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.
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
We have heard it from parents, teachers and librarians countless times in our lives and, sadly, often negatively, in a ‘don’t make any noise’ sense!
How about ‘quiet’ in a positive way? ‘quiet’ said in a soothing, gentle way encourages us to relax, breathe and slow down.
Silence and quiet are things that are hard to achieve – maybe we don’t enjoy our own company; maybe we like to keep busy and have background noise constantly; maybe silence isn’t something we are comfortable with?
If silence isn’t something you feel comfortable with it, try it in small amounts to begin with. Thursday 14th September is National Quiet Day, a day all about encouraging you to find a place that feels safe and comfortable where you can relax (or maybe even fall asleep, as that’s what tends to happen when we find places that are quiet!).
Finding quiet in our noisy, crammed lives is hard. It is a discipline we have to learn to take time to listen to what our feelings are saying, what our thoughts are wanting us to ponder and what our body is trying to tell us about how we are doing physically.
You might find sitting with your own thoughts uncomfortable; perhaps all your thoughts and feelings come flooding into your head? That’s ok – write them down, tackle them one by one and give yourself time to think through each feeling that comes into your thoughts. Acknowledge it. Name the feeling. Validate it in the way you would let a friend know you understand them – give yourself permission to feel.
Perhaps finding your quiet place will allow you to draw or sing your thoughts? Hey, no one needs to see or hear you (that’s the joy of a quiet place!), so if you want to sing, shout, cry or laugh – do!
Perhaps reading will allow you some time to read for pleasure? Read slowly enjoying each paragraph. Find a book you loved as a child and go back to it.
Perhaps learning to breathe slower, deeper so your lungs are filled like a balloon might help you relax your muscles, your brain and anxieties?
Quiet offers us the ability to listen to ourselves. Giving yourself the gift of quiet allows you to give you what you give to some many others: your concentration, your love and your thoughts.
This year, why not use National Quiet Day to find some quiet to be with yourself?
If you already have your very own quiet place - we’d love to see it! This could be anything from that bench that you always find peaceful on your daily dog walk, that patch of grass on top of that hill with the best view near your house, your sofa at home or even that place you always like to sit at your favourite cafe. Send your images to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll post the best ones on our Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter on the day in the hope of inspiring others to find their own quiet places.
You can also follow the hashtag on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. #NationalQuietDay
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 email@example.com
“ 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
You are not alone.
The piece below was written by Jo Fitzsimmons, a member of the SelfharmUK Team. The urge to self-harm is often all consuming and when it comes, it's hard to think of anything else! Next time you feel the urge to self-harm, try slowly reading this outloud, whilst breathing deeply.
I am twitchy, full of nervous energy
I can’t sit still, I can’t focus,
I am breathing quickly,
I am wringing my hands.
I try to calm myself
I try to take control
The thoughts are coming quickly
Spiralling into my head
My breathing gets faster
I must take control
Slow slow slow slow
I tell myself
The battle is done – I make the choice
Run on the spot
Clench my fists
Breathe Breathe Breathe
Run on the spot
Clench my fists
Breathe Breathe Breathe
I feel the urge
Slow Slow Slow
I match my breathing to the dogs
I bite my hands and wait
The tears begin to flow
The urge has passed
I made the choice
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:
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.
The article below was written by Graeme Bigg, a member of the SelfharmUK training team.
Christmas leftovers have been eaten, decorations have been tidied away and presents are either now in use or have been returned for store credit, and you’ve now been back at school or work for over a week. Some people find it easy to return to the routine of regular life, with all the promise of a new year and a new start, but others can find it much tougher, particularly if there are stressful situations going on from which the holidays offered a all-too-brief break.
The third Monday in January has been labelled as ‘Blue Monday’ - the reasoning being that as the wait for the first pay day since Christmas goes on and the weather gets colder, there is very little to raise the mood. Indeed, everything from mock exams to presidential inaugurations can add to that existing weight. So, if you’re feeling glum at the start of 2017, here are a few things that might help:
Blue Monday is made up. The concept of this being the most depressing day of the year was made up twelve years ago by a travel company – who understandably have a lot to gain by people looking to cheer themselves up by booking a holiday. Marking out a particular day as ‘the most depressing day in the year’ offers a lot for retailers, who would like you to make comfort purchases, but the meaning behind the day in question is even emptier than November’s Black Friday. So while the media might play it up, try to remember: Blue Monday is a lie.
January can be depressing. Although the science behind Blue Monday is rubbish, part of the reason the term persists is because we can see why it might be true. Punishing New Year’s resolutions that involve depriving ourselves of things we enjoy (our favourite foods, our favourite TV shows), the struggle for funds, the return to our work, going to and returning from school in the dark: all of these can get our mood down. If you’re struggling with these things, you don’t need to hide them, and because January is a month where people are more aware that life can be hard, you might find it easier to chat about it. Samaritans are running a campaign this year called ‘Brew Monday’, encouraging people to meet up for a conversation over a cuppa. Whether you’re finding January tough, or actually life is always tough, why not meet up with someone to chat about it. And if you’re not finding it tough, check in on those around you to see how they are.
New Year, new start. The tradition of New Year’s resolutions is one I sometimes find a bit daunting, as people ask me what commitments have I made for the next twelve months. Memories of resolutions that were quickly broken add to the pressure, as does the fear of not making any and what that might say about my character, or thoughts about what ambitious scheme I could set myself. This year I’ve been reflecting on, when it comes to resolutions, smaller might be better. A New Year’s resolution is, ultimately, a personal target: it’s for you. Devising something massive that, when you fail, just crushes you, is not helping you. Attaching such great value to a resolution that your value becomes wrapped up with it has a similar risk. You are more than your resolutions; don’t let them define you. Instead, try to create something that is achievable and fun, something that will build you up rather than knock you down. I do think making resolutions is a good idea – it helps us focus and be positive – and so I would encourage you to make one (or some) and write them down, so that you can see how you get on However, they are also not exclusive to New Year’s Eve/Day, so if you do break a resolution, start again. Make it a year of new starts – however many are needed.
Don’t look back – not yet. Janus, the Roman god from whom January traditionally takes its name, famously is depicted as having two faces, one looking forwards and one looking backwards. Because the New Year start in January is an annual occurrence, sometimes we can get tied up remembering Januaries from the past, with their joys and pains. But this is the first January 2017 we have come across; let’s aim to live this one and not the ones of the past. We don’t need to ignore of forget the good or (particularly) the bad moments from 2016 and before, but at the start of this new year try to put them to one side and see what this year has. There will be new conversations, new experiences, the chances to try new activities and make new friends. It can be good for us to reflect on these new things and the old things together, but leave that for now. Let’s get this year started first, and see what it has in store.
This article was written by a member of the SelfharmUK team, Jo Fitzsimmons. Jo is our Alumina Program Manager and has parented a child who was a self-harmer for many years. She has an acute understanding of the impact self-harm has on not only young people, but their whole family. She hopes you find the below helpful.
All those lovely adverts on tv of families playing board games, watching each other open their presents laughing and smiling, the Christmas films where families realise they love each other more than any present they have ever had….
In my house reality looked like:
Smiling when you got a knocked off Care Bear that was misshapen and looked nothing like the ones my friends had; watching your parents argue by 10 am as the pressure to be nice to each other all day is too much; my missing my Nan who passed away recently but we never mention her; once the presents have been opened we all disperse and meet up 3 hours later to eat too much food (that I hate myself for doing) and then fall asleep watching a crud film….
Sound like yours?
Or Maybe YOU LOVE Christmas?
Perhaps having people around you is a good thing as it makes you smile, gives you chance to see people who you actually like spending time with and you feel you can talk to; maybe the Christmas films take you back to feeling younger and happier…?
Either way – we can’t ignore it…It is Christmas! However we feel about it….
We know for some young people the idea of endless days spent at home with family is hard; perhaps being told you have to see relatives you don’t like causes you anxiety; perhaps you are missing a person you love at Christmas. However you feel, we want to get you through this, so here’s our tips for you:
Surviving Christmas Tips:
May you know Hope this Christmas.
Oliver shares with us some of their own journey around finding peace with their mental health and identity. This is a personal story of transformation and whilst none of this may ring true for you, Oliver challenges us to think about our own recovery and how community and the support of others can bring about the change that we need in our own lives to heal. SelfharmUK is for those from all backgrounds and faith groups, this story is personal and in our sharing of this article our only hope is that you are challenged to find a community that works for you.
I grew up a pastors’ daughter on the outskirts of Birmingham, attending church religiously, so to speak, every Sunday. I enjoyed running around with my best friend Laura – who was also the daughter of a pastor – as opposed to actually participating in the service, although I did have a handful of favourite hymns which I would frequently request my father to play each week. Another highlight of mine was the continuous handfuls of candy I would convince the elderly churchgoers to give me; I had a particularly convincing smile.
My love of attending church came to an end gradually as I got older. Running around was no longer acceptable and my convincing smile had slowly withered away. I began losing interest and after 10 years of working in the same job my dad resigned as head of the church. We moved out of the vicarage and began attending a different church slightly further away – I still don’t know for certain why we stopped attending our original place of worship, although I have the suspicion tensions were high after we left and perhaps some attendees of the church saw us leaving as giving up on our faith.
As a family we began a new leg of our worship at a church run by very close friends. A new start had sparked my interest once again, however a decline in my mental health had meant that burst of intrigue didn’t last exceptionally long. As depression sank in I started to find every aspect of my life mundane and uninteresting, including spiritually. By this time I was 11 and had stopped attending church altogether. Not particularly long after this I became isolated and also began to self-harm.
Child & Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) took me on as a patient in the year 2012 due to my mums’ persistence to get me medical help – which was predominantly driven by her faith, words of solidarity she took from the Bible, and the network my parents had built up around them over many years of hard work within the Christian community. I received frequent therapy sessions plus plenty of support from friends and family, but their efforts went unnoticed and I continued to deteriorate. My self-harm persisted, I attempted suicide and was starving myself.
After receiving several diagnoses including depression, anxiety, suicidal tendencies and EDNOS (Eating Disoders Not Otherwise Specified), I was hospitalised on the 29th of May 2013, after being in and out of A&E several times. I vividly remember my mother getting the call the night before, stating that a bed had been made available and that I would be a full-time in patient by the next day.
The 8am drive to the hospital was bleak, literally and emotionally. There was a light drizzle of rain and the fog had begun to stagnate, as if it would never lift. To say there was an air of pathetic fallacy that morning is a gross understatement. Along with the macabre shadow following me around, I too felt an absence of God, in all its forms. An absence of communal support. An absence of faith. These things shaped my childhood and now had dwindled away. It felt as if the life I was living were completely separate from my younger self. All trace of who I used to be had been destroyed in the face of depression, also dragging with it a previously overwhelming sense of trust in my parents and love for my religious community.
Those 8 months in hospital were the centre point of one of the most transformative times in my life, and still today impacts who I am greatly – luckily for me the treatment was a success for the most part and it sculpted me in a positive manner.
I was eventually discharged on the 13th of December 2013, yet there was still a long road of healing ahead. I was put under the home visiting team working for CAMHS who, for the first few weeks, would visit my house each day to not only monitor my weight and blood pressure, but also my scars, if there were any new ones, and how my emotional stability was faring.
No interest in the spiritual life had showed itself again as of yet, for all my energy and time was being spent on merely trying to function once more in a society I had been isolated from for the best part of a year. This remained the case for some time and while a lot of progress was being made in the realm of my mental health, my spiritual health continued to be malnourished and uninspired. (Also during this time I came out as genderqueer, otherwise known by its more socially acceptable term of ‘non-binary’, which also aided in my positive progression with my mental health. I would go into this further but I feel it would best to leave it for its own article).
It wasn’t until the dawn of 2016 that I set about exploring afresh the religious aspect of my life – or lack of, for that matter. This led me to exploring Buddhism more in-depth, and took me to my local Triratna Buddhist centre. Entering the building I felt something which had been absent for most of my life; a spiritual community in which I had a place. A spiritually stimulating community where my gender expression and sexuality did not deem me unworthy, but where my actions and the peace or hatred I contributed to the world defined me. From then on I attended the centre every Thursday evening where groups of up to 60 people would meditate and have discussions on different Buddhist teachings.
I began attending the centre in May this year, and by July I had been discharged from CAMHS after being a patient of theirs for 4 years. The absence of CAMHS threw me off kilter very briefly for a few weeks, which resulted in me taking that time off from the Buddhist centre to fully assess the direction I wanted my religious practice to go in. As I am writing this it is getting towards the end of September and I have been attending the centre again since the beginning of this month and now I can truly see how deprived and dissatisfactory my life is without Buddhism.
I feel I can truly now comprehend the importance of a spiritual or religious community in aiding positive mental states.
On that note I feel it is time to bring this article to a close, but not quite yet. I would like to leave you with a warning not to take my words from a subjective viewpoint and believe I am saying that Buddhism is the only way to connect spiritually. Buddhism is not the only way, and that is definitely not the message I would like people to take from this. We all connect to various communities differently, and what I am trying to project as best I can, is that we should not give up on finding the right place for us if the first one does not work out how we would have liked. There is a place for everyone to find religious inspiration and encouragement, we just have to find it. This is my attempt at motivating you to find it.
Oliver Fitzsimmons, aged 16
Image courtersy of Jubair1985
Bethany Murray has been known to SelfharmUK for a long time and is an inspirational young person who has overcome some challenging things in her life. She shares openly with us about the struggles she is facing as she transitions to university and gives some hints to help us in our own transitions.
Earlier this week I posted this tweet: "Yes I am rather melodramatic but I feel like my heart is being ripped out when I think of everything being left behind as I move to uni."
At the end of this week I am moving to the other side of the country to study psychology at uni. It's scary. It's a massive change. I am in a period of transition. And, in all honestly I feel a real fear about starting this new phase of life.
Change is one of the most common things people feel afraid of. Myself included.
What's interesting, is that things have changed in my life before...obviously. Life, for each of us, is made up of many different chapters and phases. Before each of these times of significant change in my life I've felt this horrible anxious almost heartbroken feeling. Moving house, starting secondary school, my brother and sister leaving home etc. etc.
I have three simple things I am holding onto at the moment as I enter this new period of change and tradition. If you're feeling similarly worried or overwhelmed while being faced with change in your life, I want to suggest repeating after me:
I have already survived many big changes in my life.
Positive things have often come from changes that I once spent many nights crying over.
If nothing ever changed I would still be wearing a nappy and having my bum wiped.
Change can make us feel scared, uncertain, overwhelmed, bereft, heartbroken and regretful. Yet we must remember that change is good and change is necessary.
Without change we don't grow. We don't have a chance to implement things we've learnt. We aren't able to learn new things. We can't experience more of the amazing world we live in. Without change we wouldn’t be able to find out about things that we currently have no knowledge or experience of. Without change we cannot reach our full potential.
When I know a big change is happening in my life, the thing I struggle with most is the "what ifs?".
What if I make no friends at uni?
What if I get behind on work?
What if I get lost in a big new city?
What if people at home forget about me?
What if I don't have the help I need?
"What if" thoughts come from a place of insecurity. Of anxiety. These "what if" thoughts are never likely to be projecting a positive forecast. And so that's where I have learnt to intervene. My brain chatters away and my thoughts are swirling with fear and uncertainty and all I can imagine is complete and utter catastrophe and so I force myself to imagine a positive scenario for each negative "what if".
What if I meet my life long best friend at uni?
What if the work isn't as hard as I’m imagining?
What if I discover beautiful corners of a new city?
What if writing letters to people at home becomes a new favourite hobby?
What if I meet new people who help me more than anyone I've met before?
For me, as someone who has struggled with self-harm and mental illness for a long time, I know times of transition are particularly difficult. I have noticed negative patterns during these times and are often when I struggle most. And so I have now worked on strategies that help me cope.
Acknowledging that loss is a real part of change is important. With any change happening in life, you will be losing something that has been positive. Even exciting changes may bring sadness about some elements of your life ceasing to be the way they were. It's okay to feel sad about these things. It's okay to need some time to process that.
Focusing on the positives sounds a cliché piece of advice but, it's still probably the best I can give. Sometimes things change in life for very negative reasons, but a lot of the transitions we face in life have many pros as well as the cons we may be focusing on. Keeping these in mind, even writing them down is really helpful.
Finding supportive people with whom you can talk through these fears with will make a real difference. For me, my anxiety gets worse the more time I’m left to think things through alone without another more rational voice. Having people I know I can speak to when I’m facing a difficult change or time of transition is so important. These people make me think about whether the things I worry about happening are actually likely and help me put plans in place for coping with different eventualities.
I want to finish this blog post with a quote that helps me greatly.
“When we make a change, it’s so easy to interpret our unsettledness as unhappiness, and our unhappiness as a result of having made the wrong decision. Our mental and emotional states fluctuate madly when we make big changes in our lives, and some days we could tight-rope across Manhattan, and other days we are too weary to clean our teeth. This is normal. This is natural. This is change.” – Jeanette Winterson