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Emergency Help

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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Dedicated to self-harm recovery, insight and support.

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 🎃

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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 toast (!) 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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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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All about self-esteem

I'll admit, when I was asked to write this blog, I wasn't sure how to start. Dictionary definitions have been done to death, and the definition of "self-esteem" doesn't really do a lot to explain what it's like to have good self-esteem:

"Belief and confidence in your own ability and value."

This is the first definition I found. I'm sure you knew that already. People talk a lot about having good self esteem, and believing in your own worth, and why good self-esteem is important. They're right -- it is important to have good self-esteem. You have to live in your own head, after all. It's important to get along with yourself. Having confidence in yourself, knowing that you're worth something, is important because it allows you to accept yourself, and buid on the skills you have, and learn to like yourself.

But where do you start? How do you build good self-esteem?

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There are a lot of ways to do it. Why don't you make a list of all the things you like about yourself? Not just physical traits, but skills you have, or interests you love? That is the most basic and simple way to make yourself realise that there are things about you that are inherently valuable, things you're good at, things you're interested in.

But I'll tell you something that most people don't say, when they talk about self-esteem: Everyone has moments where it's hard. Where you feel unconfident, or out of your depth. That's why having good self-esteem is so important. Because, when you feel unconfident or out of your depth, you know that those feelings won't last forever, and you can pick yourself back up. Having good self-esteem doesn't mean that you're confident all the time, just that you have the tools and knowledge to remind yourself that you're valuable and important.

Another thing which helps improve your self-esteem is self care. Self-care isn't just buying some super fancy soap from Lush and baking a chocolate cake from scratch. Self-care can be something as simple as having a long shower, or eating your favourite food, or listening to your favourite song on repeat. Doing things that make you happy improve your self-esteem, because they improve your overall emotional well-being. Try to treat yourself once a week, if you can.

Building self-esteem, and maintaining it, is an ongoing process. It takes a long time, and it's not always easy. But it's so important to accept yourself. I hope these tips have helped, a little!

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Having hope

The Hope group is a small group of young girls that meet every week to help each other encourage positive mental health and emotional wellbeing within their every day lives.

The group has been running for a few months now and we wanted to share with you some of what we've been up to. So far, we've...

Talked about our aims for the group 👍 ------>

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Shared what helps us when we're having tough days 👎 ------>

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Discussed the things we're looking forward to 👀 ------>

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And the things we're always thankful for 💝 ------>

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We've even created and designed our own positive quotes 💙 ------>

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And did some decoupage too 🦄 ------>

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If we could give you any message, that message would be to believe and to have hope that whatever you're going through, you're going to get through it and become a stronger person because of it 💪 ------>

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Love, the Hope group x

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How to prepare for a CAMHS appointment

  • Write down all the questions you have or would like to ask: do they tell your parents stuff? Do they contact school? What will happen if you tell them you self-harm? 
  • Write down as much as you can about what has been happening to you recently
  • Write down anything you feel is important about things that happened to you when you were little – they might impact your wellbeing now.
  • Write a list of people that are important to you – it will help CAMHS know about your key relationships
  • Think about how you prefer to communicate and let CAMHS know: talking might be hard, writing might be good? Or drawing?
  • Download the assessment they will probably give you (if it’s not this one it will be one like it): 

Sdq English Uk S11 17Single

Download
  • Spend a few days thinking through how you might answer as we all change depending on situations; so give a good overview of what you are feeling the majority of the time.
  •  Take anything to the session you would like – a teddy, something to fiddle with, your favourite book to read while you are waiting. It’s about you, so you need to feel comfortable. 

It is important to realise, whoever you see wants to help you. Their job is to find out as much as they can about you so they can put support in place for you.  

If you had a broken leg you would go to the Doctor; if you aren’t doing so well mentally, it's ok for you to need a doctor too. No one is judging you.

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Vitamin D

The blog post below was written by Sophie, a Graduate Volunteer at Youthscape working alongside the SelfharmUK team. 

Have you ever noticed that you’re a little happier on sunny days? When you get enough sunshine, your body produces vitamin D3, which has been linked to emotional well-being. Did you know that it’s actually called the “sunshine” vitamin? It does loads for you – keeps your bones strong, helps cells grow, and helps your immune system.

Research into the effects of vitamin D has suggested that people who lack vitamin D are 11 times more prone to depression than the average person.

Because Vitamin D is important for brain functions, and we all have Vitamin D receptors in the same areas of the brain associated with the development of depression, a lack of it has been linked to mental health issues, such as depression, seasonal affective disorder and schizophrenia. The science behind this is conflicting – one theory suggests that vitamin D affects how monoamines, such as serotonin, work in our brains. Anti-depression medication works by increasing the number of monoamines in the brain.

There are even government guidelines on how much vitamin D you should be getting every day. Adults and children (a year old and above) should have an intake of 10 micrograms of vitamin D every day, and babies under a year old should have 8.5-10 micrograms every day, especially during the winter months, when the weather’s not as sunny. To achieve the daily recommended amount of vitamin D, you might have to take a supplement. Anyone at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency is encouraged to take a supplement all year round.

There are a lot of factors which go into how much vitamin D your body can produce, such as lifestyle, weather, and access to sunlight. According to Holland and Barrett, 90% of our vitamin D levels are made when our bodies get enough sunlight. You don’t even need to spend hours in the sun – just 10 minutes in bright sunshine should be enough to boost your vitamin D levels! And sitting inside by a window, or in a car, even in sunshine, doesn’t count because the glass blocks the UV rays.

So, the next time it’s a lovely day outside, why not go out and spend some time in the sun? It’s better for your body than you think!

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Stress

Jess talks to us about stress.

#MentalHealthAwarenessWeek

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Talking To The Doctor

Here at SelfharmUK we want to help people understand their harming behaviour and explore other ways to cope with life's challenges.

If you get in touch we'll listen to your story and suggest ways to help you move forward ... but somewhere along the line we'll almost always suggest you visit your GP.  This can be a really tough thing to do, we know it can be scary, and can mean having to tell your parents too (though not always) but we believe it can be a significant step towards feeling better.

We asked GP David Roberts what you can expect when talking to your doctor about self-harm and whilst this article is only a guide - and not a definitive set of facts - we hope it will help you feel more in control, if and when, you walk into that consulting room...

Why do I have to go to the Doctor?

Self-harming is usually an indication that all is not right. People sometimes do it because it relieves internal tension and stress. It is not a very good way of doing this and like drugs, alcohol and smoking ultimately doesn't do any good. But in the short term it gives a temporary relief from emotional pain. However, it can be a symptom of a more serious mental illness and so your doctor can make sure you get the help you need.

Can I go on my own or do I have to take a parent?

You can legally go to the GP alone aged 16, but doctors can accept that you may be able to make your own decisions about your health (eg contraception) from 14 if they think you understand things and are mature enough to do so. A doctor would want you to involve your parent(s) in your care until you are 16 and are likely to encourage you. They would not give you an injection or carry out an operation, or even do an intimate (embarrassing) examination (physical check) without your parent's permission before you are 16.

How can I get ready for my appointment?

Even if you are under 16 That does not mean that you cannot talk to them about your problems or issues. It is a good idea to think about what you want to say and write the main points down. Lots of people get embarrassed at what they want to say and so don't get to the point. Doctors are busy and don't get embarrassed by what you think or say, so it is better to take a deep breath and say it right at the beginning rather than put it off. They won't mind and it will give them more time to talk to you than if you spend the first five minutes talking about a rash that no one can see because it really isn't there!  Think about what you want to get out of the appointment - do you just want to tell someone and get it off your chest, do you want help stopping it, do you want them to refer you on to someone who could give you specialist help? If you tell them what you want then they can work out how best to support you.

What will happen if I say I self harm?

Self harming is quite common and they will have seen other people who do it. So they won't be shocked, but they will be concerned. The biggest concern they would have is that you might want to kill yourself. Not many people who self harm want to do this but doctors have a professional duty to assess the risk of that happening. they are obliged to keep what you say confidential and private between you and them, unless you tell them something that they think might indicate that your health is seriously at risk (or you might be planning to do something that might endanger someone else) - see later - in which case they may be obliged to break your confidence. They should tell you this. They will want to help you, and so if you have plucked up courage to tell them, they will try to find ways to do that.

What will they ask me?

This might include asking some deep questions which you might find embarrassing: don't be though, they're only trying to work out what's making you do this. They'll ask about cutting, taking drugs, overdoses, and other ways you might be tempted to hurt yourself. They may ask you about how you feel (low, depressed, crying, worried, frightened, angry) and how things are at home or school or work.  If they feel you trust them they might ask you to come back again to see them, and they might suggest that they refer you on to see a specialist from the CAMH service (people who work most of their time with young people with similar problems). They might encourage you to speak to a counsellor at school, particularly if there is someone there you feel you can talk to. They will want to know why you have come to see them at that time and to find out what help you want them to give you. You may not be able to say this, but if you've thought about it beforehand it will help.

Do they have to tell my parents?

They are obliged in law to protect you and others from actions you might take that might harm you or others. But they need to check how likely your might be to do something you say you want to do so they will question you quite hard. If you are under 16 and they think you are suicidal (or planning a murder!) they will have to tell your parents or other authorities. They will still encourage you to involve your parents as they have legal responsibility for you, but if the risk is low in their view, they will try their best to keep what you say confidential.

Will I have to show them where I have self-harmed?

They can't and won't force you (unless they are seriously worried about you being in danger and even then they will ask for advice from someone who specialises in child protection). They will want to assess how bad your injuries are - you might need antibiotics if your cuts are infected, and you might need dressings to protect the wounds.

Remember they aren't easily shocked or embarrassed and really want to help you - showing them the extent of your cutting will help them work out how serious the problem is and how to get you the best help.

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Faith and Mental Health

You might not know that SelfharmUK is actually part of a wider Christian organisation called Youthscape. We don’t know what you know about Christians, other than Ned Flanders:

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...but we try to be non- judgmental, kind, funny and we struggle too with our own mental health at times.

You see- being a Christian, a Muslim, a Sikh or an atheist doesn’t stop us feeling low at times. Sadly, having a faith or no faith, doesn't stop bad things from happening to us or to those we love. However, often, having a faith – whichever faith you choose or choosing none – may enable you to find some peace.

In this clip from an episode of BBC Songs of Praise focusing on World Mental Health Day, the Rev. Richard Coles talks very openly about the struggles he faced as a teenager. 

Last year a young person who had suffered greatly with their mental health, wrote a moving article about how they had found faith and friends in Buddhism. For many people of faith, following their faith also means linking with a community of kind, loving people who are also journeying through the highs and lows of life.

Whether you follow faith or not; know this – you aren’t alone. Whether that’s knowing your God walks with you, or by talking to those around you who care for you, including with us here at SelfharmUK.

If you'd like to read more blogs about faith and mental health, check out Oliver’s blog about how they found healing in faith.

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Anxiety and animals

This blog post was written by Jo Fitzsimmons, a member of the SelfharmUK Team. In case you were wondering, the dogs below are called Floyd and Zeus!

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We all love some cat and dog youtube clips, don’t we??!

Some of us love our pets, some of us aren’t too keen on animals, but either way the evidence is strong….Animals calm us down. 

People who stroke their cats and dogs are reported to have much lower stress levels and longer life expectancy than those who don’t. Why?

  • To stroke our pets we have to be sitting down and calm – they won’t come near us if we are too hyper or too stressed
  • Our breathing slows to reflect theirs
  • We shift our focus to the now – we are ‘in the moment ‘ with them
  • Repetition of feeling something soft and soothing with your hands maybe comforting
  • Passive interaction –there are no demands or expectations from your dog or cat: they are always so pleased and thankful for the time and love you give them
  • Getting out in the fresh air to walk your dog may help your mental health hugely – and you may even make some new dog walking friends
  • We can take our lead from our pets: they are often very emotionally in tune with us. If we are feeling low, they know and give us extra cuddles!

If you aren’t able to keep a pet of your own – perhaps volunteer in an animal shelter or look at something like ‘borrowmydoggy’ ?

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Anxiety at Christmas

David talks to us about anxiety over Christmas.

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