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.
Self-harm is a way of harming our bodies in a variety of ways; most of them around us feeling out of control in some way.
This week is Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Eating disorders come under that category as the effects are on your body, as well as emotions and having psychological effects. For most people, they begin gradually, over a period of time: maybe skipping a meal? Taking up exercising a few times a day? Things that can appear to actually be ok and not cause anyone to notice as they slowly develop…however, what started as a way of taking control and coping, can soon become an addiction.
Addictions start small scale: one day at a time incidents “I’ll do this today because I feel like this today….”, however, it doesn’t take long for the addiction to take control of our feelings and become the master of us. Habits are formed within 30 days, so our brain rewires itself to follow our actions – both positive and negative.
Eating disorders encompass a huge variety of issues around disordered eating from bulimia (eating and then vomiting), to anorexia (self-starving) and binge eating (eating loads and loads); yet they all have some similarities:
‘That time of the month’?
Very few women get used to periods without difficulty: it is a huge thing that happens to our bodies every month which we don’t have control over and it takes a lot of getting used to…
The hormone changes, the pain, the mood swings, the mid cycle pains and the plain inconvenience of periods can affect our wellbeing in a negative way – and the fact it is every month means sometimes we only just feel ‘back to normal’ when we go through it all again.
Therefore, sadly, it’s not surprising that this feeling of lack of control can lead to the increase of self-harming around the time of our periods: we all experience our bodies differently, our pain thresholds are different, our hormone levels fluctuate differently and our ability to manage such changes differs to – basically, just because your friend seems to cope with hers, doesn’t mean you should find your periods a doddle to cope with.
Many young women tell us their self-harm increases around the periods – often a few days beforehand when the Pre-Menstrual Tension kicks in as our bodies shift in preparation for our periods. For some this means huge mood swings, feeling very low, many tears; for others, it is an increase in feeling angry and tense at everything and anything: these changes in mood, make you may feel out of control.
Then comes a week of having your period; the pain, feeling sick, possibly feeling unhappy with your body and annoyed at the issues it brings – P.E at school, staying over at a friend’s or just having to cope with life. The impact of periods is often over looked but the link between your period and your self-harm is worth exploring.
Some thoughts and ideas:
Sadly, there isn’t much research done about why self-harm increases just before your period but please, be assured, you aren’t alone in this.
The blog post below was written by Sophie, a Graduate Volunteer at Youthscape working alongside the SelfharmUK team. She hopes you find her thoughts around reflections helpful.
I’ve always found reflection difficult. Looking back over the past year is a big ask, because so much has changed. This has been the most transitional year in my life since I moved from my home town of Tunbridge Wells to Luton, over three years ago. I graduated university, moved out of halls and into a host family’s home, and started my first full time job. And with that huge shift in lifestyle, social circle, what’s expected of me, and pressures, there’s a measure of responsibility on me to say something profound about 2017.
This year has been a strange one. Losing the comfort of university was incredibly hard. I was very happy there, living with my friends, feeling as comfortable with my lecturers as I do with my own parents, staying up until the early hours of the morning with my friends, hanging in the kitchen, talking about our favourite TV show until the sun rose. As a writer, it’s not often I’m lost for words, but finding a way to describe how difficult it was to leave university is impossible.
So, that’s one of the most important things this year has taught me – quite literally, how to move on. I had no choice but to learn, because it was the year of my graduation. Bar locking myself in my student halls over the summer and still attending lectures in the new academic year, there was nothing I could do to keep things the way they were.
I graduated with a first in Creative Writing, and was blessed enough to move straight from university to a full-time voluntary position at Youthscape. To say that it’s been easy would be an outright lie. I was having a discussion with my old lecturer the other day, explaining how it’s been at work, and she said it sounded like it’s been a culture shock for me. And she’s absolutely right.
That’s the second thing I’ve learned in 2017 – how to adjust to the challenges life throws at you, when you start living outside of your bubble. I’ve needed to take on responsibilities in my job that I never thought I would be capable of. I’ve found that I’m actually not bad at leading small groups of young people, and I can cope with a 40 hour a week schedule! Where I’ve had issues with that schedule, I’ve talked to the necessary people, and got things fixed.
Speaking of the necessary people, I have realised, this year, that I’m surrounded by a wonderful support network. People from church, my family, my friends, my lecturers, and my new colleagues, have all helped me in even the smallest ways. I know that, going into 2018, I will continue to utilise the people around me, and take the help they offer without guilt. Everyone needs help now and again, and there’s no shame in that.
I remember seeing 2017 in at my university halls. I was the only one there, because nobody else had moved in yet, and I was standing in our kitchen with a large mug of tea, watching the fireworks, feeling sorry for myself because I was alone. I knew that I was going to start working at Youthscape after graduating, but graduation itself seemed like a lifetime away. And now, here I am, 11 months later, having graduated and moved out of halls, writing this post in the middle of a beautiful open-plan office. It’s funny, how these things happen.
Looking back on 2017, how would you say it’s been for you? Mostly positive, or mostly negative? And, moving into 2018, which lessons from this year do you want to bring?
Some people like this lead up to Christmas, some (like me and my family!), really don’t!
The Christmas decorations look pretty and the shops get busier and the Christmas feeling is in the air – but it doesn’t make me get the warm Christmas glow; in fact it begins to make me stressed right from the moment it starts…
The pressure for the perfect film like Christmas family gathering is unachievable – the perfect family game time; the perfect present wrapping, the perfect friends to go out with, the perfect family to share it will – perfection doesn’t exist, in any place at any time.
The media Christmas portrayal adds to our sense of dread – the pressure to smile, laugh, not row, not feel sad – can make us feel very detached from Christmas: so this year, in the lead up here are some tips:
1. Ignore TV films and adverts! We aren’t going to reach a Hollywood Christmas ideal – so let’s not bother. Watch Elf and comedies – they keep a good perspective on it!
2. Try to imagine Christmas day now – what works for you? Do you need to communicate any of that to your family – who don’t you want to see over Christmas? How long do you have to visit relatives for? Begin to start the conversations now so they don’t come as a shock to your family – take control and be prepared to compromise.
3. Make stuff – loads and loads of stuff! Don’t buy it, make it. Keep your hands and mind busy, the personal stuff doesn’t need to cost much nor does it have to be perfect – enjoy the process and the result.
4. Don’t give yourself sky high expectations of yourself over Christmas. If you need to take regular breaks from family, do it. Look after yourself now so that you have the energy for it as it gets closer; plan out the Christmas holidays so that you get a good balance of rest and play.
The SelfharmUK Team
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
September brings new challenges for many of us – a new term isn’t just back at school or college, it’s all the changes it brings: new classes, new teachers, different people in our classes, a change in timetable, pressured teachers pressuring us to do well, and the hope that this year we will ‘do better’.
What if you don’t need to ‘do better’? what if actually just ‘doing enough’ is good enough this year for you? Pressure to achieve and fear of failure is a big reason why so many of us struggle with our mental health – we are scared that we won’t make the grades, fit in with the right people, that others are better than us, we want to make our family proud and then, sadly, we take it out on ourselves if we think we aren’t ‘doing better’ this year.
So, let’s turn it around this academic year – what if you teach yourself to hear this statement every time you are told about how hard you are going to have to work this academic year: ‘ just do enough, by your own standards’ (this isn’t in any way your ticket to ‘don’t care and just fly by the seat of your pants’!), it’s an instruction to learn something new this year:
Be gentle with yourself. There is only one you.
Good enough might not get you the grades you want but it might just keep you well enough to be able to cope with how you are feeling.
Good enough might just relieve the deep pressure that keeps you awake at night.
Good enough might allow you time to flourish outside of academic pressure and develop new skills on things you are passionate about.
Good enough means that it doesn’t matter how many times you have to ‘start again’, each time is good enough because each day, you are doing good enough.
You are more than ‘good enough’, you really are - whether you believe it not.
As we all start again, have hope that this year, however many times you need to start again in your journey coping with self-harm; it is good enough.
“ 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’.
Or sign up to our online support at email@example.com
You are not alone.
Everyone seems to like the summer – long hot days, sitting in the park and eating ice cream…well, maybe not everyone.
If you have scars, recent or older, from self-harm, you will probably be feeling very self conscious – and also blooming hot! Here at SelfharmUK, we know that the whole issue of covering scars is very complex:
The questions around it are often based on whether anyone knows – what would they do if they noticed it; what would they say? Will people judge me? Will they make fun of me?
Schools and colleges often ask students with scarring to cover up – with the notion that it may entice others to self-harm by cutting, or because it draws attention to scars. If that’s your school’s policy, then I guess you need to stick to it. However, maybe, if you feel able to either write or talk to the school about it, it may challenge them to consider why they have this policy and open up the conversation about how the school deals with it.
You see, the longer we cover up, the more we feel we are in the ‘wrong’ and it’s a bad secret to have: self-harm isn’t a ‘bad secret’, it’s a way of coping for a time until we feel able to manage our emotions in a way we feel ready to.
If you choose to cover your scars, there’s nothing wrong with it.
If you choose not to cover your scars, there’s nothing wrong with it.
It’s personal preference and will depend on how you feel that day, who you are with, where you are going, if you feel able to deal with anyone who might ask …. Some people are happy to explain their scars, others make up a white lie, others ignore the question and move on….however you choose to you respond, ensure you are in control of it – they are your scars, part of your story, for you to choose whether or not to share.
You can visit our Dealing with Scars page to find out more information, advice and links to other organisations who might be able to help.
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.