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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.

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: What's in your bucket?

What’s the World record for the number of people to fit into a Mini? (go on – find out, we know you’ll want to!)

We all try and cram ourselves into small spaces at some point in life, for some reason! Hide and seek? A tent that is way too small? Under our bed? A phone box when it’s raining? 

In the same way that we try to cram ourselves into a place too small; we also try and cram our emotions into a space far too small... 

This time of year for many is stressful. You might be:

1. Changing schools...                                                           

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2. Doing your exams...

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3. Worried about leaving School...

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4. Getting your results...

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5. Or concerned about a long summer break...

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  • What happens to all that stress that is filling us up? What will happen when it overflows?
  • Is there anyway we can let out some of that stress that is crammed into us? 
  • Can we do it in a healthy way?
  • What might it look like to pour out some of the stuff in your bucket?

Some things that will happen we can’t do anything about – such as the long summer break – but what we can do to reduce our stress is to begin to plan. For many of us planning reduces the worries about something as it helps us to take control and make choices about how we want to manage an upcoming event that is troubling us.  

Think about results day: what do you want to do? Would you rather just get up early and click online to get your results in the privacy of your own house, away from your friends?

Think about the long summer break: how about volunteering somewhere? How about starting a card making service? How about babysitting? How about offering a dog walking service?

Take some time to consider what stresses are filling your bucket: What can you do to manage that stress? 

#MentalHealthAwarenessWeek

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Periods

Ruth talks to us about periods.

A useful link: This is about periods

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Foster Care Fortnight

Ruth talks to us about foster care.

To find out more about Foster Care Fortnight, visit:
https://www.thefosteringnetwork.org.u...

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Failing… again… and again…

Don’t you sometimes feel ‘stuck’? like life has moved on for everyone else but you? I do. Often. I make mistakes, I mess up, sometimes worse than others. I hurt people I love, I say unkind things and I think very unkind things often.

I am not perfect.

I am definitely not perfect.

Yet…I have moments that I can think ‘hey, you did the right thing there’….have a think, recall when you have done something kind for someone else?

Being human means we are both the best and worst of ourselves: we excel and we disappoint ourselves. Every day.

We have the capacity to flourish and ‘fail’ at the same time:  in one area of our lives we can be gentle, caring and a lovely human; then, we can flip to the other side in an instant.

You aren’t the only one: we are human, we all do it. Loads of times a day.

Instead of berating your darker side, the bits you don’t like and feel you ‘fail’ at – accept them. Recognise them, without squirming in your seat. Say aloud your failings.

Now say aloud your kind acts, your gentle side, your caring nature; list the people you have helped and listened to, draw the faces of those over your life who you have a positive impact on, write the deeds you have done that has made someone say ‘thank you’, think of their smiles….

You aren’t failing at life. You aren’t a failure. You are human.

Being human doesn’t involve punishing yourself, apologizing for everything and anything, feeling guilty about what you didn’t do…being human allows you to have a better self and a less better self.

It takes a life time to work yourself out, to recognise the good in you – begin that journey today by, admit your ‘shadow’ self and your ‘light’ self  (good/less good)and let yourself off the hook today for something.

Walk gently through life, helping where you can, accepting there will be times you can’t.

That’s ok.

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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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Self-judgment

Jo talks to us about self-judgment.

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Helping your friend to ‘train their mind'

So, this isn’t Derren Brown stuff...

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Honest!

Mind training is gently and kindly challenging your friend when they say negative things about themselves (that sounds way easier, eh!?). 

Negative thoughts are part of our human mind set. Most of us have to fight the inner voice which tells us we are rubbish, ugly, fat, stupid or unkind at some points in our lives… The key to managing this negative inner voice is to train your brain to tell it to ‘get stuffed’!

If your friend says negative things about themselves often, here are some tips to help them ‘train their brain’:

  • Listen to them – don’t say ‘that’s rubbish’
  • Don’t get angry when they say negative things about themselves
  • Do – ask them to say what the opposite is of the negative thought
  • Do – ask them write the positive side of each negative thought they have
  • Do – ask them to put the negative thoughts they have written in the bin
  • Do – ask them to put the positive thoughts up in their room, or list them on their phone so they can see them and read them when they are saying negative things
  • Do – do things together than are achievable and fun. If they hate ice – skating and fall over all the time, don’t go ice skating!
  • Do – be positive in the words you use with your friend, even with ‘banter’! It has a huge effect. 

Now, try it on yourself too – positive people have a better outlook on life! 

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Friends are heroes

My best friend Regan tells me what she does to herself in a quiet voice. We’re sitting in the back of Geography class, and nobody’s listening to us because everyone messes around in Geography. She’s leaning in like we have a secret between us, and she rolls up her sleeve and shows me her forearm. It’s covered in thin red lines, which are too straight to have been done by a cat or a bush or by accident. I’ve never seen anything like it before, and I don’t know what to say.

“It helps,” Regan says.

Because I don’t want her to regret telling me, and because she’s my best friend, I say, “If it helps, then I guess that’s okay.” But I don’t think it’s okay. I’m worried about her, but I don’t know how to tell her that without sounding judgemental. If this is how she copes, then it’s okay, right? Everyone knows that other girls in my year are self-harming.

I keep looking at the cuts on her arm, and she pulls down her sleeve again to cover them up. She’s not wearing bandages, so her scratchy jumper must be rubbing against them. I’ve been cut before, and I know how it itches and stings when it’s healing.

“You won’t tell anyone, will you?” she asks. “It’s not so bad, and I don’t want them to make me see the counsellor.”

I want to tell her that I can’t keep this to myself. I have to tell someone, because this is serious, and the counsellor will be able to help her talk about this. I don’t want to be a snitch, but she’s my friend, and I care about her. But I’m her best friend, so maybe I can help her better than a counsellor? And if I tell on her, then she won’t trust me again. I have to keep this a secret, even though I don’t really want to.

“Of course I won’t tell anyone,” I say.

Regan smiles. “Thanks,” she replies. “You’re the best.”

***

A week later, we have P.E. and Regan stands with me in our corner, still wearing her long-sleeved jumper. I realise that she doesn’t want to get changed, in case someone sees her arms, and I quickly stand in front of her, blocking her from everyone’s view. It’s not fair that she can’t get changed in case someone sees her cuts, and I don’t want her to get in trouble because she’s not changed in time.

“Thanks,” she whispers, and then she takes a rugby jumper out of her bag, even though it’s summer, and we’re supposed to be wearing short sleeved shirts. I don’t say anything, but I know people will notice that she’s wearing it. I hope the teacher notices, and realises why, and tells the nurse, so that someone else can do something about this, and I don’t have to be the only one who knows.

I stand and wait for her to get into her kit, blocking her from everyone’s line of sight. We don’t say anything, and then, when she’s done, we head for the exit together. We’re the last ones there, so I can talk about it.

“Aren’t you going to put bandages on them?” I ask. I saw her arms when she pulled her jumper off, and they were still uncovered. There were small red smears where the material of her clothes rubbed against them, and streaked down her arms.

“I don’t need to,” she replies bluntly. “Look, I don’t want to talk about this right now, okay? Someone might hear.”

So, I don’t say anything else. I don’t want to upset her, or have an argument about this. We walk out onto the playground, and a few other girls look at Regan, with her thick, long-sleeved, rugby shirt. Nobody asks why she’s wearing it.

***

Regan keeps scratching her arms under her jumper. I want to tell her to stop, because it can’t be good for her, but I don’t want to seem pushy.

She keeps itching, and eventually I can’t ignore it anymore, so I say, “You shouldn’t do that.” That’s all I seem to do these days – tell her what she should and shouldn’t do, ask her questions, bug her. I'm like a broken record. But if I don’t tell her, then who will? I’m the only person who knows. But I’m worried, because she’s obviously getting annoyed by my nagging.

“It itches,” she says sharply.

“Haven’t you put anything on it?” I ask, but I don’t know what to put on cuts. I use Bio Oil for spots. Maybe that would help? But, before I can suggest it, Regan says, “I wish you’d stop going on about it. It’s fine.”

“It’s just – if you’re going to do it, you should take care of it,” I say. I just don’t like the idea of those injuries going unchecked. But it comes out wrong, so it sounds like I’m lecturing her again.

Regan folds her arms. “God, I wish I’d never told you.”

I don’t know how to respond to that. After a moment, I say, “It’s just a lot to handle. I want to help, but I think you should tell someone.” I know how it sounds, but it’s true.

She glares at me, and it looks like she’s going to say something else, but she doesn’t. She just walks away.

***

Four days later, in first period, my phone buzzes with a text alert. I look at it under the desk, and it’s from Regan – I need to talk to you @ lunch.

So, at lunchtime, I wait in the form room, in our usual spot. We haven’t spoken since our fight, and I’ve missed her. She walks in and sits next to me.

“I got them bandaged,” she says. There’s no need for her to say what she means. I know. I don’t say anything else, hoping she’ll continue. And she does. “I thought about what you said, and you’re right. You shouldn’t have to handle this by yourself. It’s a lot. I know you care about me.”

“Yeah, I do,” I reply, a little awkwardly. This whole thing is pretty awkward, and she looks embarrassed too.

“I just thought that, if you were really my friend, you wouldn’t want me to go to someone. But I can’t tell you everything.”

I’m so relieved – for her and myself – that I can’t help but smile. “It’s not that I don’t want to hear what’s going on with you –” I say, at exactly the same time as she says, “I don’t wanna be a burden –”

We both laugh, because we talked over each other, and she smiles at me. “Thanks for helping me with this,” she says.

“It’s okay,” I reply. “You can tell me stuff, okay? It’s not that I don’t want to hear what’s going on with you. But I have to know you’re getting support from somewhere else too.”

“Yeah,” she agrees. “I get it.” And then, after a few seconds, she pulls me into an unexpected hug, and I feel the bandages underneath her jumper. It’s a small sign that she’s taking steps in a positive direction, that she’s trying to help herself. It’s all I need, and I hug her back, tightly. “You’re a good friend,” she says.

This short story was written for SHAD2018 by Sophie, a Graduate Volunteer at Youthscape working alongside the SelfharmUK team. 

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Eating Disorders and Self-harm

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:

  • They actively harm you. Sadly, the harming factor is unseen on your insides as organs become weak the longer the you don’t eat (this includes your heart). Those struggling with overeating, may find their bodies absorb the fat and develop associated issues with that. Eating disorders impact your teeth (from vomiting), your bone structure (from lack of calcium), your hair and nails from lack of nutrients… most parts of your body will be effected by disordered eating.
  • They limit your social life. Globally food centres around communities: family meals, birthday meals, getting pizza with friends… If food is causing you anxiety, then it’s highly likely you will decline these offers and feel more isolated than you felt before your eating disorder developed.
  • Help can be given, when you are able to ask for it. As with any addiction, help needs to be acknowledged before it can be taken. Having an eating disorder is an inner fight: your body needs a healthy diet to sustain itself, yet your brain is fighting that natural urge to eat well. The fight is emotional and psychological and very tiring for the sufferer.
  • There are stages in every eating disorder; the initial stages as the sufferer gradually believes they feel ‘good’ from the feeling being in control gives them, followed by the ‘maintaining’ phase where a sufferer develops a routine and possible rituals around their food issues; this is followed by a deteriorating stage. By this time friends and family will possibly have noted the change in appearance, mood, sleep patterns and demeanour – this is when Doctors are likely to become involved in order to keep your BMI and heart rate in as healthy way as can be hoped for.
  • Friends and family can find excellent support and further information at www.b-eat.co.uk who run online support sessions for young people, adults and family members.    
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Forgiving your friend

Forgiveness takes a lifetime. It’s a learnt process that ebbs and flows in our life: some people we can forgive quickly and easily, others it is painfully hard to allow ourselves to ‘let go’.

If a friend or family member is self-harming it can be hard not to feel hurt, angry or betrayed even. You may be angry that they didn’t tell you sooner or angry that they didn’t come to you as you may feel you could have helped them before it got to self-harm; you might feel very hurt by them and their lack of trust in not being able to ask for help; you may feel betrayed that they appear not to trust you enough with their thoughts and feelings.

If you are feeling like that; forgive them. You may feel that you have outwardly but perhaps inside those feelings still bubble up from time to time. Forgiving takes a long time – it’s a choice that you have to choose each time those feelings creep up on you. Forgive your friend, their self-harm is not your fault, it’s not something you could do anything to stop and it’s not yours to carry.

Chances are, they didn’t want or mean to hurt you. Often people who are struggling with self-harm carry huge bags of guilt and they might be harming their bodies as they don’t want to hurt anyone emotionally.

It takes a great deal of maturity to be able to let go of your own hurt and put yourself in someone else’s shoes: today, on Self-harm Awareness Day, take some time to think about forgiving your friend and consider what it might be like to walk in their shoes.

As a friend your role is to support and get your friend to get some help from people trained to do so; if you want to, why don’t you and your friend sign up together to our Alumina support programme?

Whether you are self-harming, or are friends with someone who is - you are never alone.

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​NEW Alumina support sessions!

Monday 26th February we're start a new Alumina programme especially for you! Alumina is our 6 week programme helping you to understand your self-harm journey, your triggers and your addiction cycle into self-harm. We will look at what alternatives you can begin to use, how to manage your emotions more effectively and how to consider asking for help.

On Wednesday 28th February, we begin a NEW programme called Alumina 2! This is for those of you who have ben through the first Alumina and would like further support dealing with your daily emotions and want to look at developing new coping skills for your emotional wellbeing.

All sessions are confidential and run by our counselling team.

To sign up email us at info@selfharm.co.uk

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This is about periods

‘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:

  • Keep track of your period – use a phone app or a diary; how often do you have them? It will help you feel more prepared if you know roughly how many days it is between your periods.   
  • If you have very painful or irregular periods – you don’t have to put up with it. It might feel embarrassed to talk about, but, honestly, your doctor will not be embarrassed. There are medications for very heavy, painful or irregular periods – talk to your doctor.
  • Four days before your period is due make sure you get enough sleep, eat a good balanced diet and have a good pattern of relaxation. This will help your moods but also rest your body for the impact your period has on it.
  • Anything you can do to relax your body to relieve the muscle tension may help in your period – baths, gentle exercise, breathing techniques…try them all and work out what is best for you and your body.
  • During your period the urge to self-harm may increase: use distraction techniques, talk about your feelings, write about what’s happening in your body and your mood – see if you are able to make any links. Look after yourself, make sure you feel clean, dress comfortably, use relaxation apps or YouTube clips, eat well and healthily.

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.

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My body, my choice

Rachel talks to us about being able to make choices about our bodies.

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When to go to Hospital...

*TRIGGER WARNING*

Occasionally, but not always, you might need to decide if you need immediate medical help. 

It could be that either accidentally, or deliberately, you have harmed yourself and now, you feel scared about the impact of it on your body.

It maybe that you need to dial 999 immediately: is your cut very deep and bleeding near an artery? Is your burn severe? Have you swallowed something? Get someone to call 999 or call it yourself. No one will be cross with you for taking up NHS time; it could save you.

If not 999 then:

Firstly – breathe. Slowly. Get control of your body by getting oxygen to your brain – I know it sounds stupid, but it’s harder to make rational decisions and deal with an emergency if you are in panic mode.

Secondly – if you are bleeding – press down on it firmly. Hold it there. If you need to, tie something above the injured area to stem the bleeping. If it’s a burn – run it under cold water for at least 20 mins, then wrap it in cling film.

Thirdly – if, after 20 mins, you are still bleeding/feel a burning sensation – get to the hospital.

If you are hesitant about what to say write down, or get someone to write down the following for you, so you don’t have to repeat yourself: your full name/school/address/GP/what you have done/how long ago/what you used, drank, swallowed, how long you have been self-harming. Doing this will help you loads and give medics the information they need immediately to know how to treat you.

If you do get taken to hospital, you may feel unwell on the way. Having someone with you will help you.

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