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.
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
Today is World Mental Health Day
In order to be fully human we have physical wellbeing and mental and emotional wellbeing.
In the same way you sometimes get a cold, hurt your wrist or break a leg: we all get emotionally unwell at some point.
Physically we can see when someone isn’t well – from their pale looking skin, to a arm cast to a wheelchair – it’s obvious when someone needs additional support due to their physical illness. Often it might only be a day or two off school, sometimes it needs hospital treatment – it’s a sliding scale of needing extra physical care.
Mental care is the same – it’s a huge scale. From having a ‘bad day’ to sleeplessness to depression – the scale is huge and, sadly, at some point, we might find ourselves needing some additional support, but, because it’s unseen we can be tempted not to ask for it.
Hiding our feelings can make us feel worse. Feeling low can easily move into depression and anxiety issues.
Anxiety isn’t just the feeling of ‘being a bit worried’, it’s an overwhelming sense of dread or fear that stops you from enjoying life and may limit where you go because you come so anxious you can’t control it.
Panic attacks are the body’s way of holding up a ‘red card’, of saying ‘STOP’.
If you ever experience any of these things then you are most probably struggling with your anxiety, and because it’s hidden inside of you, others may not be aware of it. It may not happen every day, but possibly about the same thing each time or in the same situation:
When these feelings come into our body, it can be hard to take control. Don’t filter your feelings:
Once the feeling has subsided:
Long term anxiety needs specialised help. If you are finding yourself having panic attacks often, not sleeping, struggling with food issues: you may need to think about getting specialised help before things get worse. There are some great people out there who can help, we suggest you visit anxiety.org.uk for more info.
The SelfharmUK Team
Welcome to our brand-new website! We are so excited to be sharing with you all the weeks and months of work we have been doing to try and get this right. The first thing that you may notice is that we now have three very specific areas for the main people that visit our site. This is so you can feel totally at home sharing any stories or questions you have, knowing that parents and professionals won’t see it. Please be aware if we are really worried about you we may need to pass this information on.
To post content and to see what other people have posted you must be logged in, you can do this by clicking the register button and filling in the form that follows.
Please give us honest information, we may need this in the future to help keep you safe.
We want you to feel at home here, we want to try and help you build a safe online community that helps you begin to share how you are feeling about your self-harm and meet other people who can help you in this journey. Sometimes we will comment on your posts, but overall, we want you to have the space to help and support each other where you can.
The site is broken down into different places for you to get the help and support you need we have our main chat space where you can upload appropriate pictures, questions and tell us your story. When you post on that page you get to choose your colour background, your font and picture so it feels more personal to you.
We want you to feel supported in your times of crisis and have somewhere to take your concerns and fears when you feel lost and alone. This main chat forum and space is for you to help and support one another. This will be monitored, please remember we are all about pro-recovery here so be sensitive and supportive to everyone needs.
We will also be hosting live chat sessions where we will look at a whole series of topics from anxiety to LGBTQ+ to depression and many more. These sessions will start on the 1st November 2017 at 7pm. They will run for approximately 30-40 minutes and will be held once a week on a Wednesday evening. These are completely informal and will be hosted in a chat room format. We would love you to come along when you can. You can find the links to these chat rooms and a little bit about what we will be discussing that week under the help button on the main page of our website.
Finally, when you are ready we have our weekly support group called Alumina, you can find information about this and sign up under the Alumina tab in the main menu. This is a more intentional form of support and we would love to welcome you when you feel ready.
If you have any questions, concerns or suggestions please contact us at email@example.com and we will try and see if we can help. We really want you to feel supported in this journey and have the space to share your experience. Be sure to follow us on Instagram and like us on Facebook.
The SelfharmUK Team x
Jo Introduces us to the programme and what to expect over the summer.
Some people love school – they love seeing their mates every day, they enjoy learning and enjoy the structure of the school day;
Some people really dread school – getting up early, having to wear a uniform, having to sit in lessons that feel irrelevant, being surrounded by people all day and then having homework to do.
For some people the only thing worse than school are the endless summer holidays.
The idea of the summer break is good – waking up late, no plans, chilling out……
But….the reality can be so different after the first 48 hours: seeing everyone’s holiday photos of hot sunny places may make you feel sad or jealous; feeling like everyone else is out having fun and you are on your own, not wanting to join in but at the same time wanting to be invited to join anyway; hoping it might rain so you don’t have to make up a excuse for wearing long sleeves; feeling isolated without the structure of the school day which makes each day feel long; getting fed up playing online games with your sibling….
There used to be a TV programme called ‘why don’t you?’ and it gave you ideas of things to make, do, places to visit with your mates. It wasn’t too bad for the 90’s!
There was a line on the opening song which said ‘why don’t you switch off your TV and do something less boring instead?’ which used to annoy me because if I turned off the TV then, I wouldn’t be able to know what do to!
We want to give you some ideas to get you to turn off your TV (or wifi!) and make the summer feel more positive:
At SelfharmUK we recognize that summer can be hard with lots of additional stresses due to the changes in routine and weather – we will be running our online Alumina self-harm support group each Monday and will be adding new videos and support material weekly.
We hope it helps your summer!
The piece below was written by Jo Fitzsimmons, a member of the SelfharmUK Team. The urge to self-harm is often all consuming and when it comes, it's hard to think of anything else! Next time you feel the urge to self-harm, try slowly reading this outloud, whilst breathing deeply.
I am twitchy, full of nervous energy
I can’t sit still, I can’t focus,
I am breathing quickly,
I am wringing my hands.
I try to calm myself
I try to take control
The thoughts are coming quickly
Spiralling into my head
My breathing gets faster
I must take control
Slow slow slow slow
I tell myself
The battle is done – I make the choice
Run on the spot
Clench my fists
Breathe Breathe Breathe
Run on the spot
Clench my fists
Breathe Breathe Breathe
I feel the urge
Slow Slow Slow
I match my breathing to the dogs
I bite my hands and wait
The tears begin to flow
The urge has passed
I made the choice
We don’t often recognise fear in ourselves – perhaps we cover it with anger (at the thing we are fearful about) or shame (that we feel scared); fear is powerful and hinders us in so many areas of our lives.
As humans we are built with a ‘fight or flight’ response in our brains, this means we either stand and literally fight when we are scared or we run from the thing that scares us. But what do we do if the thing that scares us, is us?
Whether it be fear of our feelings and that we might act on those deep feelings; whether it be of a person we fear for what they might say to us or do to hurt us; whether it be the fear of feeling which cripples us – Fear is hard to overcome.
Often the feeling of fear is mixed with feeling anxious. Perhaps you get a bad tummy and have to run to the loo, maybe you take too many pills to ease the worry, you might cut to try and take away the fear – however you try and deal with it, here are a few ideas to help reduce the fear inside:
Acknowledge it. Learn to recognise which feelings inside you are which; fear feels different to anger, but often anger is an emotion that is secondary. If you are feeling angry a lot, ask yourself ‘is there another feeling underneath it’?
Get fear out of you. The more fear comes out from inside us, the less power it has to stop us living our life. Whether you are able to speak it by telling someone, whether you write out what it is that you are fearing, whether you draw it, whether you text it; get it out. It’s like a Harry Potter dementor, it will suck life from you.
Breathe. The more scared we are, the less we breathe, the less we breathe, the more we have panic attacks.
While you are calm, practise breathing slowing, count breaths in and out, teach yourself to breath slowly so the blood and oxygen allow you to continue to think clearly and remain calm.
Be active. Fear creates adrenalin in us, this makes us feel on edge and twichy. Work with your body, if you are feeling like this; do a work out, find a yoga clip on youtube, go for a run, repeatedly punch a pillow – let the adrenalin out of your system so you can calm down.
Deal with the fear. The hardest one of all: can you deal with the actual issue of your fear? Is there any solution or resolution in facing the issue or person that is making you feel this fearful? Currently the person or situation is ruling your life and hindering you flourishing: what, if anything, can you do to change that?
The blog post below was written by a lovely lady called Emma, who got in touch with SelfharmUK to share her story about her recovery from bulimia and self-harm.
What I am writing here is really a love letter to my younger self, and I hope that it will help you too. You see, I grew up not knowing how to love myself. In fact, it felt selfish to do that. I felt, for many, many years, that I was somehow a bad and unlovable person. I developed a lot of ‘coping strategies’ to keep myself feeling that I could not be hurt by other people.
I don’t know what tactics you are using, but mine were mainly around pretending: pretending to be confident, pretending to be friendly, pretending to be happy, pretending to be transparent and open – and all the time, inside, I hated myself (and many of them), I didn’t trust anyone, I was self-harming, bulimic and generally wishing that I was dead.
There is so much stigma about mental health, when all it really is – is some sad memories and an imbalance of the chemicals in our brain. Isn’t it weird that society makes it seem more than that? That we feel embarrassed to be sick? Stupid, isn’t it. Well – I’m not embarrassed anymore. I am proud – very, very proud for having the courage to say I was sick, and continuing my journey to get well.
People often think that when we have depression and anxiety or hurt ourselves, we are being selfish – that we are ‘wrapped up’ in ourselves. I often found that people criticised me in that way. And yet I felt that I was living for others. I must have been – because I didn’t love myself enough to be living for me – back then…
You know what? Self-harm is not selfish. It’s self-preservation. The pain in the heart is so strong that sometimes you feel like you want to just smash the world apart, hit people, break things, scream, set the world on fire, destroy your life and that of those around you. So, instead of doing those things, we turn the pain inwards and cut, scrape, pick, harm our own bodies… or stuff our bellies and throw it up… or refuse to eat… because for a little while we get to be in control, we get to decide - and while we are feeling that physical pain, we get some relief from the torture inside our chemically unbalanced little minds and our sad hearts.
I don’t know your exact circumstances or what you are doing to yourself in order to try to handle those very difficult feelings. But let me tell you something, I know for a fact that you are trying! I know for a fact that, right now, as you read this blog, you are doing your very best to try and get well. People who want to stay depressed, anxious or unhappy do not surf the internet to find blogs like this one. Because you are looking for advice and help, you are on your way towards health.
Let that be a source of hope for you. I am so proud of you for investing in yourself by reading this blog. We have never met, but I promise you, you are more deeply loved than you can ever imagine. Recovery is not easy, but you can get well – and you have already started your journey of recovery. Keep going! I promise you, you can do this. I know you find it so very hard to believe – but I promise you, you can.
Lots of love,
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:
“Hey, It’s Hannah. Hannah Baker. Don’t adjust your… whatever device you’re hearing this on. It’s me, live and in stereo. No return engagements, no encore, and this time, absolutely no requests. Get a snack. Settle in. Because I’m about to tell you the story of my life. More specifically, why my life ended.”
Have you seen it yet? The compelling and heart-breaking story of Hannah Baker, because most of the young people I work with have. 13 Reasons Why is THE show we’re all talking about.
Here at SelfharmUK two members of our team spent a whole day watching the show from beginning to end. We had heard a lot of things about it and so we wanted to make our own minds up.
In the end, we realised there were several different things we wanted to address so decided to split them up. We’ve written an article for parents and adults urging them to take seriously the issues addressed in the show; bullying, sexting, sexual harassment, self-harm, suicidal ideation, drinking, drink driving, abusive families, loneliness, adults not listening or paying attention to what young people say etc. These are all things young people face daily, this story rings true for so many of the people we meet.
We wanted parents to know they need to listen and talk to their kids about stuff, but we don’t need to tell you that. We want to tell young people something else.
So now we are writing something for young people because we have some important things we want to tell you.
We want to tell you to speak up before it’s too late. We want to tell you that someone else choosing to take their own life is never your fault. We want you to look after yourselves especially when it comes to what you are watching. We want to tell you it gets better.
Let’s start with the obvious, Hannah isn’t real, her experience might be something you or someone you know has experienced but simply put, she’s not real. Her story isn’t your story. Her decisions, her life, is made up by an author and a screen writer and a few others. But they aren’t real.
Hannah’s story also doesn’t show the finality of her decisions, we still hear her voice, it’s not like she’s really gone.
Outside of the show it is final, it is real, and it leaves behind a lot of pain.
If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide then PLEASE ask someone for help. There are some contacts at the bottom of the page.
Suicide is not the easy way out, it is not selfish and it is not for the weak. It is what people do when they feel like they have no hope, when they can’t see things getting better. Suicide leaves behind a lot of people who will be blaming themselves
Hannah’s family and friends are seen asking why? How did they miss the signs? They are already feeling guilty, like they failed her. But they are not responsible for Hannah’s decision.
Nobody can make that choice for her, nobody told her to do it, nobody else is to blame. Yes, people hurt her and didn’t listen. But that does not mean it is their fault that she chose to kill herself.
What Hannah does to her friends is awful, she blames them for making mistakes, or in the case of Clay, for listening to her.
Clay had done nothing wrong, yet she made him feel guilty when all he did was care about her. It wasn’t fair of her to put that burden on him, to traumatise him that way. What does she think the impact those tapes will have on people? We see how it affected Alex, Jess and Clay, making them question their reality, leading them to hurt themselves
We need to take responsibility for our own actions, how we treat people and how we ask for help.
There are many things Hannah Baker could have done but chose not to do. She could have asked for help from her parents of a teacher. She could have been honest with her friends about how she was struggling. Instead she pushed everyone away and blamed them for her final decision.
We can ALWAYS ask for help, and people do listen. Think of the incredible friends you have around you, that one teacher who supports you, the person at the end of the line of the online chat. The story shows one bad example of her asking for help. That’s it. What it needs to show is the great help that is out there.
This show, whilst talking about real issues, lies to the viewer. It says that it is ok to blame other people for what we do, it is says that telling an adult is a last resort and that they won’t handle what you say well.
We want to tell you that this isn’t true.
13 Reasons Why tells a story of a broken young person who chose to make a very final decision without ever really asking for help. Hannah is gone, her story might live on but she doesn’t.
Hannah doesn’t know that it gets better. She didn’t get to see what life outside school would be like. What changes might have come her way if she had told people about what was happening her. She makes a decision that she can’t take back.
We don’t want that idea to be something that young people take from watching this show, we don’t want them to think suicide is ever an option.
As we said earlier what we want is for you to speak up before it’s too late. We want to tell you that someone else choosing to take their own life is never your fault. We want you to look after yourselves especially when it comes to what you are watching. We want to tell you it gets better.
Hope is the author of 'Stand Tall Little Girl', a book about her eating disorder struggles. Here she talks openly about why young people struggle to express their emotions and why self-harm challenges might be on the rise.
When you walk down the road you have no idea what other people are going through, what they are thinking, or what their history is. When people look on at me they assume I am a happy young girl living in London. But in reality everyone has their own story and their reasons for acting the way they do.
Researching methods of self-harm have never been easier, and the world we live in sometimes means that people find it easier to self-harm than to admit they are struggling.
Last year, NHS figures showed that the number of young people self-harming had increased. It was sad but at the same time intriguing. The figures emphasized that numbers of young girls being admitted to hospital for self -harm had quadrupled, and the number of young boys cutting themselves had also increased by 186%. This got me thinking – why now?
Why did I as a young person and why do so many other young people struggle to express their emotions? Is there more pressure today on people generally and do people feel that self-harm challenges are becoming more of a thing? More fashionable?
I believe the answer to all those questions is yes. Much of this is fueled by self-harm methods such as the salt and ice challenge or the blue whale challenge being discussed so openly in chat rooms. If you scroll through these pages you come across people from around the country offering advice, methods and their thoughts.
These chat rooms fuel this epidemic. They bring young people in to a false sense of security.
For me growing up, my self-harm came out in not eating and damaging my body through over-exercising. Anorexia was my way of challenging emotional pain and my way of being in control. I challenged those intense emotions that I did not know how to cope with and emotions that I definitely did not want to feel. And I had an element of what I thought was control over my life through limiting my food intake.
When I was 17 I was admitted to a mental health hospital where I lived for a year recovering. I spent a year talking about how I felt, putting on weight so I was healthy and learning how to manage moving forward. It was one of the hardest years of my life but it taught me about the importance of sharing how I feel.
For people with any mental health problem, sharing how you feel can sometimes feel so hard. You might feel like a burden or afraid of what will happen if you do share how you feel, but you mustn’t feel like that. It is so important to talk, share your feelings and find people that you can be honest with. I know that from talking about how I felt - this is something that has kept me well.
You are probably reading this blog feeling like I am lecturing, feeling like I have no idea where you are or why you feel how you do. But I get it. The thrill of missing a meal, surviving off of nothing before going for long runs left me with a similar sensation.
Self-harm may feel like it sorts you and comforts you, gives you some element of control… but in reality it is not doing that.
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 the struggles she is facing as she transitions to university and gives some hints to help us in our own transitions.
Earlier this week I posted this tweet: "Yes I am rather melodramatic but I feel like my heart is being ripped out when I think of everything being left behind as I move to uni."
At the end of this week I am moving to the other side of the country to study psychology at uni. It's scary. It's a massive change. I am in a period of transition. And, in all honestly I feel a real fear about starting this new phase of life.
Change is one of the most common things people feel afraid of. Myself included.
What's interesting, is that things have changed in my life before...obviously. Life, for each of us, is made up of many different chapters and phases. Before each of these times of significant change in my life I've felt this horrible anxious almost heartbroken feeling. Moving house, starting secondary school, my brother and sister leaving home etc. etc.
I have three simple things I am holding onto at the moment as I enter this new period of change and tradition. If you're feeling similarly worried or overwhelmed while being faced with change in your life, I want to suggest repeating after me:
I have already survived many big changes in my life.
Positive things have often come from changes that I once spent many nights crying over.
If nothing ever changed I would still be wearing a nappy and having my bum wiped.
Change can make us feel scared, uncertain, overwhelmed, bereft, heartbroken and regretful. Yet we must remember that change is good and change is necessary.
Without change we don't grow. We don't have a chance to implement things we've learnt. We aren't able to learn new things. We can't experience more of the amazing world we live in. Without change we wouldn’t be able to find out about things that we currently have no knowledge or experience of. Without change we cannot reach our full potential.
When I know a big change is happening in my life, the thing I struggle with most is the "what ifs?".
What if I make no friends at uni?
What if I get behind on work?
What if I get lost in a big new city?
What if people at home forget about me?
What if I don't have the help I need?
"What if" thoughts come from a place of insecurity. Of anxiety. These "what if" thoughts are never likely to be projecting a positive forecast. And so that's where I have learnt to intervene. My brain chatters away and my thoughts are swirling with fear and uncertainty and all I can imagine is complete and utter catastrophe and so I force myself to imagine a positive scenario for each negative "what if".
What if I meet my life long best friend at uni?
What if the work isn't as hard as I’m imagining?
What if I discover beautiful corners of a new city?
What if writing letters to people at home becomes a new favourite hobby?
What if I meet new people who help me more than anyone I've met before?
For me, as someone who has struggled with self-harm and mental illness for a long time, I know times of transition are particularly difficult. I have noticed negative patterns during these times and are often when I struggle most. And so I have now worked on strategies that help me cope.
Acknowledging that loss is a real part of change is important. With any change happening in life, you will be losing something that has been positive. Even exciting changes may bring sadness about some elements of your life ceasing to be the way they were. It's okay to feel sad about these things. It's okay to need some time to process that.
Focusing on the positives sounds a cliché piece of advice but, it's still probably the best I can give. Sometimes things change in life for very negative reasons, but a lot of the transitions we face in life have many pros as well as the cons we may be focusing on. Keeping these in mind, even writing them down is really helpful.
Finding supportive people with whom you can talk through these fears with will make a real difference. For me, my anxiety gets worse the more time I’m left to think things through alone without another more rational voice. Having people I know I can speak to when I’m facing a difficult change or time of transition is so important. These people make me think about whether the things I worry about happening are actually likely and help me put plans in place for coping with different eventualities.
I want to finish this blog post with a quote that helps me greatly.
“When we make a change, it’s so easy to interpret our unsettledness as unhappiness, and our unhappiness as a result of having made the wrong decision. Our mental and emotional states fluctuate madly when we make big changes in our lives, and some days we could tight-rope across Manhattan, and other days we are too weary to clean our teeth. This is normal. This is natural. This is change.” – Jeanette Winterson