find the courage to take your next step.
On Sunday night Demi Lovato sang at the 62nd Grammy Awards to make her musical comeback following her overdose last year. It was a beautiful and emotional performance, and she chose a song that she had written just before the overdose, called Anyone.
Lovato has admitted to struggling with addictions, eating disorders and also with self-harm, saying how she has used all those things "to numb the pain". And the song itself is a cry for help and for relief, an expression of the pain that she has carried with her for many years:
Anyone, please send me anyone
Lord, is there anyone?
I need someone, oh
Anyone, please send me anyone
Oh, Lord, is there anyone?
I need someone
Oh, anyone, I need anyone
She was singing it to a room packed with thousands of people, and to millions of fans across the world, and yet the song is about feeling desperately alone.
And that, I think, is one of the things that makes life hardest. Whatever we have experienced and struggle with, however we feel and whatever is on our plate, it is harder when we have to do it alone. Having someone to trust, to share things with, someone who listens and is on our side, can make all the difference in the world.
A lot of the people who do Alumina say that one of the most helpful things about it is just feeling less alone. Even though they can't physically see each other, and they're only together in a virtual space, it still makes them feel like they're not the only ones feeling so bad, and needing some support.
Harming ourselves is often a very private thing we do, on our own, and something that we don't want others to know about. But it is also an attempt to cope with things that are really painful - an attempt to cope on our own. And that is so much harder than finding a way to ask for help.
It's hard, we get it. And you have your reasons. But we'd like to challenge some of them. These are the top 3 reasons people tell us don't ask for help.
1. Thinking "I should be able to cope"
For whatever reason a lot of us feel like we're supposed to manage everything on our own. We're supposed to be able to cope. It might be what our parents have made us feel, or our school. I was definitely brought up to think I shouldn't need anyone else, or ask for their help. I feel like there's something wrong with me if I can't just survive and cope.
IT'S A LIE.
We're supposed to need each other. It's human, it's normal. If we think we don't need help from anyone else we are just wrong, because everyone does.
2. You don't want to be a burden
It's easy to think we're doing everyone a favour by keeping our problems to ourselves. But we're actually wired to want to help each other. And it's really painful to see someone struggling, but not be able to help.
If your friends were struggling you would want to support them. In fact, if they didn't tell you what was going on you'd probably feel sad that they didn't trust you, or maybe you'd wonder if they even wanted to be friends with you. You wouldn't be thinking "I'm SO glad they're not burdening me with their problems."
Real friendship (or great family relationships) grows when we are able to support each other, and ask for the support we need.
3. Believing that no-one can help you
Sure, your friend or your mum might not know how to help you at first. They might feel a bit scared, or overwhelmed. But that's no reason not to give them a chance. You can tell them what you need, or what would help.
No-one is beyond help or hope. Asking for help might be a bumpy road, but it's definitely one worth travelling.
Remember, asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
The short answer is ‘yes’.
But that’s not to say that it always happens, or that you don’t need any support when you’re self-harming, or that you just need to sit tight and wait for the urges to disappear with time. There are lots of ways that you can help the process along, because a lot of it is about what is going on in your brain.
So let’s think about the teenage brain.
When you're a teenager your brain undergoes an intense process of growth and development. There was a similarly busy time of brain growth in the first 3 years of your life, when your brain was going crazy learning and processing the world for the first time, and then it settled down for a few years, and now you’re a teenager, a second wave of rapid change hits you.
Now I'm not a neuroscientist so I'm going to use the work of other people to explain and simplify some very complicated processes (thanks UNICEF and the Youthscape Centre for Research). But let's think about the two of the biggest areas of the brain undergoing some reconfiguration. They are the limbic system and the pre-frontal cortex.
Yep, that's some serious brain science we're getting into.
The first of these – the limbic system – is the first part of the brain that comes online when we’re tiny, and is sometimes called our ‘animal brain’. It’s where our feelings register. And it's why when we're young our feelings are so unfiltered – little kids have meltdowns in the supermarkets and five minutes later are giggling. They are all feeling.
So that part of our brains has been online for a while but when we're teenagers, thanks to hormones and a few other things, it gets flooded with huge new surges of emotion on a pretty regular basis. The highs get higher, the lows get lower.
But at the same time, that second key part of the brain we mentioned, the pre-frontal cortex, is also starting to come online.
This part tells us how to regulate and process emotions, enables us to plan, solve problems and exercise self-control. It rationalises. It tells you that even though you just stubbed your toe, you might not need to have a full blown tantrum about it. You have a feeling, and then the pre-frontal cortex helps you decide on the best response.
So when we're teenagers, we experience a lot of feelings more intensely than at other times in life, but our brains are also still working out how to connect up all these different parts – like the limbic system and the pre-frontal cortex. So we have big feelings (not unrelated to the HUGE changes our bodies are going through) but it won’t be clear what to do with them. Those parts are still joining up. It’s why teenagers are famed for being moody, and for risk-taking behaviours.
So what does that mean for self-harm? Self-harming is a coping strategy, and it relates to all those intense feelings coming from our limbic system (and they might even relate to things that happened a long time ago) which are still connecting up to other parts of the brain. We’re still working out how to cope, how to manage those feelings, what works for us, and it can feel like it's suddenly harder to do that.
But we can actually help our brains out. There is something that helps us to develop and strengthen the pre-frontal cortex - and it's processing our feelings. Not shutting them down, not numbing them, but finding ways to express and communicate them. This can be really hard for a lot of us, especially if we've experienced really awful things, and have shut down our feelings in order to survive. But every time we find a way to process some of our feelings - even something small - we build up the neural path ways and teach our brain a different way.
So learning to talk about our feelings and struggles, or express them through art or music or writing, helps our brains learn how to manage to healthy ways. And every time we try an alternative response to harming, we lay new networks in our brain that paves a way forward.
It won’t always feel like it does now, our brains will settle down and the emotions will become less intense. But we don’t just have to sit and wait, we can help our brains grow towards a healthier future in the meantime.
It's the start of a new year. Some of us love a fresh start and a clean slate, and we can feel like we have a shot at it when a new year (let alone a new decade) starts. But maybe it feels for you as if nothing has really changed. You're stuck in the same place with the same problems.
But maybe this year could be a time to reach out from some help from new places.
If you've not tried out Alumina before, why not try it out in 2020?
Alumina groups run online in the evenings. You log in to a kind of chat room where we can't see or hear you but you can see and hear us - real, adult humans who are here to listen and support you. You can type in the chatbox or just sit and listen. Either way, people tell us it helps them to feel less alone. There are usually between 2 and 6 young young people in each session.
We talk about some big questions - why do we self-harm, why is it so addictive, will it always be something I do, who can I talk to, are there any alternatives that work - but we never tell you what to do. Alumina is a safe space, a non-judgemental space, and a place where you can think about what it might take for you to move towards recovery.
We'd love to give you some extra support, and help you to feel less alone. Why don't you have a go?
We have new groups starting up with week, but you can join them anytime in January. Just sign up here. (Don't worry, when you sign up you're not totally committing yourself to Alumina - it just means we can start an email conversation with you).
This week The Guardian reported that “British girls have finally made the global top table … for fear of failure.”
Every year a selection of the world’s 15 year olds are assessed by a program called PISA, and typically governments look to see how well their teenagers are doing in English, Maths and Science. But they also measure other things like purpose, happiness and levels of stress.
The major finding for us this time round? Britain’s 15 year old girls are terrified of failure. The only countries with more terrified 15 year old girls are Taipei, Macau, Singapore, and Brunei.
I wonder if you maybe know from experience what they’re talking about. Are you terrified of failure? Failing exams, or failing to meet someone else’s expectations?
There’s something normal and natural about fearing failure – no-one likes to fail. But when it starts to dominate our thinking, to overwhelm our wellbeing, then we run into problems.
This fear of failure can affect our mental health, massively. It can lead to anxiety (which can take many forms), it can contribute to depression, it can leave us reaching for harmful coping strategies (like self-harming) just to keep it under control.
So where does it come from (and why does it affect so many girls)?
There’s definitely something about our education system and all the testing that has a negative effect. And schools and families that want us to do well often try to scare us into working hard by telling us how badly things will go if we fail.
When the truth is that failure isn’t as bad as everyone makes out. Failing an exam. Disappointing someone. Getting something wrong. People come back from those experiences every day. And lots of them have a story to tell about how they’re a better person because of it.
Social media has a role to play as well, because mostly what it shows us is people who look successful. Which puts more pressure on us, because we know all the ways in which we don’t measure up.
Of course boys experience it too, but some research shows that boys are more likely to respond to the fear by withdrawing from work to protect their self-esteem, whereas girls keep working and stressing…
What can help us get over such a fear of failure? Well, as someone recovering from that same huge fear myself, let me share a few things that have helped me over the years.
1. Not following people on social media who make me feel rubbish about myself
It might be a celebrity, it might be vlogger, it might be someone from school. But if following them leaves you feeling rubbish about yourself, and feeling like you don’t measure up then you just don’t need that. Let them get on with their life while you get on with yours. Carve your own path. As Oscar Wilde famously said “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”
2. Remembering that I’m not at school or college to pass exams, I’m here to learn stuff.
Yes, teachers and parents obsess over exam results. But the point of getting an education isn’t just to pass exams so you can either get out, or go somewhere else to take more exams. The whole point is that you are learning about the world, and yourself, and other people, and working out where you might fit in all of that – what you love and what you might like to do. There’s a bigger picture than exams (which can be taken again if need be).
3. Reminding myself that many things are true about me that have nothing to do with exam results.
I like making things. I can sing. I’m a good friend. I can cook dinner for people. I like learning new things. I’m a good listener. These things have nothing to do with how well or badly I did in my exams, and they are a huge part of who I am. My value as a human being, as a friend, as a part of humanity, is not defined by school success. What kind of list could you make of positive things that are true about you – things you like, the kind of person you are – which will be true regardless of exam results? Maybe those things are actually a lot more important.
‘Tis the season to be jolly?
Christmas isn’t far away, and we’re all supposed to be excited. Or so the songs and the shops and the films all tell us. But for a lot of us, Christmas is something we dread, and look for a way to survive. And all kinds of support services – charities, helplines, the NHS – tell us that they see a lot of people over Christmas for whom this is actually the worst time year.
Why is Christmas so hard? Is it something about Santa? Or even baby Jesus?
You might have specific reasons why it’s tough for you. Your family situation might be difficult, awful, painful. You might have lost people this year that you would otherwise have spent time with, and so Christmas now feels unbearably lonely. It might be the anniversary of something bad. It might be that the expectations, the pressure, all that socialising and the things you’re meant to do, cause you high levels of anxiety that are difficult to manage. Or maybe it's something else, something I haven't even thought of, something that no-one else really understands.
There are also plenty reasons why it’s an inherently stressful time – for everyone, even those who are pretending it’s all FINE. Sometimes the people who are working the hardest to make everything AMAZING are the people who are finding it hardest underneath.
Everyone seems to have expectations for Christmas. Presents. “Fun”. People. Food. And especially when we’re young we don’t get a lot of say in all of that. We either have to join in with everything, or maybe we don't get to do any of it. We don’t get to choose who we’re with or how we celebrate. Other people make choices for us that might not actually be the best thing for our well-being. And we’re supposed to go along with it.
So maybe the first thing to do this Christmas is just to be honest with ourselves. Admit what we don't like, what we wouldn't choose, what doesn't feel like a healthy choice for us. And then think of somebody we might be able to confide in. It might be someone in your family, but it really might not be. It could just be a friend. But have an honest conversation about what is hard for you at Christmas and what you wish you didn't have to go through.
Just being able to tell someone helps.
It's really important that you take care of yourself this Christmas. The presents and the food will be long gone and forgotten, but you'll still be here - you're more important than the rest of it.
We’ve got a blog coming later this week with our top survival tips, but in the meantime, remember – there’s nothing weird about finding Christmas tough.
There are a bunch of people who write for SelfharmUK, but if you've ever wondered who's holding it all together, here's a peak behind the platform. Find out who's been running it all, and who's taking over for 2020...
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 over three years now. As well as running this website, I also spend one day a week running face-to-face groups and activities with young people either in school or here in the Youthscape building in Luton.
Sadly, my time working for Youthscape and running the SelfharmUK website has come to an end, and I am going on to work for a bigger mental health organisation called MIND. Before I go though, I want to say a few things…
The first is thank you. Thank you for reading the blogs we posted, sending in photos for the campaigns we ran, raising money for us and giving us feedback on our resources. Thank you for commenting on our Instagram and Facebook posts and for sharing our posts on Twitter. Thank you for helping me to grow in my understanding and knowledge about self-harm and why it’s so important we keep talking about young people’s mental health and raising awareness. But most of all, thank you for just being you! Thank you for being brave enough to get in touch with us and ask us for help. And if you haven’t yet, it’s not too late.
The second is no matter what’s going on in your life right now – have hope. Have hope that things can get better. Have hope that even though you can’t see a way out of whatever’s causing you pain right now, it won’t last forever and you will become a stronger person because of it.
Take care of yourself.
Love Jess x
PS. Let me introduce you to my lovely colleague Jenny, who will be taking on the running of the SelfharmUK website from now. Take it away Jenny!
My name is Jenny Flannagan and I’ll be running things over here at SelfharmUK for the next little while. Jess has done such an amazing job here over the last few years that I can’t quite imagine living up to it, but I’ll be trying hard to not let things fall apart once she goes!
Let me tell you a bit about myself. I live in Luton, which means I can walk into work whilst listening to podcasts (#winning). I love living in this brilliant town – even though it doesn’t have the best reputation – and I think some of the world’s best people live here. I even get to work with some of them.
I am passionate about everyone – and especially young people – finding the support they need for getting through the challenges life throws at us, and especially when it comes to our mental and emotional wellbeing. Because of that I’m training as an Arts Psychotherapist on the side – which means that I love finding really creative ways to help people express themselves and work through their struggles. I used to be an actress and had a little theatre company in London, and will happily sing you an entire musical if you have the time.
I also run our Alumina programme – we run online support groups for 14-19 year olds who are struggling specifically with self harm. If you’ve ever thought it might be something that’s helpful for you, please drop us a line and find out more.
Other than that I love…movies, reading novels, singing, making stuff, cooking, coffee, being in the fresh air, learning new things, long chats with friends and lazy weekends with my family.
So yet again, I’m not sleeping well… I am so fed up with this. I go to bed fine but then just lay there for hours – literally – and nothing happens. I feel so unbelievably tired all the time so why can’t I just sleep?
I see why they use not sleeping as a form of torture in some countries – I feel like I am going mad!
People tell me all the things I should do…
CAMHS talk about ‘sleep hygiene’! They make it sound like not sleeping is dirty!! SO – I now turn my phone on silent, I come off screens by about 9pm, I take a bath to try and relax my muscles (I feel so tense all the time so I try and concentrate on relaxing each part of my body in the bath), then I watch something mind-numbing on TV that I don’t have to think about.
My mum says I need to write down all my worries before I try and lay down, so I do that too now! It takes a while though! Lol! I guess it does help a little but sometimes it makes it a bit worse as it makes me think about stuff I’m trying all day to not think about.
My Counsellor at school says music might help so I have been listening to my headphones when I lay down. It doesn’t help me as I just end up singing along though! I’ve given up on that one…
I think the next thing is to take some herbal remedy my mum has got me from the chemist, she says it’s not a medicine as such but it has some herbs that are supposed to be known for calming you down and helping you sleep. I’m going to ask her for that in the morning I think...
I can’t keep going on like this as I feel so tired. I just can’t get up in the morning and the thought of spending the day at school when I’m this tired just makes me more worried. I know I’m really short tempered when I’m tired and then I get worried I’m just going to get snappy with my friends and teachers and end up falling out with everyone.
I guess sleep does effect every area of your life more than you realise… well, more than I ever realised anyway.
I’m going to sit here colouring until my brain finally gives in and lets me sleep now.
If you have been to the GP you might have been referred to CAMHS (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services) and it is possible medication may have been discussed.
The most common medications for anxiety, depression and mood regulation in the UK are:
Others may well be prescribed that may suit you as we are all unique in our height, build, symptoms and presentation of our mental health so for more information visit the NHS website. Here they explain how they work and how they help your brain to manage low moods and high emotions.
Our brains are utterly unique. Every single person has a unique chemistry in their bodies so, sometimes, it might take a couple of tries to fit the right medication that suits your chemical make up.
It is vital that you tell your Doctor straight away if you have any kind of physical reaction to medication but also if you begin to feel lower in your mood or have bad thoughts or dreams. It isn’t uncommon, it just means they can find the best thing to suit you.
Medication is a personal choice that needs to be fully weighed up by the person themselves, but listen to what the professionals think about how it might benefit you.
Here are some pointers to consider:
For more information and advise about specific medication you might have been prescribed, check out Young Minds.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) isn’t about only writing with a certain pen, having to have your books in alphabetical order or washing your hands loads.
OCD is life limiting – it is a compulsion which means it’s not a choice; it’s a psychological disorder that compels a person to check their hair straighteners 13 times before leaving for school; or having to turn the light switch on in every room 5 times or only eating green food on days beginning with T (these are all real struggles young people we have worked with have had).
OCD is very tough – it takes over a person’s life because they have to do these ‘checking’ behaviours often to control anxieties. Many people with OCD have experienced some difficulty and find they want to take back control of their lives by repeating activities/behaviours to manage the emotions related to the difficult event.
To help someone with OCD we need to be very, very, very patient.
If you rush them and their routine or activity isn’t completed, they will feel more stressed and may have to increase the repetition to calm themselves down.
Also, it's likely that they will need specific support through counselling or CBT: this helps the person address the underlying emotions of why they have developed the anxieties that led to the compulsive behaviours.
Try not to get frustrated or laugh: the person will be aware they are acting differently but, by your negative response, you might well be making their OCD worse.
Ask how you can help them – they might want to talk about it, they might ask you to count a certain number for them before they engage in the behaviour, they may find it helpful for you to hold their hand to stop their compulsive urges: whatever helps them, ask them.
OCD can grow into new areas – for example a person with issues of cleanliness may restrict their food intake to only eating at home where they know how it was prepared: be ready to observe changes in their behaviours and very gently and kindly point them out when you see them arise so they can develop a self-awareness and seek help.
OCD is a real struggle: let’s all learn some patience to help.
I asked my teenagers this and this was their advice:
“Tell them enough to know the big picture but not all the details as they might worry too much and then that is annoying!"
What do you reckon to that?
As a parent I want to know all about my kids’ lives, but I also realise they don’t always want me to know, and in reality, everyone deserves their own privacy and respect.
⭐️ If you have a few episodes of feeling very down or teary every week; let them know you are feeling blue.
⭐️ If you ever hear any voices – let them know.
⭐️ Self-harm might freak them but if you feel it’s getting out of control and taking over you, communicate that to them in someway.
⭐️ If you ever feel unsafe in anyway (at school, at home, with your friends), let them know.
⭐️ Anger is strong and powerful, it might get you into trouble and difficult situations. If your knuckles are regularly bruised, if you are going out looking for a fight - get help. Things take a turn for the worst very quickly if your anger regularly flares up fast.
⭐️ For all of us our food intake varies depending on how we are feeling but, if you are restricting your eating regularly or binging often, please let them know.
⭐️ It's about knowing yourself well enough to notice when you are going downhill in your own mental health. As parents we are often very in-tune with our children so you might think we haven’t noticed. In reality, it is probably that we are waiting for you to talk to us as we are too scared to upset you by saying the wrong thing.
⭐️ Please don’t think we don’t care or haven’t noticed you are feeling down, sometimes we are worried about making you feel worse, especially if you feel defensive. Try to remember that we don’t want an argument any more than you do, so please forgive us when we get it wrong!
⭐️ As parents we hear terrible stories in the news and get frightened by all the stories of teenagers taking their lives. We often act of out panic because of this. Help us by texting us to tell us how you are doing once a day (it means we aren’t annoying you then by asking all the time!). Let us know bits about your day so we don’t bombard you with questions.
⭐️ Lastly, sometime we might seem 'too busy' but please know that we are NEVER too busy to sit with you and talk to you about your mental health.
As parents sometimes, not always, we know how to help: let us help you.
Jess Whittaker, a member of the SelfharmUK team, shares her thoughts about how you can stay smart on Instagram.
Today, as I was driving in to work, something I heard on the radio caught my attention and immediately made me turn up the volume. It was a report claiming that Instagram is one of the worst social media platforms when it comes to the impact on young people’s metal health.
In the UK, a survey of 1,479 people aged 14-24 were asked to rate which social media platform they felt had the most negative effect on them. They then scored each platform individually around issues like anxiety, depression, loneliness, bullying and body image.
Once the report had finished, I turned the radio off and thought for a moment. Like everything, Instagram has positive and negative sides to it, depending on what you use it for.
For example, lets’ say you’re someone who’s suffered from a mental health issue, such as self-harm or bulimia and are now in full recovery (well done you!). You might choose to use Instagram to share your story by posting inspiring quotes and photos that show the positive things in your life. There is no denying that Instagram is a really great way to visually spread positive messages quickly.
But what if you’re someone who spends hours on Instagram late at night, alone in your room, constantly comparing yourself to other people? You’ve stopped posting selfies because you’re so convinced that your photos look awful compared to your friends, that all you really use Instagram for now is to re-inforce your negative thoughts about yourself.
If you can relate to the above, don’t be embarrassed or afraid to speak up because… whoever you are and however you choose to use it, we have some great tips about how you can protect your mental health on Instagram:
If I say the word “school” to you, I imagine many of you would groan! I don’t know about anyone else but I have a very love/hate relationship with school, the atmosphere there was one of the reasons I became ill in the first place, however they are also the reason that I’ve been able to build and develop myself to achieve what I never thought would have been possible!
The first time I noticed things weren’t right, I was in year 8 and had never really realised that mental health and self-harm were recognised issues - I didn’t understand why or what I was doing, only that I felt really down, and that was how I dealt with it. After about a year, I was able to reach out to a couple of amazing youth workers who suggested I go to the doctors, but unfortunately (as is common with CAMHS) I was put on a waiting list for 8 months before I received any support. I’ve always struggled to find the confidence to talk to my parents about it, andthen, until I recently transitioned into adult mental health support, school has been my main point of call for help.
It started out as a session with the school's pastoral support team, once a fortnight, then once a week, then twice a week (as things had taken a turn for the worse). When I transitioned onto sixth form, it was then recommended that I have sessions with the school counsellor which I continued through my A-levels. I know a lot of people can feel unsupported by their school, but for me they were the best support I’ve ever had and have played a crucial part in my recovery. They would check in with me often, chat through anything that was on my mind as well as practically supporting me to ensure I could carry on being in school.
To anyone who is struggling - even if you are in the process of receiving support, I would urge you, if you feel comfortable, to speak to someone at school and let them know what’s going on. Even if you are not sure where to even start, it can be absolutely anyone from your favourite teacher to a school counsellor or a student support worker, they would all be so glad to help you!
Always remember that no matter what you're facing - you're not alone, and there is a wealth of people at school to help you through your tough times. 💛💛💛💛
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 over three years now. As well as running this website, I also spend one day a week running face-to-face groups and activities with young people either in school or here in the Youthscape building in Luton.
Sadly, most of us will have some connection with someone who has died by suicide. It might be a close connection - as in a family member or friend, or a completed unrelated one - as in someone who may have been hit by a train we were on.
Suicide is not an easy thing to get your head around, let alone talk about. Understanding why someone would attempt to take their own life is never very straightforward, and not to mention extremely upsetting and scary too.
Despite this - we need to talk about suicide, now more than ever.
As a young person, those stats probably sound really frightening!
But you don't have to be afraid.
There are lots of organisations out there that are working really hard in order to prevent young suicides. These include Papyrus and the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide. However, as hard as they are working, they could actually use your help too.
One of the easiest ways you could really help a friend who is struggling with suicidal thoughts or who knows someone who has taken their own life, is actually just to listen to them without judging.
If you do want to say something supportive, try not to use phrases that sound disrespectful or judgemental like "committed suicide" or "failed attempt at suicide". Instead, use phrases that sound compassionate and thoughtful like "took their life" or "attempted to end their life".
Another way you could watch the language you're using is actually by what you say every day. Saying "Kill yourself" to your friend when you disagree with something they've said is incredibly insensitive. Even saying "I can't live without [chocolate]" could also appear quite thoughtless.
Even if you do say the wrong thing, or have done in the past - don't feel like you can't talk to someone about suicide. By saying nothing, we're not giving the people we love and care about a chance to say they need help.
This article was written by Sophie, a previous Graduate Volunteer with Youthscape, to celebrate World Music Day.
I am a massive lover of music; I’m constantly listening to it. I’ve actually got my headphones in now as I write this!
Music is powerful. It can be so influential, and can be used as a way to express feelings, share a particular message, tell a story, and bring people together. There’s always something for everyone’s taste. You can study music, create it, or simply just listen and appreciate it. There is so much I love about music, where do I even start?
I’ve grown up in a musical family. My dad led the music at Church and was always playing his guitar and singing around the house. Whenever we would see his side of the family, it would always end up in a good ol’ sing song, and it still does! My brother is also very musical and I’d say I am too, though not to the same extent – my guitar playing skills are a little rusty! However, as I said, I’m always listening to music, and it has certainly helped me through life.
Music is everywhere we go; most shops we go into will always have music playing in the background, and I’ve even been in some shops that have a DJ! I also particularly like the pianos at St Pancras train station, free for anyone to play. It amazes me how much talent there is out there, and being able to hear a performance live is always so great! I love when you can literally feel the music, the bass in your chest, those songs that give you goosebumps, music that really resonates with you.
I love that music is for any and every mood, from when you need a good cry, to when you’re absolutely pumped and feel on top of the world! Music would help me through times where I felt alone and it would sometimes express my emotions – you know, when there’s a song that completely describes how you’re feeling or what you’re going through? Or when a song puts into words what you struggle to? Music helps calm my anxiety and has distracted me when I need a break from what’s going on around me – headphones in, world out! Music can put me in an amazing mood, it can lift me if I’m feeling a bit down, it can bring back great memories and can make me want to sing and dance around wherever I am (and I will do so where appropriate!)
Music has got me through many hours of work, revision and essays. I know a lot of people who need silence to work, but music motivates me and helps me concentrate (most of the time). I remember my friend once telling me how she got around music being a distraction - she had started listening to songs in a different language so it meant she couldn’t get distracted by singing along to it!
I absolutely love how music brings people together, through the love of a song, band/artist, cause - we recently saw how so many people came together for the benefit concert, to help raise funds for the victims of the Manchester attack and their families. As well as people actually being at the concert, so many people tuned in to watch from home too. Music can connect people across cities, countries and continents, and in a way, it’s like a language we all share.
I just couldn’t imagine a world without music, could you? There are so many reasons to celebrate it today!
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 over three years now. As well as running this website, I also spend one day a week running face-to-face groups and activities with young people either in school or here in the Youthscape building in Luton.
If you're a Little Mix fan, you'll probably know who Jesy Nelson is. Most people would describe her as a young, beautiful and very talented singer. But that's not what social media trolls will tell you.
In fact, they'd tell you that she's "fat", "ugly" and that she should "go and kill herself".
Horrible, isn't it? But that's what social media trolling is. Someone who 'purposely says something controversial in order to get a rise out of other users' (as defined by Google search).
In a recent documentary called 'Odd One Out' by BBC Three, Jesy talks openly about her experiences of being trolled on social media since becoming famous, and the effects it's had on her self-esteem and body confidence. It's a really well filmed documentary and whilst we do recommend watching it, we advise you to be careful as it can be quite upsetting and heartbreaking at points too.
I don't remember what I was commenting on, but I remember posting a comment on a public Facebook post, and receiving a really hurtful reply about my appearance from someone I didn't know less than a minute after my comment was posted. This happened almost 10 years ago now, but to this day I can remember exactly what they said, and if I let myself think about it for too long, it still hurts like it did when I first read it.
Since then, I have not shared my opinion on a public Facebook post for fear of being trolled again.
Unfortunately, unlike me, Jesy hasn't had the option to choose not to put herself out there. When you're famous, everything you do is up for public opinion - from what you wear and how you look, to what you do and who you spend time with!
BUT - even if she did, why should she!?
Trolling and cyber-bullying (when comments are targeted towards an individual as opposed to on public blog posts and news sites) are not ok.
In her documentary, Jesy posts the below Instagram post to represent her making peace with who she was back in 2011 (when she won X-Factor) after her trolls made her hate herself...
Whether you're a troll or are being trolled, Ditch The Label (Anti-Bullying site) offer some great advice in the following blogs:
I'll leave you with something that Jesy said during the documentary as part of the above Instagram post...
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!
People who self-harm normally don't want to take their own lives. Suicide is a way of ending one’s life, but for many people, self-harm is a way of coping with life and being able to continue with living despite the emotional difficulties they may be experiencing. For some, the physical pain of self-harm reassures them they are still alive – this might be because they are experiencing emotional numbness or feeling disconnected from the world around them, or at the other end of the spectrum, feeling more connected and alive than they did previously.
Self-harm can also cause changes in the brain chemistry, which, although ‘satisfying’, can easily become addictive and therefore dangerous.
Sometimes people do die as a result of self-harm. This may be because they have taken an act of harming too far, and they lose their lives before help is found, or it may be they engage in something such as self-poisoning, which carries an incredibly high risk of death if untreated. There is believed to be an increase in suicidal intent if someone is prevented from self-harming. As difficult and challenging as it can be to understand, sometimes self-harm may be the safest option, if the alternative involves a desire to end life. It’s dangerous to prevent someone from harming without providing them with a realistic, alternative coping mechanism that they are willing to engage with.
It is important to know a bit about your body in order to keep yourself safe. Self-harm is never, ever completely safe or free from risks, but there are small things that can make a big difference and maybe save your life. If you are still going to hurt yourself, then it's important you try and do it in the safest way possible. Losing you would be a tragic waste. Every life has value.
If you're struggling with thoughts on suicide, you don't have to face them alone. Samaritans have a 24hr free helpline that you can call whatever you're going through.
If you're 18 and over and currently studying at a UK university (or have done so in the past), the University of Westminster are asking you to take part in a research study about understanding student emotions and perceptions of support. Before you decide to take part, feel free to email Laura Culshaw (L.Culshaw@westminster.ac.uk) to ask any questions or to ask for further information.
Have you ever heard the phrase 'Comparison is the thief of joy' and wondered exactly what it meant?
Well, wonder no more. It means that when you compare yourself to others and become jealous of what they have or have achieved, you allow the joy you feel for what you have to be replaced by feelings of envy, intimidation, bitterness and jealousy.
Jealousy can take many forms. Sometimes you feel it when you think your boyfriend or girlfriend is flirting with another person. Sometimes you feel it when you look at posts on Instagram because you think other people are living more exciting lives than us. And sometimes you feel it when someone at school, college or uni wins an award you set your sights on achieving.
What you should know is that it's not wrong to feel jealous, and you don't have to feel guilty about it. In fact, jealousy can sometimes provide you with the motivation you need to work harder and improve yourself or the situation you're in.
In summary, jealousy is a normal reaction we all experience for a range of different reasons, and the following 5️⃣ top tips can help you overcome it...
Jealousy and envy are two sides of the same coin. However, when you're feeling jealous, you're more likely to feel fearful, and when you're feeling envious, you're more likely to feel resentment.
For example, you might get jealous of a friend spending time with other friends because you’re afraid it might mean they don't want to be your friend anymore. But you might be envious of someone in your class who won an award at school, because you thought you deserved it more than they did.
So you see, jealousy and envy are different, and being able to identify which one you're feeling will ultimately help you to become more self-aware and bring you a step closer to overcoming it.
Jealousy is a feeling that can swallow you up quite quickly. It often causes a range of different physical reactions in your body, such as changes to blood pressure, heart rate, sweating and breathing patterns.
When these things happen, your judgement can become clouded and you're less likely to see the facts for what they really are. Noticing what's going on in your body can help to ground you, bringing you back to the present moment and help to clear your head.
Another way to help clear your head is (in the words of Taylor Swift) to literally shake it off! Punching a pillow, jumping up and down, going to the gym, or even taking a cold shower can help to calm your energy levels and put you back in control of your jealousy.
Sometimes, emotions like jealousy can stir up thoughts in your brain that aren't true. Recognising they aren't true and stopping them in their tracks can be easier said than done, however.
You could try a technique called 'taking your thought to court', where you assess all the evidence both for and against the thought you're having.
For example, if a thought you're having is telling you you're going to be the only one in your friendship group to fail a particular exam - before you start to get worried and jealous over something that hasn't't happened, stop and ask yourself what the evidence is for this thought to be true. Did you revise and prepare for the exam? Did you attend the same classes your friends did prior to the exam? Did you pass your mock test for this exam? If the answer to these question is yes, then clearly the evidence against this thought being true puts forward a much stronger case.
More often than not, jealousy is the result of something that has happened to you in the past. Sometimes what you think is bothering you is actually the tip of the iceberg, and underneath is a whole load of things that have happened to you that you've never really properly dealt with.
For example, if you've grown up believing your parents favoured your sibling over you, you're more likely to feel jealous of their achievements as opposed to wanting to support them.
Figuring out what's really bothering you can be tricky, but the more you reflect on how certain situations and people made you feel, the more self-aware you will become. This is essentially what a counsellor or therapist can help you to do, along with journalling and mindfulness.
In the end, emotions like jealousy and envy can serve as a handy way to push you to make positive changes. Whether that's to better yourself, or to improve the situation you're currently in.
Why not try cutting down the time you spend mindlessly scrolling through instagram pics and being more present next time you go out with your family? Or stop pushing yourself to get better at a hobby you don't enjoy, and find something you do enjoy doing instead!
Whilst you can't stop the feeling of jealousy from ever occurring, hopefully with these tips, you can feel a lot less guilty about it and have more control over how you choose to react to it.
Want to develop a healthy mindset?
Shuffle Mindset is a card-based activity – a challenge to take on for up to six weeks. These are full of mindful activities to help you reinforce your mental health and increase your wellbeing.
You can find out more and buy it on our store here: https://youthscape.co.uk/store...
The University of Westminster are asking professionals, friends or parents to take part in a research study about providing supporting for Student Self-harm. If you would be willing to share your experiences or for further information, please email Laura Culshaw at L.Culshaw@westminster.ac.uk
Waiting for your exam results can be terrifying. Those horrible feelings of stress and panic can sometimes feel like too much to bare.
Of course thousands of other young people across the country are feeling this way too, but that doesn't make it any easier to deal with.
What we hope might make it even a fraction easier though, is (drum roll please)... the following advice to give you the best chance of staying sane in the lead up to results day!
PS. We really hope it helps!
PS. PS. This blog is kind of long, but you don't have to read it all in one go. It's long because there are a lot of things we think you might like to know, so we suggest you read half of it now, save the link, and then read the other half later 😊
We're not saying it's not going to be tricky, but try your absolute hardest to go to bed and get up at a decent time in the lead up to exam results day, but ESPECIALLY the night before the big day!
Why we hear you ask? Well, if you get used to going to bed at 3am and getting up at midday every day, and then suddenly, the night before results day, decide to go to bed at 10pm and get up at 8am - you're probably not going to feel your best the next day (despite the early night the night before).
Sleep may be hard to come by in the lead up to results day, but try to get into a good bedtime routine as the more energy you conserve, the better you'll be at managing your emotions in the lead up to and on the day itself.
Sounds obvious, but the easiest way to make sure you're tired at bedtime is to make yourself tired during the day 😴 For example, instead of having a lie in, get up and do some exercise. Avoid having too much caffeine (coffee and fizzy drinks) and have a relaxing bath or shower before you go to bed. Meditations can be helpful too in order to help calm those racing thoughts. Check out this one we posted for World Sleep Day.
It also might be a good idea to limit the time you spend on social media. Chances are that results day is all anyone will be talking about, so we suggest you swap your phone for a book (or a magazine if you're not a massive fan of reading).
Believe it or not, talking about how you're feeling is so important in the lead up to results day! If you're nervous, talk about it. If you're anxious, talk about it. Make it a priority to find time to sit down with your family and friends in order to have a conversation with them.
By not sharing your feelings and keeping them inside, you can pretty much guarantee they'll only get worse! Panic attacks are often caused by a build up of feelings of overwhelming stress and fear. They're becoming more common in young people because of the overwhelming pressure they are under to perform well in their education.
A panic attack is essentially a combination of horrible feelings swirling around in your body and making you feel like you can't breathe! However, the trick to overcoming them (and stopping them in the first place) is to ground yourself in where you are now, and not where your emotions are trying to take you to. For example, if you're panicking about what you're going to do if you've failed ALL your exams, try to remember that this hasn't even happened yet (and actually probably won't)!? In order to help you to do this, bring yourself back into the present moment by thinking of 5️⃣ things you can see, 4️⃣ things you can touch, 3️⃣ things you can hear, 2️⃣ things you can smell and 1️⃣ thing you can taste. It really helps - trust us!
In order to truly feel relaxed, you first need to be practicing self-care. You might not know exactly what this is, but chances are you are already doing it 😊
Self-care is all about how we look after ourselves. It's different for everyone, but once you identify the things that constitute as self-care for you and start to do them regularly, you're much more likely to feel relaxed!
For example, if self-care for you means going out and spending time with your friends in order to take your mind off your results in the lead up to the big day, then do it. Equally though, if staying in and watching episodes of your favourite TV show in bed alone is more relaxing for you, then do that instead. There's no right or wrong, it's all about what helps you feel the most relaxed and making time to do it.
If you want to know more about self-care, check out this blog we posted during Self Care Week last year.
Finally, when the big day arrives, whatever you do, don't go by yourself! Whether you go with a parent or a friend, bring someone along to share the experience with you and most importantly, to help you manage your emotions before and after you've read your results.
Talking of reading your results... If you don't get the exam results you were hoping for, stop, and take a moment to think about how hard you worked and tried. It might feel like the end of the world, but it's not, and the sooner you realise you have other options (because you always do), the sooner you'll start to feel slightly more positive about the situation.
If you do get the exam results you wanted...
A MASSIVE congratulations to you!!
Although, it's worth being mindful that not everyone will be happy about their results. We're not saying you're not allowed to celebrate, but just be a little considerate of others around you.
And that's how we hope you'll stay sane in the lead up to results day!
As the Love Island final airs tonight, we thought we'd do a post about it. Whether you watch it or not, Love Island is always the hottest summer programme of the year. The premise of the show is to remain in the villa, as the winning couple will have the chance to bag the £50,000 prize money which they can choose to keep or split with each other. The show runs for around 8 weeks straight. Contestants can also be voted out by the public who have the power to play Cupid by voting for a current Islander to go on a first date with a new contestant.
Way to mess with your mental health guys!?
But why could being a contestant on Love Island have a negative effect on your mental health?
Here are 3 top tips we think the Islanders should do as soon as they get back home to help their mental health and to stay grounded... (and who knows, you might even find some of these tips are helpful for your mental health too 😉)
When you've been away for a long period of time, it can be hard to get back into your normal routine. During the time you were away, you may have begun to adapt to unhealthy sleeping and eating habits, and spent less time doing what forms part of your normal routine, such as going to the gym or engaging with your usual hobbies.
Getting back into a routine helps to bring a sense of normality and will help you to adjust being back quicker. Start off slow by making sure you go to bed at your usual time and eat well during the day. If you re-introduce your hobbies at a later date, you'll avoid feeling overwhelmed. Extensive science has shown that this, along with fitness and meditation are the most important protective measurements to have in place to avoid depression.
A supportive family and friends are the building blocks to overcoming anything! How many times have you had a conversation with your mum, dad, brother, sister or best friend and come away feeling more positive? Sometimes, all we want to do is shut our family and friends out because we might think they'll judge us or misunderstand what we're trying to say.
If you're feeling that way, remember this: there is nothing you can't say to someone who loves you. So give your best mate a call, or sit down with your mum/dad and catch up with them over a cup of tea.
Whatever you do, don't throw yourself into something to take your mind off something else. It's so easy to cover up how you really feel by diving head first into work or solving other people's problems or to just pretend that everything is fine altogether!
Feeling sad after something totally awesome has happened to you is a completely normal way to feel. Express this feeling by writing about it, talking about it or even drawing about it. But in order to feel sad and then capture these happy memories, you need to give yourself some space to do that. It's important to build time into your routine to just sit and reflect on your most recent experiences and how you may have changed because of them.
We would like to wish all the Love Island finalists the best of luck tonight 🏆 and to remember that nothing is worth loosing your mental health over!
Looking after yourself is SO important!
But what does this really mean?
Annoyingly, we can’t rely on someone else to do our homework or take our exams for us… equally we can’t rely on others to look after our emotional and mental health being either!
We are responsible for us. If we choose to stay up all night messaging on our mobile phones and have to get up for school early in the morning, we can’t blame our mates for ‘making us’ message them back – it was actually our choice. In the same way if we are struggling, we can’t rely on someone else to wave their ‘magic wand of wellbeing’ to make life seem easier and more manageable.
As hard as it might be to hear: you are responsible for you. You’re not responsible for your friend, even though you care about them greatly; and they aren’t responsible for you.
When it comes to looking after ourselves, there are 5 dimensions of our own care we need to consider...
This includes our diet, sleep, dental care, sexual health and physical wellbeing. It might mean making sure you sleep more or eat better, or visit the doctors when you've got a problem (instead of ignoring it and hoping it will go away).
What does being physically well mean to you? How can you practise more self-care for this body of yours that is the vessel in which your whole life is held (because you really can’t do much without it!)
What beliefs do you hold? Are they in any tension with how you live out your live and faith? If so, does that cause you any difficulty?
How do you nourish your soul? How is your spiritual life challenged, changed, guided?
Where do you best connect with God? Is God quietly prompting you to find a bit more space and time for Him? Is He asking something more of you?
It’s not just about school and homework! Outside of what you are studying, what makes your brain work hard? How are you encouraging your personal growth? What about the people you hang out with – are they all the same as you or are you finding friends from new cultures and countries in order to expand your horizons?
Have you got a good network of people you can talk to when you're having a bad day? Can you trust them to hold your personal stuff without blabbing it around? Whether you are an introvert or extrovert; having one person you can trust is WAY BETTER than knowing hundreds of people who aren't really your friends.
Do you keep track of your emotions or do bad days always take you by surprise?
Many of us don’t make enough time for a daily ‘check in’ with ourselves to see how we are. We probably text our family or BFF to see how they are, but do we ask the same question of our self?
Before you even get out of bed, scale your emotions – 1 being horrendously low and 10 being the best feeling ever! This is your marker for the day – if it’s low then it won’t take much for you to feel lower. But what actions can you take to make it higher (remember it’s no one else’s responsibility but yours!) Looking at the list above – go through each one and consider a couple of things you can do make a bad day slightly better.
Try the same before you fall asleep – reflect on your day and be thankful for all the good things that happen (no matter how small they were). It is proven that an attitude of gratitude really does improve mental wellbeing!
Try these too...
Bethany Murray has been known to SelfharmUK for a long time and is an inspirational young person who has overcome some challenging things in her life. She shares openly with us about her struggles with PTSD for PTSD Awareness Day.
I am many things. I’m a student, a daughter, a godmother, a lover of house plants, tattoos and the colour yellow. I am also someone with post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD.
Today is PTSD awareness day. Have you heard of PTSD? What comes to mind when you think of PTSD?
PTSD is an anxiety disorder that develops after witnessing or being involved in a traumatic event. This could include a serious road accident, a violent or personal assault such as a sexual assault, mugging or robbery, a serious health problem or childbirth experience. Many people have heard of this disorder in the context of soldiers returning from war, but like any mental health condition, anyone of any gender, age or walk of life can develop PTSD.
It is usual for anyone who witnesses or experiences a traumatic event to have a reaction to it in the initial period afterwards, termed an acute stress response. But not everyone who experiences trauma will develop PTSD. PTSD can develop immediately after someone experiences a traumatic event, or it can occur even years later.
Here is a list of a wide range of symptoms associated with PTSD. Not everyone will experience the same symptoms:
I experienced traumatic events in childhood, and I still live with PTSD and it’s impact on my life. For me, telling someone about what I had experienced was extremely difficult. Despite this, it is incredibly important to talk to a trusted adult if you have experienced or witnessed anything upsetting, or if you think you are experiencing symptoms of PTSD.
Getting help isn’t easy, but it’s the start of a journey to freedom from the overwhelming all-encompassing hold of PTSD. Treatment for PTSD can involve talking therapies and you may be offered Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to help you to think differently about what happened and find new ways to overcome it. It can also be treated with something called EMDR (eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing), which can help reduce distress from bad memories.
You can find out more information about getting support for PTSD and PTSD Awareness Day on the PTSD UK site.
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.
Happy Father's Day! Check out this poem by Lindsay MacRae titled 'My Dad'. Celebrate everything that makes your dad your dad...
Taken from the book How to Avoid Kissing your Parents in Public by Lindsay MacRae, p2.
Have you ever heard of the phrase 'all or nothing' before?
This basically means when you're either completely decided on something, or completely against it. For example, we sometimes say that you can be either all or nothing with marmite - meaning, you either really love it, or really hate it!
'All-or-nothing thinking' means when you pretty much only think in extremes. This can have quite a serious effect on your day to day decision making, as well as how you feel about yourself and how you think your life is going. If we only ever think that things can be really good, or really bad, this can end up causing emotions such as anger and disappointment when things don't go our way, which can lead to longer term mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression.
Using words like 'nothing' or 'never' often, are common symptoms of all-or-nothing thinking. When we don't weigh up the evidence we have for and against our thoughts, and decide there are no alternatives or solutions to our problems, we only open ourselves up to experience the negatives of a particular situation.
Here are some tips to ensure you avoid all-or-nothing thinking as often as you can, and what you can do instead:
💭 Try to stop using words like 'nothing' or 'ever'
💭 Notice when you're thinking in marmite terms (either loving it or hating it) and ask yourself if there's a possibility for any gray area in between
💭 Try to find the positive side of the situation
💭 Recognise your strengths and don't focus on your faults
💭 Understand that setbacks happen and don't dwell on self-defeating thoughts
Always remember that sharing problems and things you struggle with means you are more likely to solve them. Another person might bring a different view or solution.
Giving things away can make us feel good!
It is proven that giving something away does actually have a positive effect on our mental health!
Think about it: when you have spent ages thinking about a present a person will love and then they open it, how do you feel?
It feels good doesn’t it? We often feel pleased with ourselves – at the work we put into buying it, the time we took wrapping it and then the expression of joy on the person receiving the gift's face!
Giving away our time (otherwise known as volunteering) is exactly the same...
Here are some of the ways volunteering can help us:
🏅 We make new friends
🏅 We overcome personal struggles (learning new skills, being in a new social situations)
🏅 It’s better than paid work because we can be more picky choosing to volunteer in an area we enjoy most!
🏅 We add to our CV and work experience;
🏅 We get to have FUN!
On average people in the UK volunteer for 11 hours a month; that’s less than 3 hours out of your busy week to...
When you're looking for volunteer opportunities, remember to look for something that...
Enjoy volunteering over the summer break: you certainly won’t get bored!
Joy is a youth worker specialising in supporting young people when they are in A&E because of mental health issues or emotional crisis. This is part two of her blog.
Okay, here goes with Joy’s top tips for a helpful chat with the mental health professional…
You may feel you want to have a family member, friend or other supportive adult with you during the assessment and this is usually fine, don’t be afraid to ask. Equally, if you’d prefer it to be just you that’s fine too, just let one of the nurses know or tell the mental health professional who you’ll be speaking with.
After this meeting, there will be some decisions made about when you should be discharged and where you should go. In most cases, the decision will be made that you can go home with the support of your family and follow up from a community mental health team. In some situations, other arrangements will need to be made if, for example, you’re not safe at home, or further assessment or treatment is needed.
Once the medical team are happy that you’re ‘medically fit’ to leave and the mental health team have done their assessment and put a support plan in place you’ll be good to go...
You should hear from the community mental health team within a week or so of leaving hospital but you can ring them sooner if you need more support or if they’ve not called you. The most important thing is to listen to what your mind and body need. You’ll likely be tired so take time to rest. Having a bit of a routine is helpful so try to do something each day, even if it’s just going out for a short walk, and try to keep eating and sleeping at regular times. If you normally take medication keep going with that too. Make the most of all the support that’s available to you – from friends and family and from professionals. If there’s anything that makes you reluctant to accept support from professionals, it’s best to air your concerns. Did you know you can ask for a different Care Coordinator / Therapist if you feel that relationship is really not working. It’s also worth looking up other local stuff like youth groups, sports clubs, opportunities for volunteering, youth counselling etc. There’s lots out there and you might just find something that’ll give you chance to make some new friends, have fun, or get support that makes a difference and helps you keep going.
It can feel like having been to hospital because of an emotional/mental health crisis means you’ve hit rock bottom but please don’t be discouraged. Take it as a sign that things need to change and work with those around you to make those changes happen. Speaking personally, when I was a teenager I struggled with these issues and, at times I felt like everything was hopeless and there was no point in carrying on, it was all just too hard. But let me tell you, sticking with it is totally worth it and you can do it. Take each small step forward as a victory and celebrate it and even if you take a couple of steps back it’s okay, don’t beat yourself up, just press on again.
I hope this has given you a helpful insight that will mean you can open up and get the help you need if you find yourself in A&E. Take care and remember that no situation is EVER hopeless.
Joy is a youth worker specialising in supporting young people when they are in A&E because of mental health issues or emotional crisis. This is part one of her blog.
Going to A&E is never an indication that someone’s having a great day and it can be even more stressful when you’re there because you’re already feeling that life is too much. Here’s a little walk through what to expect and how to make the best of the situation. For the purposes of this blog, we’ll assume that all other avenues for help and support have been used and that A&E is where you need to be.
So, you walk in the main doors and the first thing you’ll need to do is explain to the person at A&E Reception why you’re there. This may feel a bit awkward but don’t worry, they’re perfectly used to people coming in for all manner of reasons. You don’t have to go into detail, a few words should be enough for them to understand and book you in. If you have someone with you, they can help too.
Depending on the setup of your local A&E and your age, you may be sent to the Paediatric (Children’s) area, or wait in the main waiting area. If it’s busy you could have a while to wait so it’s worth bringing something to do, especially if you’re likely to get anxious, have some distractions handy. You’ll see the Triage Nurse who’ll ask you about why you’re there and record some basic details about you and your family. You’ll likely be asked to go back to the waiting area again while the team decide what needs to happen next. The next person you’ll see will likely be a doctor who will ask you some more detail about what’s been going on for you and how you’re feeling. If you need blood tests the doctor will request these.
It may feel like you’re being asked to tell your story over and over to different people but this is unavoidable I’m afraid. Each medical person you meet will have their own responsibility in relation to your care and they best way for them to make sure they understand exactly how to help you is to ask you personally about things. They will also read the notes that their colleagues have made but there’s no substitute for hearing things first hand, so that’s why there’s so many questions – it’s because they know how important it is to try and understand correctly!
So, once you’ve spoken to a nurse and a doctor in A&E, they’ll be able to decide what needs to happen next. Depending on your situation, you may need medical treatment and if that’s the case the team will arrange that. You may be transferred to a different part of the hospital like the children’s ward or another ward separate to A&E where you’ll have a bed.
The staff basically have two objectives. Firstly, to make sure you are physically well enough to be discharged, they call this being ‘medically fit for discharge’. That’s why they’ll do your ‘obs’ (observations) which is pulse, blood pressure, temperature etc, and blood tests if needed. Secondly, they’ll need to assess your mental health so that when the time comes for you to leave hospital, they are confident that you’re safe to leave and there’ll be a plan in place to support you going forward. This second part is done by a specialist mental health team. This may be CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) or the Adult Psychiatric Liaison Team who are often referred to as ‘Psych Liaison’. Depending on the hospital, there may be a team that is based in the hospital, or they may come and visit you from outside. In any case, you’ll need to wait to be seen and this may mean staying overnight, especially is you’re waiting to see CAMHS who usually come in the following day.
Okay, so here’s a few top tips to help you get the most out of your chat with the mental health person but the first thing to say is, try not to get stressed if you have a long wait, or if they arrive later than they said they would. It’s not because they took a long lunch or couldn’t be bothered to come on time. It’ll be because they’ve had lots of others to see, or a particularly complicated situation to deal with before they could come to you so cut them some slack, they’re only human!
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.
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.
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.