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.
The article below was written by Mike Jones, a fighter against mental illness stigma. By creating www.schizlife.com, he hopes to shed some light on the symptoms of schizophrenia, how to help someone dealing with it, as well as the stereotypes surrounding this disorder.
A diagnosis of a mental health problem can feel like a ton of bricks has just come pounding down around you. Things might feel overwhelming, almost as if the world is spinning out of control. You might be wondering if things will ever get better. Don't worry, all of this is completely normal. The most important thing to remember is that you really are in control of your life.
1. You are not the only one and your mental health problem does not define you
When you look around, it might seem as if you're the only person dealing with something this difficult. You couldn't be more mistaken. One out of every ten children faces a similar battle. Demi Lovato, Angelina Jolie, Russel Brand, and Kristin Bell have all struggled with mental health issues. It's simply more common than you think. Just because you don't hear your friends talking about it doesn't mean they aren't grappling with their own mental health difficulties.
You're a complex person with unique talents, likes, dislikes, and tastes. Maybe you're creative, a great friend, or an amazing artist. Do you despise tomatoes, love pasta, and adore dogs? Whoever you are, you already were, before learning of your mental health diagnosis. Your gifts and talents are still there. And whatever you love to hate, is too! Your mental illness is just as much a part of you as your gifts, talents, and pet peeves. All of these things together create the amazing person you are, but no single one defines you. Your mental illness is not who you are.
2. Knowing your diagnosis gives you power
A mental health diagnosis names the thoughts and behaviors that have been getting in the way of your goals and dreams. Now you have the opportunity to take control of your life. Knowledge is power. With your diagnosis, you have access to important information and resources that will allow you to determine how to face the obstacles created by your mental health.
You're in the driver's seat now. You get to choose how to address this challenge. On the Be Vocal website, Demi Lovato describes her feelings and the actions she took after finding out about her mental illness. "Getting a diagnosis was kind of a relief. It helped me start to make sense of the harmful things I was doing to cope with what I was experiencing. Now I had no choice but to move forward and learn how to live with it, so I worked with my health care professional and tried different treatment plans until I found what works for me." That worked out pretty well for her!
3. What other people think is not your problem
Having a strong social support network is extremely important when it comes to managing your mental health problem. Don't allow the stigma associated with mental health to convince you to accept a sense of shame and stop reaching out to people. Take responsibility for your own sense of safety. You decide who to talk to, how much to disclose, and under what circumstances.
A random individual's inability to behave rationally says nothing about you and a great deal about them. Understand that your judgement in these matters will never be perfect. That's part of the learning process. Over time it will become easier and you'll get better at learning who to trust, how much to disclose, and under what circumstances you feel comfortable discussing things that make you vulnerable. But never stop building your tribe.
4. You still get to decide who you want to be
Part of growing up, even for teens without mental health struggles, is figuring out how to exist as a unique individual in this world. What kind of person do you want to be? What footprint do you want to leave? Do you want to be someone who lives in fear? Or do you want to rise to the challenge of honoring the entirety of who you are? Do you have the courage to refuse to allow others to treat you in ways lacking in courtesy and respect? Do you know how to set limits while still remaining faithful to your own values?
Dealing with a diagnosis of mental illness forces you to consciously address these questions now instead of later. This gives you an opportunity to walk consciously and with grace into adulthood. Your diagnosis has given you the chance to begin asking and answering the questions that give a life meaning. Find your answers and then systematically implement them in the way you structure your days.
You always have choices. Always. Mental illness does not take away your power. Don't let anyone tell you that it does. You are strong enough to manage this. Ask questions, reach out, make decisions, and shape your own life. How are you going to face this? What's your plan of action? What steps are you going to take to soften the sharp and painful edges of the symptoms of your mental illness so that you stay on top of its ups and downs? No one is saying that this will be easy. But it absolutely can be done.
Yeah, I know, some people love it and some hate it! Hollyoaks is the marmite of soap operas :0
It is the only soap we watch in my house of 2 teenagers. Why? Because we love the fact that it represents gay people, straight people, mental health issues and race issues far more than anything else on TV (unproportionally so, I know!).
There’s a story line at the moment about Lily Drinkwell (yep, that is her name!) who has begun self-harming after numerous issues in her life: mum dying, boyfriend issues, rejection and body image. It shows the complexity of the emotions: it isn’t ever juts one thing that leads a person to begin to self-harm: it is many, many things that have all layered upon each other to create a set of complex emotions that a person feels are out of control.
Lily impulsively self-harmed the first time: it wasn’t planned, she hadn’t expected to do it. In our experience at SelfharmUK, this is often the way: the first time isn’t thought through but is reaction to huge feelings of strong emotions. Lily then feels guilty and ashamed afterwards: her aunt notices blood on the towel and insists she gets medical attention. This, is where soap opera land differs from real life: for many young people, their self-harm isn’t noticed for some time. It then becomes a coping strategy to deal with those emotions that aren’t going away, but are, in fact, becoming more layered, due to the guilt of self-harming and fear of being ‘found out’.
If this is you, if you are in this cycle, whether it’s been a one off self-harm, or whether you feel you are stuck in this never ending cycle of harming; feeling bad; feeling guilty; harming to release the feelings…; we want to support you.
At SelfharmUK we are pretty unshockable, we don’t judge you, we don’t tell anyone (unless we urgently need to for safety). We aren’t about how TV portrays self-harm; we are about the reality of it: the long haul, no quick fixes, giving you information on looking after yourself and your injuries, ideas about pulling apart those emotions positively with trained people: we are about what you are about.
We listen; we chat; we offer help; we offer ideas of new ways; we help you consider what’s going on in those layers of emotions so that you can, when you want to, find a new way of coping with those strong, real and confusing feelings.
We run a safe place online, called Alumina, where trained people can support you.
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
The road to ‘recovery’ from self-harm can be full of twists and turns: you may feel that you are ready and want to look for alternative coping strategies – here are some things to consider:
Deciding the stop, or reduce your self-harming behaviour is a huge step forward: it shows a mindset desperately wanting to find a ‘new way’. Go gently on yourself.
Many people talk about reducing gradually before deciding to finally stop. This may be helpful for you or you may decide you need to separate yourself from it immediately. Either way is fine – don’t put too much pressure on yourself though.
Take a day at a time, or even half a day. This is will depend on what your pattern of harming is, the frequency of it, how long you have been engaged in it and what are the external things that might be causing you stress. Perhaps set yourself a timer, and add an hour/half day/day to it each time?
Plan when and how to reduce or stop. Think about what else is going on for you currently -how are you coping with school, exams, family stuff, friendship issues? If you have any major stress factors (like exams), consider waiting until they have been as resolved as they can be, before reducing or stopping. This way, if you are struggling, you won’t be putting yourself under impossible pressure.
Recognise it may take a while. Whatever form of harming behavior you have been using to cope, it will be an addiction and a habit. Retraining your brain to find a new way of coping will take time – allow yourself time to experiment with different coping strategies to find what works for you.
At the start, it’s important we are honest with you: none of the coping strategies will give you the same relief you have found in your harming. Wearing elastic bands, using ice cubes or exercise are alternatives; your brain will take a bit of time to rewire itself to recognize this as the new way of coping. The physical and emotional relief you might get from your harming, may not be fully relieved immediately by using alternatives.
The most important thing is, however long it takes; even if it’s two steps forward and one back; you move forward at your pace. Don’t go too hard on yourself. Be as kind to you, as you are to your friends.
Show yourself love, patience and gentleness.
We have list of tried and tested alternative strategies, but please, let us know others as the longer the list, the more we can all offer other young people who are seeking to looking for a new coping strategy.
We are with you in this, you aren’t alone. Literally thousands of others are with you in this journey through self-harm to recovery; let’s take small steps forward together.
The below article was written by Jo Fitzsimmons, a member of the SelfharmUK Team.
At some point in our life we have all struggled to understand something: whether that’s algebra, a friend’s response to a situation or a decision made by others.
What if most things were a struggle?
Learning disabilities can make many situations a struggle. ‘learning disabilities’ can cover a huge range of struggles; dyspraxia, dyslexia, autism, adhd, down syndrome…..Whatever the struggle, behind it is a real person with humour, a smile, good days and sad days, perhaps though, the struggles are harder than many of us face.
Statistically those young people with additional needs will have higher rates of self-harming behaviour than those without any additional needs. This is due to a number of factors:
Communication difficulties. Finding the right words to express feelings, having confidence to ask for help, having limited verbal communication to speak are all huge obstacles for someone with an additional need to overcome. Having feelings trapped inside and feeling prisoner to them, can cause self-harming behavior.
Physical needs. The feeling of frustration at being unable to physically manage what others can; the fear of having people stare at us or treat us differently because our physical needs are different; the impact of living day to day with a routine focused on managing basics needs – all these will impact the mental health and wellbeing of a person with additional needs.
Sensory needs. Have you ever found noise too much? Hated someone hugging you? Wanted to hide in the dark to get away from people, sounds, smells? If so, you may be able to understand the impact our senses have on us feeling overwhelmed. Sensory disorders are far more common that we think and they can affect us by making us anxious of crowds, fear noises and hate strong smells. People who struggle with these areas find ways to soothe themselves, sometimes through harming behaviours.
How can we support those with additional needs?
Put simply: go out of your way to be a friend to someone with additional needs.
You will find more information about SEN and self-harm here.
Physically we are all well, or unwell; it’s easy to spot an unwell person in a queue next to a well person – there are physical signs like runny noses, pale skin, perhaps reduced mobility, sleepless eyes.
What does a person who is unwell emotionally look like?
Nope? No guesses…? That’s because a person can look ‘well’ on the outside but be very unwell in their self esteem, their confidence, their ability to think clearly, to sleep well, have high anxiety which leads to panic attacks, or deep depression. The fact is this: with 7 in 10 young people having poor mental health now, you don’t know if someone is well or not in their thought life.
The recent report on behalf of the government states that young people have the highest levels of poor mental health. Young people aged 18-25 report not being able to think clearly, have positive relationships, feeling like they aren’t able to contribute to society and feel devalued. Wow, what a frightening picture this shows.
Contrast this with people over 55 who have the best mental health and what can we learn:
- Older people feel confident to make new friends and join groups; young people feel nervous about joining a new group for fear of being judged;
- Older people take up new hobbies and activities; young people often can’t afford new hobbies or expensive activities;
- Older people have built up trust worthy groups of friends; young people struggle to know who their ‘real friends’ are rather than those who just ‘like’ or ‘retweet’ their thoughts.
Let’s face it; age does bring experience and knowledge – but can we wait 40 years for teenagers to grow up into confident older people?
So – if you are a young person struggling with your emotional and mental health here are some ideas for you to try in Mental Health Awareness week:
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.
It sounds like you are worried about your friend, and it’s great to hear you want to support them. Self-harming can be risky and it is understandable that you are concerned.
Firstly, it is important to remember the following things;
- you are not responsible for your friend’s actions.
- you cannot make them stop self-harming if they are not ready to.
- there is no quick fix or magic formula that works for everybody.
But here’s what you can do.
Friendship can be a powerful thing, and just being there for your friend may be a great comfort to them – to know they are not alone.
This doesn’t mean you should feel a pressure to be able to be around for your friend at all hours. Helping them create a bigger support network may be of great benefit to you both. Maybe you could tell them about this website or the young minds website. They could contact Childline and chat to a counsellor in confidence at any time of day or night, (for children and young people up to the age of 19). Or perhaps you could find out who else they trust that they could talk to.
People try all sorts of different ways to cope with their feelings – and different things work for different people. Some people keep a diary, others like to read or listen to music. Some people find it helpful to stimulate their senses – so they might put on their favourite perfume or aftershave for the nice smell, eat their favourite snack for the taste, cuddle their pillow or pet for the soft touch and so on. Maybe you could think about telling your friend about this.
Perhaps your friend might find it helpful to have a think about the things that trigger their self-harm. Perhaps they need support more so for the trigger than the self-harm itself. For example, if bullying is triggering their self-harm, perhaps reporting this will help take the trigger away. Or if exam stress is the trigger, maybe asking a teacher to help with a revision timetable will help.
Many people who self-harm and try to stop, feel like they’ve failed if they do hurt themselves again. Reassure your friend that it is normal to find stopping self-harming difficult, and that every urge they do manage to conquer is a victory.
Just by reading this article shows you are an amazing friend and doing a great job. It is a real balancing act to support a friend and look after your own feelings at the same time. It is a good idea to make sure you have support too, whether that be from another friend, an adult you trust or from a reliable website like this one, young minds or Childline.
By Sam Firth who works for Childline
Sanyha is a sixth form student that the SelfharmUK team met at the Priory School Mental Wellbeing Fayre. Sanyha has suffered with depression and self-harm and uses this blog to talk to us about the reality of self-harm urging us to break the stigma.
"You only self-harm for attention."
The number of times I have heard this comment is ridiculous, whether it was aimed at me or somebody else; to be completely honest it does make my blood boil when people think its acceptable to make assumptions like this. However, I do understand that there are people out there who are uneducated about mental illness and self-harm therefore they may not "get it". But do you not think that this assumption comes across at least a tad judgmental whether you are educated or not?
I started self-harming in 2014 due to feeling uncomfortable in the body and self I lived in, it started off as a very small type of self-harm - a few intentional scratches on my wrists every week. At first I didn't think of this as self-harm because I had no knowledge in this topic, this was also the case even when I started actually cutting my forearms and thighs in 2015. This form of self-harm seemed to be an on and off method of coping for the two years. When I developed a hate for myself as a person to a bigger extent, and began to convince myself that I deserved the pain that I inflicted upon myself, the cutting became more frequent - there was a phase of cutting everyday or every other day. The spring of 2015, I went through a few months of being close to starving myself as I only allowed myself to have one full meal a day and if I was to go over that limit then I would punish myself further through cutting – I did this as another form of self-harm.
By the end of 2015 I started to break away from self-harming as I realised that it was not going to solve anything and yes I know you may be thinking, why did it take me this long to realise this? This is what having a mental illness does to you, you cannot always think like you 'normally' would and your mind prevents you from the realisation. I started to find out alternatives but it was difficult for me, however keeping a hairband on my wrist seemed to work for a while; I even do that to this day to give me a sense of relief at times when I feel irritated. Another thing that made me break away from self-harming is the fact that my scars started to make me feel even more insecure than I already was. Therapy helped me to learn many strategies that I could use during my low mood episodes as well as being able to control certain thoughts I had.
Self-harm is real. Mental health is real.
So stop assuming and start helping, we cannot stop this stigma without you.
You can see more about what Sanyha is up to here http://sanzshares.blogspot.co.uk
There are books that can help with your own recovery here http://www.youthscape.co.uk/store/project/selfharm
Sometimes things will catch your eye on social media and get you hooked for hours looking at posts, responses to posts and re-tweets. This happened for me a couple of weeks ago. Urban Decay pushed out some new make-up and did the usual swatching of said make-up on a models arm. The particular imagery used by the big make-up brand caused some controversy amongst people on social media. The company took a huge backlash from people all over the globe stating that it was distasteful and difficult for people to look at who were struggling with or who had struggled with self-harm. It didn’t help that the product was called ‘Razor Sharp’ and so the image teamed with the words, really did put Urban Decay in a sticky situation. If you haven't see the picture and feel strong and able enough to look at it, it can be found here **trigger warning** only look if you can.
This got us thinking at SelfharmUK about the use of images in general, but also the lack of thought that is still given to self-harm in the world of branding and marketing. It is a clear sign that self-harm does not appear on people’s radar and is still something that is missed. Lots of people took to twitter and told Urban Decay in no uncertain terms that for them, this had felt triggering and upsetting.
I really thought we were getting somewhere with understanding that names and pictures have an effect on people and if we are going to brand something we have to ensure we think this through. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE make-up and I understand that the arm is where swatching is done, but the thin lines, the name of the brand and the lack of sensitivity towards people is quite frankly upsetting. Urban Decay have remained ignorant to both current and past self-harmers and have to this point not given a clear and appropriate apology.
We need to be challenging brands, marketing moguls, products and anyone with influence that people are sore and people are hurting. We need to make people aware that self-harm affects a lot of people and the things we say, do, post and write about can cause people distress and discomfort.
I contacted Urban Decay for a comment to this post I said this;
Hi I am the project manager of a charity called SelfharmUK and am emailing to see if someone will give me a response to the recent image and eyeliner name that caused an outcry on twitter. I am in the process of writing a piece for our website and think it would be right if I included a comment, apology or response from yourselves. The image and the name of the product have left current and ex self-harmers feeling upset by the post and as of yet I am unaware if you have issued an apology. I would be interested in talking to you about this more and looking forward to hearing from you. Thanks
I am yet to have a response, but be sure to know this. As a charity we will never stop calling people to account on things that are triggering for people, that cause them distress around self-harm and we will continue to be an advocate for any issues on this topic.
Whilst I was perusing my email inbox at the weekend I stumbled across some information that I felt I needed to share with the world. Sometimes when we are trawling through the status updates of those we love (okay maybe we don’t love all those we are friends with on Facebook but you get my drift) … just sometimes we can find ourselves reading something that we find worrying. Statements of suicide, self-harm and despair. These messages can leave us paralysed, worried and unsure what to do. Well Facebook have teamed up with the Suicide Prevention Line and are giving us the tools right in the palm of our hands to try and help.
It basically allows you to flag a post that you find worrying in order to ensure that the team behind the scenes at Facebook can look to help. This means they can send the person a list of options to help them get the help and support they may need, before things are too late. This is such a refreshing piece of news for us here at SelfharmUK and it's the starting point for people wanting to do more to help those they are worried about.
Facebook have a whole page dedicated to safety which was like a hidden (and I mean hidden) gem of things that Facebook do in the background when they receive a concern from someone. Take a look around next time you are on Facebook and see if you can find it. So how do we do we report something of concern? Something we are not comfortable with? I decided to have a search and it is not easy to find, but we have put together a handy bunch of pictures to show you how you report a post that leads you to a place of concern for a loved one or friend. On the post itself you hit the Report button, which brings you to a screen that looks like this:
By clicking "It shouldn’t be on Facebook" it will take you to a page like this:
From there, choose the "It’s threatening, violent or suicidal" link. You will see this, and from there you click the self injury or suicide button:
"This is all great," I hear you cry, "but what do Facebook actually do with this information? Do they instantly contact all my friends and share this news with them so they can try and keep me safe? Do they somehow in the cosmic universe tell my parents what is happening in my life?" The answer to those questions is no, Facebook merely respond with something they think may be helpful for that person and it looks like this:
As you can see, it gives the person you are worried about the opportunity to think about what they may need or want to do next. It is easy to follow and allows your friend to take some time out and read some handy tips or speak with a friend or to a helpline.
We certainly think this something worth knowing about and we really hope this helps people who are worried for those they love have some peace of mind that Facebook is concerned about them too. This is such a progressive move from the big bosses at Facebook and we here at SelfharmUK Love it!
Today, March 1st, is National Self Harm Awareness Day, and during this month, we will continue to focus on this awareness.
Self harm can affect anyone - any age, gender, race, culture, religion. We all probably know of someone who self harms, and it seems to be becoming increasingly common. But with this comes misunderstanding. There has certainly been more awareness of self harm in recent years, but this still hasn’t stamped out the stigma of it and misconceptions people have of it.
Therefore, this month, we at SelfharmUK are going to be focused on busting some of the myths surrounding self harm.
Some of these myths and misconceptions might be:
- It’s only teenagers who self harm
- People who self harm are attention seeking
- Only girls self harm
- Self harm only involves cutting
- Self harm is easy to stop
- Self harm is a suicide attempt
- Anyone who self injures is crazy and should be locked up
- Self harm is a phase and something you just grow out of
- People only self harm if they’ve had a really bad life
This year we have teamed up with Childline, The Mix and YoungMinds again, to research and gather information from almost 1000 parents of children/young people up to the age of 24, as well as 3800 young people up to the age of 24 who self harm.
This research showed that 67% of parents believe that young people struggling with self harm should go to them for support, whereas only 16% of young people who self harm would choose to talk to their parents, and only 27% would talk to their doctor. It was found that instead, young people would rather turn to their friends (61%) or online (76%) to find support.
Research also found that 39% of parents thought one of the main reasons a young person engages in self harm was for ‘seeking attention’, whereas 80% of young people expressed they did not want other people thinking that they were attention seeking when asked what they wanted people to know about self harm.
This just highlights the gap in understanding around self harm. These won’t be the only unbalanced percentages when it comes to those who self harm and those who don’t. There is clearly a difference between what others think compared to what those who struggle actually think, which gives us all the more reason to bust a myth and offer an insight into the subject of self harm.
It can become very hard to open up about the struggles of self harm when there are all of these myths and misconceptions out there, and although awareness is growing, perceptions still need to change.
Throughout this month, we will also be sharing people’s experiences with self harm, and how myths around self harm have affected them in their journey. We will also be providing helpful information around areas such as triggers, alternatives, and finding the courage speaking up about self harm, whether that be to a parent, GP, friend or person you look up to, and vice versa, the best ways to respond to a young person telling you they self harm.
Telling someone you are self harming can be a very daunting thing, but the good news is, even with these myths and misconceptions out there, there are still people who want to help, regardless of what they understand about self harm. You are not alone in this. Maybe, on this day, you could make the decision to take that first step and reach out for the support you deserve! Maybe raise awareness by starting a conversation with someone about self harm. Maybe encourage someone you know who is struggling to find the help they need. Let's continue to break the silence surrounding self harm!