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We can’t be there in person to help and support you in a moment of crisis, but there are other options available to you if you can’t turn to someone you trust. By giving us your postcode (or one nearby to where you are right now) we can let you know about services in your area. Remember: this moment will pass; you won’t always feel the way you do right now. 

If in doubt always call 999.

You can also sign up to Alumina, our online support for mental health and wellbeing here: 

https://www.selfharm.co.uk/alu...

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The Voice in My Head

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 voice.

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?

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Self-harm and Eating Disorders

Is there a link between self-harm and eating disorders?

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.

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How to Overcome False Hope Syndrome

The blog below was written by Aurora.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

via GIPHY

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Hikikomori

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.

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How I Look After Myself

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!" 

- EMMA

💭"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."

- JACK

💭"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."

- ABDUL

💭"Shower, tidy my room, and make myself a good dinner."

- FIONA

💭"I stretch! I like to do a few minutes of simple yoga stretching which makes me feel much better physically."

- TESSA

💭"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!"

- MEL

💭"I walk my dog. I have made friends." 🐶

- ROBBIE

💭"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."

- KATHERINE

💭"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!"

- NEIL

~~~~ 🎊 How do you like to look after yourself? 🎊~~~~

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Recovery - The Long Road and What I Wish Someone Would Have Told Me.

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. 

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Starting fresh

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. 

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Hills and Valleys

A New Year reflection by Elizabeth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

via GIPHY

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Loneliness

Lucie talks to us about loneliness.

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Trick or Treat

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

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To make your own Bandaged Mummy, you will need:

- Scissors
- Glue
- 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 🎃

via GIPHY

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Relaxation Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

👆And some were a lot more abstract and emotive.

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

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World Mental Health Day 2018

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...

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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...

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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 (ChildlineThe 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. 

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Hearing Voices

Jo talks to us about hearing voices.

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A Conversation with My Mental illness

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.'

I respond:
'No one in this world is pointless.'

It scowls at me:
'You are a terrible person.'

I admit:
'I am a good person who did terrible things.'

It rages at me:
'No one needs you.'

I countered:
'There are people who have adored me.'

It seethes at me:
'And what of those who hated you?'

I sigh:
'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.

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Let's talk about loneliness

Winter is no less lonely than any other time of year…

But why does it make us feel lonelier?

Perhaps it’s the dark evenings, perhaps it’s when the Christmas adverts start, perhaps it’s when everyone else seems to start getting party invites… 

The fact is that more young people than ever feel lonely. A recent survey by the BBC suggests that 40% of 16-24 year olds would say they feel lonely. 

Most of us check our social media pretty often, and it looks like everyone else is having an amazing time doesn’t it? Pictures of them with friends at a party, on holiday with their family, chilling with friends that we don’t know, checking into the cinema with their partner…it looks like they aren’t lonely at all doesn’t it?

The reality is far from it – some people have many acquaintances to make it look like they aren’t lonely. They fill their lives with people who aren’t really friends and people they possibly don’t even trust much because they want to block out that feeling of loneliness.

Some people struggle to make friends and their online friends are the ones they talk to most because they can ‘pretend’ to be something they aren’t… but then end up feeling lonelier.

The common factor in the increase of loneliness in young people, is the rise in social media use because it doesn’t often create deep, meaningful friendships that are based on trust and shared lives. Ironically social media makes us feel lonelier, not less lonely.

So, let's look at some of the ways you could combat feeling lonely: 

1️⃣ Seriously reduce your social media time.

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2️⃣ Do something that creates connections with people face to face.

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3️⃣ Find a hobby group – fitness, craft, music?

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4️⃣ Eat with your family at mealtimes.

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5️⃣ Say ‘yes’ to trying something new.

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6️⃣ Connect with cousins, siblings, grandparents and wider family more.

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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

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