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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.

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Dedicated to self-harm recovery, insight and support.

Movember

Rob talks to us about Movember.

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Anger

Matt talks to us about Anger.

SelfharmUK vlog: Anger
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4 things you need to know when you've been diagnosed with a mental health problem

The article below was written by Mike Jones, a fighter against mental illness stigma. By creating www.schizlife.com, he hopes to shed some light on the symptoms of schizophrenia, how to help someone dealing with it, as well as the stereotypes surrounding this disorder.

A diagnosis of a mental health problem can feel like a ton of bricks has just come pounding down around you. Things might feel overwhelming, almost as if the world is spinning out of control. You might be wondering if things will ever get better. Don't worry, all of this is completely normal. The most important thing to remember is that you really are in control of your life.

1.    You are not the only one and your mental health problem does not define you

When you look around, it might seem as if you're the only person dealing with something this difficult. You couldn't be more mistaken. One out of every ten children faces a similar battle. Demi Lovato, Angelina Jolie, Russel Brand, and Kristin Bell have all struggled with mental health issues. It's simply more common than you think. Just because you don't hear your friends talking about it doesn't mean they aren't grappling with their own mental health difficulties.

You're a complex person with unique talents, likes, dislikes, and tastes. Maybe you're creative, a great friend, or an amazing artist. Do you despise tomatoes, love pasta, and adore dogs? Whoever you are, you already were, before learning of your mental health diagnosis. Your gifts and talents are still there. And whatever you love to hate, is too! Your mental illness is just as much a part of you as your gifts, talents, and pet peeves. All of these things together create the amazing person you are, but no single one defines you. Your mental illness is not who you are.

2.    Knowing your diagnosis gives you power

A mental health diagnosis names the thoughts and behaviors that have been getting in the way of your goals and dreams. Now you have the opportunity to take control of your life. Knowledge is power. With your diagnosis, you have access to important information and resources that will allow you to determine how to face the obstacles created by your mental health.

You're in the driver's seat now. You get to choose how to address this challenge. On the Be Vocal website, Demi Lovato describes her feelings and the actions she took after finding out about her mental illness. "Getting a diagnosis was kind of a relief. It helped me start to make sense of the harmful things I was doing to cope with what I was experiencing. Now I had no choice but to move forward and learn how to live with it, so I worked with my health care professional and tried different treatment plans until I found what works for me." That worked out pretty well for her!

3.    What other people think is not your problem

Having a strong social support network is extremely important when it comes to managing your mental health problem. Don't allow the stigma associated with mental health to convince you to accept a sense of shame and stop reaching out to people. Take responsibility for your own sense of safety. You decide who to talk to, how much to disclose, and under what circumstances.

A random individual's inability to behave rationally says nothing about you and a great deal about them. Understand that your judgement in these matters will never be perfect. That's part of the learning process. Over time it will become easier and you'll get better at learning who to trust, how much to disclose, and under what circumstances you feel comfortable discussing things that make you vulnerable. But never stop building your tribe.

4.    You still get to decide who you want to be

Part of growing up, even for teens without mental health struggles, is figuring out how to exist as a unique individual in this world. What kind of person do you want to be? What footprint do you want to leave? Do you want to be someone who lives in fear? Or do you want to rise to the challenge of honoring the entirety of who you are? Do you have the courage to refuse to allow others to treat you in ways lacking in courtesy and respect? Do you know how to set limits while still remaining faithful to your own values?

Dealing with a diagnosis of mental illness forces you to consciously address these questions now instead of later. This gives you an opportunity to walk consciously and with grace into adulthood. Your diagnosis has given you the chance to begin asking and answering the questions that give a life meaning. Find your answers and then systematically implement them in the way you structure your days.

You always have choices. Always. Mental illness does not take away your power. Don't let anyone tell you that it does. You are strong enough to manage this. Ask questions, reach out, make decisions, and shape your own life. How are you going to face this? What's your plan of action? What steps are you going to take to soften the sharp and painful edges of the symptoms of your mental illness so that you stay on top of its ups and downs? No one is saying that this will be easy. But it absolutely can be done.

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Sexuality and Self-harm

Lahna talks to us about Sexuality and Self-harm

SelfharmUK vlogs: Sexuality and Self-harm

 Some useful links:

SelfharmUK (that's us!): selfharm.co.uk

Mermaids (Trans* charity): mermaids.org.uk

Albert Kennedy Trust (LGBTQ+ charity): akt.org.uk

Stonewall (LGBTQ+ charity): stonewall.org.uk

Mind (Mental Health Charity): mind.org.uk

Childline (Child Support Charity): childline.org.uk or 0800 1111 or app "For You"

Young Minds (Mental Health Charity): youngminds.org.uk or Parents Helpline 0808-802-5544

For LGBTQ+ groups near you
 

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World Suicide Prevention Day 2017

Words matter, don’t they?

They have the power to inspire hope or induce despair in seconds.

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day, and at ThinkTwice we believe that the words we use to describe the despair of thoughts of suicide are important.

It’s thought that up to a quarter of young people have suicidal thoughts - and yet so many suffer in silence  - afraid of the stigma that can be attached to suicide.

When we use phrases like “commit suicide” or “failed suicide attempt” we make it seem unspeakable.

And yet suicide isn’t a crime to be committed; it’s a preventable tragedy; and the way we prevent it is by talking about it.

When we talk about suicide, we want to be talking about hope, because where there is life there is hope.

Having thoughts of suicide doesn’t make you a bad person, it doesn’t mean you’re crazy, it just means you’re struggling.

And that’s okay.

It’s okay to speak out when you’re struggling - because when you speak out you allow yourself to be helped - and you help to lessen the stigma.

It doesn’t matter whether you talk to a teacher or a parent - what matters is that you talk about it.

If you’re the one hearing your friend speak about suicide, it can feel scary, but you aren’t alone.

Whether you're struggling yourself or it’s your friend - there are people you can talk to.

So this World Suicide Prevention Day we are encouraging everyone to speak of suicide and to speak of hope.

To find out more about our campaign head to ThinkTwice or follow the hashtag on Twitter #SpeakofSuicide #WSPD17 

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Alumina Summer Programme - Depression

Ruth talks to us about depression. 
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The pressure got to me

Rebekah Wilson is an Olympic athlete: a physically strong, able bodied woman who is amongst the elite to be able to compete for her country. However, in this interview with BBC news, Rebekah tells what life behind closed doors was like for her; the pressure to achieve; the feel of failure. She talks about recognising she needed help to overcome self-harm as being one of her biggest life challenges.

You can watch Rebekah's interview here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/winter-sports/40738768


If, once you have watched Rebekah’s interview, you would like to get in touch to chat, to find support or to ask a question; please email info@selfharm.co.uk
 

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Alumina Summer Programme - Introduction

Jo Introduces us to the programme and what to expect over the summer.

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Alumina Summer Programme - Medication

Jo talks to us about managing medication.

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I cut myself to live

“ I cut myself to live, not die”: A response to Chester Bennington’s death.

This is a quote from a young person we worked with at SelfharmUK. It is the voice of hundreds of teenagers who are using self-harm to live; self-harm is a coping strategy, for a time, until those thoughts, feelings and pressures become resolved.

For most, it passes – for some quicker than others, for some not until later in life, very occasionally it’s a life-long coping strategy.

Today, Chester Bennington from Linkin Park took his life. A life filled with abuse from a young age which led to drug and alcohol issues, which in turn led to long bouts of depression – the most recent it seems, linked to his friend’s suicide attempt. It makes us all sad – whether we were fans or not – because a gifted, talented and troubled man found life so hard to continue. Because he wasn’t able to share his pain. Because he felt there was no other way. Because he was under such pressure.  Because…...we will never know why.

At some many points Chester had choices which he may not have felt he had: who to talk to; where to ask for help; how to get the dark thoughts out in other ways – like his music; to take a break from the public pressure; to stay home and hug his wife and kids; to confront his past…...These were all choices that he possibly didn’t know he had, and now never will.

They are choices that will affect his children, wife, family, friends, neighbours and fans for varying lengths of time: but each will feel pain.

Inner pain is something we all struggle to talk about: the fear of being judged; the fear of everyone’s reaction (over reaction); the consequences of what telling some- one about your dark thoughts might mean; how to find the words and who to tell.

At SelfharmUK – we like to listen; we never ever judge; we are safe people to explore these thoughts and feelings with; we are unshockable (I promise you that!); you can practice what you want to tell your family by telling us first; we will keep in touch with you for as long as your recovery takes; we can discuss your choices with you – especially when it feels like you don’t have any.

Self-harm is about living, not dying.

Very occaisonally we feel the shift from wanting to cope, to wanting to stop coping.

That’s when we have choices: who to talk to, how to communicate, who won’t judge us, who is ‘safe’.

You can ring or text the Samaritans on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org , Childline can be contacted on 0800 1111, or online counselling support at www.the mix.org.uk

Or sign up to our online support at info@selfharm.co.uk

You are not alone.

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10 tips for managing your mental health

As Mental Health Awareness Week draws to a close, Jo Fitzsimmons shares her thoughts on how you could think about managing your mental health going forward in our latest blog.

Here are 10 things you might not have known about managing your mental health:

  • Extroverts can have poor mental health – ask them! They like to talk!
  • People who are appearing to hold it all together; might not be, and in fact, probably aren’t.
  • Most people only have 1 real friend (yep – my counsellor told me that, honest!) Find your 1 and learn to be open with them.
  • Get rid of people in your life who don’t return your calls/texts/FB messages – don’t put energy into unreturned ‘friendships’, some people are fun to be around, some people aren’t. reduce your friends!
  • Caregivers are often overlooked – the people who put others first are often taken for granted, so when they struggle they don’t have people to ask for help.
  •  Conserve your energy – some days give yourself permission to rest, tomorrow might require more energy than you currently have.
  • Consider medication for your mental health: if you had a physical illness you would take something for it; perhaps you need to consider it as a real option and talk to your GP.
  • Consider coming off your meds if you have been on them for many years – talk to your GP about the implications and risks of it; perhaps taking up exercise or having a project may help your mental health (watch Mind over Marathon on the BBC iplayer if you need inspiration).
  • Get a dog. It’s the best thing I ever did, it gets me away from my kids, house and work long enough for a walk around my council estate to calm down.
  • Get rid of your phone, or swop to a cruddy basic one that doesn’t make you wonder what everyone on ‘bragbook’ (facebook) is doing or bring worrying news headline alerts to your hands.
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Mental Health Awareness Week 2017

Physically we are all well, or unwell; it’s easy to spot an unwell person in a queue next to a well person – there are physical signs like runny noses, pale skin, perhaps reduced mobility, sleepless eyes.

What does a person who is unwell emotionally look like?

Nope? No guesses…? That’s because a person can look ‘well’ on the outside but be very unwell in their self esteem, their confidence, their ability to think clearly, to sleep well, have high anxiety which leads to panic attacks, or deep depression. The fact is this: with 7 in 10 young people having poor mental health now, you don’t know if someone is well or not in their thought life.

The recent report on behalf of the government states that young people have the highest levels of poor mental health. Young people aged 18-25 report not being able to think clearly, have positive relationships, feeling like they aren’t able to contribute to society and feel devalued. Wow, what a frightening picture this shows.

Contrast this with people over 55 who have the best mental health and what can we learn:

- Older people feel confident to make new friends and join groups; young people feel nervous about joining a new group for fear of being judged;

- Older people take up new hobbies and activities; young people often can’t afford new hobbies or expensive activities;

- Older people have built up trust worthy groups of friends; young people struggle to know who their ‘real friends’ are rather than those who just ‘like’ or ‘retweet’ their thoughts.

Let’s face it; age does bring experience and knowledge – but can we wait 40 years for teenagers to grow up into confident older people?

So – if you are a young person struggling with your emotional and mental health here are some ideas for you to try in Mental Health Awareness week:

  • Accept it. Today is the day you face it; you may have been feeling low for quite sometime but just keep thinking ‘tomorrow will be better’, well maybe it will – but how about recognising that the last few days, weeks or months haven’t been great and your mental health isn’t in a good way?
  • Talk. To trusted friends. To someone who will listen. To childline. To Samaritans. To Self-Harm UK if you have been feeling so low you have hurt yourself in some way. Talking doesn’t magic your feelings away, however, it is proven to reduce anxiety, feelings of isolation and increase confidence in your own decision making.
  • Do something! When I was a kid there was a TV show with the line’ get out of bed and do something else instead’ – not easy if you are finding life overwhelming and filled with worry. What about asking a friend to try something with you? How about finding a ‘how to knit’ clip on youtube? What about taking a run? Like reading – join a library? Exercise is a proven way of helping you sleep and making you feel better by the chemicals it releases in your brain. If outdoors stuff isn’t your thing – tire your brain out by reading, knitting, drawing, doing sudoko, writing….find your ‘thing’ that relaxes you.
  • Get ‘real’ friends. Consider gently avoid those you don’t think have your best interest at heart. It doesn’t need to be communicated but, gradually, just loose touch with people in your life who aren’t good for you. Find friends in real life; not just online. Joining a group can be hugely daunting, but at some point, everyone in that group was new once: give it a go!
  • Look after yourself. If we are down, the first to go is often eating well. Followed by sleeping well, combined with not getting dressed or washing your hair. A few days of it is fine, but, maybe not a few weeks. The less care we take of ourselves, the more we are showing the world we feel we don’t matter and they shouldn’t think we do either. Not true. Honestly. It might be how you feel, but it isn’t a true fact.
  • Get out of bed earlier. Start by getting out of bed half an hour earlier each day; add in a shower; a walk around the block; making yourself some lunch; take another walk (see if anyone needs their dog walking or an elderly person needs some shopping)
  • Write a ‘thankful list’. Write happy days, memories, lists of people you are thankful for, the bed you have, the clean water you have, your pets – whatever makes you happy. Pin it up and read it every day.

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/surviving-or-thriving-state-uks-mental-health

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Why that person?

Loosing someone you love is one of the hardest things in the world to come to terms with. In the blog below, Ben, a trainee Youth Worker currently living in Oundle, talks about his experiences of loss.

Over the last two to three years I have been unfortunate enough to go through the pain of grief and loos. Some of natural causes, some of unforeseen situations. The first of which was a guy I used to serve when I worked in my local shop. He was elderly and addicted to alcohol, so wasn’t living the healthiest of lifestyles. I came into work, expecting to see him, to buy his bottle and newspaper, but that day he never came. I found out later that he had died of a heart attack. I remember the shock, the last I saw him he was fine, I couldn’t get my head around not seeing him anymore, the grief came and passed quickly and I moved on with my life.

The next two were far more difficult to deal with. The first was a family friend. A family man who was the father of three young children and the husband to a wonderful woman. I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news I was having a family dinner with my girlfriend to celebrate the end of the school year, then the phone rang. He’d died, gone, never to be seen again. The loss was sudden and no-one could believe it and although everything was done to keep him alive, it wasn’t to be. I remember to this day being told and my heart sinking. The thoughts running through my head; “what do I say to the family? How do I support the family?” and then it hit me, the grief of thinking these things through, imagining life and what it must be like, but also knowing the family myself. I sometimes feel like I didn’t have the right to grieve, after all, he wasn’t my direct family. Then I realised, I still knew him, I had been around the family for a long time and it was obviously going to be tough on me too, but it was more the thought of everything that had been left behind. This caused me to ask a lot of questions and to get very angry at God; ‘why did he do this? Why of all people did you take him?’ I still don’t know the answer to this, but what I do know is that it has brought a close family even closer.

Just after I moved to Peterborough, I was scrolling through Facebook when I saw something that shook me to my core. A friend from my home in Essex, aged just 20, had passed away in his sleep. What on earth was going? I couldn’t believe that someone who was so healthy, so full of life and so joyful was taken in one night! It was only a few months before this I saw him daily and spoke with him. I couldn’t get my head around it. I remember thinking, this could have been me! A selfish thought maybe, but the truth. it made me realise that our lives are not everlasting and we never know what will come next, what’s around the corner. I remember coming home for the funeral though, there were so many people there, the church was full and not everyone was able to fit inside. My first thought after this was not of grief, pain, anger or hurt, although I did miss him, it was of thankfulness, thankfulness of a life lived and people re-connecting because of this sudden and sad loss.

I didn’t know why any of these things happened, or why those people were taken, I want to be able to say stay strong when these things happen but I believe that the right thing to do is to grieve. We are made to feel emotions for a reason, so don’t be afraid to get angry, don’t be afraid to scream and cry but remember, you will get through this and no matter what happens in life, live every second of it, because you never know what’s next. 

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Self-harm Challenges

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.  

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Letter to January 2016 Me

Whilst Sophie was part of the Graduate Volunteer scheme at Youthscape, she worked closely with the SelfharmUK team. The blog post below is something Sophie found extremely helpful to write as it's helped her to reflect on her year and to think positively about the year ahead. Sophie continues to write blogs for us even though her time as a volunteer has come to an end. She hopes you find this blog helpful.

Christmas is almost here, and with that, the end of 2016. I’m sure there are many mixed feelings out there about this, and I am one of those people with mixed feelings! When I reflect on my year, I feel as though so much has happened, both good and bad, but I don’t have an immediate “2016, wow what a great/bad year” reaction. Recently, a friend told me about a letter she had written to her younger self, and I thought it would be the perfect way to help me reflect on my year and encourage myself for the year ahead. Maybe it’s something you could try?

So here goes:

Hi Soph,

Future you here (it’s currently December 2016). 2016 is going to be an interesting one, it’s going to have highs and lows, but don’t worry, it looks like it will end on a high.

I know you’ve just come off your medication, and I’m not going to lie, it’s going to be a tough few months, but I promise you; your body WILL adjust, so bear with it. Yes, at some points during the year you’ll slip back into self-harm, anxiety will get the better of you every now and then, some ‘sucky’ things happen, and at times life is going to feel pretty overwhelming. BUT, good news! As horrid as it may be, those times don’t last.

You grow so much this year, Soph. You FINALLY start making decisions that are looking out for your own wellbeing rather than based on making other people happy, how great is that?? I won’t tell you what these decisions are, but just go with your gut and know it’s okay to look after yourself. Oh and remember, admitting you need a bit of help again doesn’t mean you’re back to square one.

You know this already, but you have some really amazing people in your life who are totally going to be there for you – try to not feel guilty or ashamed to reach out to them if you need it – they HONESTLY don’t mind and only want the best for you. And be honest, Soph, I know being vulnerable can be scary, but opening up to these people is so safe.

You’ll start worrying about what to do job-wise after July, and then you’ll freak out about not having a job. Again, things work out; don’t put a load of unnecessary pressure on yourself. You don’t need to try and live up to the expectations of other people, this is YOUR life, and you need to do what’s best for you.

Spoiler Alert! You voluntarily say you’ll get up on stage and talk to 100+ people, AND you actually go through with it… AND it goes pretty well! Who would have thought it!?

2016 will be okay, but here’s a little peak at what I’ll try to remember and take into 2017 with me:

  • You are SO loved
  • You are SO blessed. Even when life is tough, keep what you’re thankful for close to your heart.
  • It’s okay to ask for help
  • Fight the fear
  • Being vulnerable is not weak, it shows strength and courage
  • Keep writing down what goes on in your head; it’s a great way to get it out!
  • Keep your chin up girl, you can do this!

Love, almost-2017-Soph

If you were to write a letter to yourself this year, what would you say? How would you encourage yourself for 2017?

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