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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.

You can also sign up to Alumina, our online support for mental health and wellbeing here: 

https://www.selfharm.co.uk/alu...

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Dedicated to self-harm recovery, insight and support.

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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Do you feel different?

This week was the start of Autism Awareness week (March 26th 2018) – many people know someone who has autism, and some of us are what is called ‘on the autistic spectrum’.    

So, what does this have to do with self-harm? Loads! A very high rate of young people with autism self-harm, many of them girls who aren’t even aware they have autism.

Autism means struggling to deal with emotions and social situations, and finding verbalizing these struggles very hard. Most often we hear about autism in it’s most ‘severe’ form – non- verbal people who have complex needs: however, this makes us over look young people who, while they might be very bright, struggle to articulate feelings and emotions. 

Thousands of girls (with autism or undiagnosed autism) will be in mainstream schools and coping (outwardly) fine: however, inwardly the story might be different. Feeling like you don’t fit in? struggling with friendships? Unable to express yourself verbally? Possibly a perfectionist who can’t cope if life doesn’t go perfectly? Not able manage when routine changes? Can’t always understand people’s facial expressions? Feeling such strong feelings and intense emotions?

Autism has no definite set of symptoms and no one person experiences autism the same as another. Check out these women whose stories vary but all have autism and are all very successful, kind and bright... 

If you want to find out more look at www.nas.org.uk for more information on understanding autism.

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International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day (falling on the 8th of March every year) is a global day to recognise the achievements of women, and to talk about the inequalities between the genders which still exist today. 

Though things have changed a lot since the early 1900’s, when International Women’s Day was first observed, there is still a wage gap between men and women, and women are still disproportionately represented in the media, business, and politics. In some areas of the world, women don’t have access to education or health care, and violence against women is still high.

One of the biggest struggles is the fact that some people think that there’s “nothing to complain about” anymore, and that women’s rights and feminism are things of the past. International Women’s Day is important, because it should break some of the myths around women’s equality, and shed light on startling figures.

This year, the theme of International Women’s Day is #PressforProgress. It’s all about uniting colleagues, friends, and communities to think, and be more gender inclusive, and press forwards for ground-breaking social change. 

International Women’s Day is just as significant now as it was over 100 years ago, when it began. As the International Women’s Day website says, it’s “not country, group or organisation specific. The day belongs to all groups collectively everywhere.”

So, how are you celebrating #IWD2018

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Happy Valentine's Day! <3

Tiffany talks to us about Valentine's Day.

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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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4 things you need to know when you've been diagnosed with a mental health problem

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.

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Hollyoaks: self-harm on TV

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. 

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The pressure got to me

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 info@selfharm.co.uk
 

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Will alternatives work?

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 to 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.

Always show yourself love, patience and kindness.

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.

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Learning Disabilities Week 2017

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?

  • Tackle any isolation you see by befriending, listening and taking time to learn about them – not just their need.
  • Enable and enhance their ability to communicate with you – whether that’s through using specific forms of communication (PECS, sign language, writing, singing), have fun finding out the best ways to communicate together.
  • Find out what environment suits them best – somewhere with lots going on, somewhere quiet, group work or 1:1 chats, coffee shops or at home?

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.

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Mental Health Awareness Week 2017

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:

  • Accept it. Today is the day you face it; you may have been feeling low for quite sometime but just keep thinking ‘tomorrow will be better’, well maybe it will – but how about recognising that the last few days, weeks or months haven’t been great and your mental health isn’t in a good way?
  • Talk. To trusted friends. To someone who will listen. To childline. To Samaritans. To Self-Harm UK if you have been feeling so low you have hurt yourself in some way. Talking doesn’t magic your feelings away, however, it is proven to reduce anxiety, feelings of isolation and increase confidence in your own decision making.
  • Do something! When I was a kid there was a TV show with the line’ get out of bed and do something else instead’ – not easy if you are finding life overwhelming and filled with worry. What about asking a friend to try something with you? How about finding a ‘how to knit’ clip on youtube? What about taking a run? Like reading – join a library? Exercise is a proven way of helping you sleep and making you feel better by the chemicals it releases in your brain. If outdoors stuff isn’t your thing – tire your brain out by reading, knitting, drawing, doing sudoko, writing….find your ‘thing’ that relaxes you.
  • Get ‘real’ friends. Consider gently avoid those you don’t think have your best interest at heart. It doesn’t need to be communicated but, gradually, just loose touch with people in your life who aren’t good for you. Find friends in real life; not just online. Joining a group can be hugely daunting, but at some point, everyone in that group was new once: give it a go!
  • Look after yourself. If we are down, the first to go is often eating well. Followed by sleeping well, combined with not getting dressed or washing your hair. A few days of it is fine, but, maybe not a few weeks. The less care we take of ourselves, the more we are showing the world we feel we don’t matter and they shouldn’t think we do either. Not true. Honestly. It might be how you feel, but it isn’t a true fact.
  • Get out of bed earlier. Start by getting out of bed half an hour earlier each day; add in a shower; a walk around the block; making yourself some lunch; take another walk (see if anyone needs their dog walking or an elderly person needs some shopping)
  • Write a ‘thankful list’. Write happy days, memories, lists of people you are thankful for, the bed you have, the clean water you have, your pets – whatever makes you happy. Pin it up and read it every day.

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/surviving-or-thriving-state-uks-mental-health

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Let’s be honest: Christmas isn’t always fun is it?

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:

  • If you struggle spending time with family you don’t often see – find the nicest one in the room and zone in on them (easy if it’s someone you can play on an ipad or wii with so your family can’t complain too much about you ‘not being sociable’!
  • Give yourself breaks on your own if you need them- song lyrics, art, writing, music, reading, knitting are good ways to relax, sometimes our hands and our minds are best off busy so we focus in things other than how we feel.
  • Plan- maybe do yourself a daily plan to keep busy, combining gentle exercise with your fav hobby…try a new thing you have been thinking of.
  • Have a ready made contact list of friends if you need to – people you can text/message day and night.
  • If you are missing a loved one, how about making a present for them and putting it under the tree? It can be very helpful to acknowledge them over the Christmas time. Memory boxes out of shoes boxes, stars to put on the Tree, letters to the person – might all be helpful things to try.
  • Relaxing is so important especially if you find this time of year hard- slowing your breathing and relaxing your muscles helps reduce your anxiety, try downloading a Mindfulness app, give it a try a few times….
  • Eat healthily and sleep well – try and keep routines as much as possible, and yes, we know how tempting it is to eat the whole box of Quality Street and we all deserve a treat but….
  • Alumina on Demand is our on demand support for young people aged 14-18 who are struggling with self harm – while it’s the Christmas holidays, maybe join up and begin to work through the programme while you don’t have school and college pressures? Most days of the Christmas break someone on the Self Harm UK team is working, you can email us.
  • If you happen to feel very low, you can call Childline or Samaritans anytime at all.

May you know Hope this Christmas.

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