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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.

Self Care Week

The blog below was written by Jo Fitzsimmons, a member of the SelfharmUK Team.

Caring for others is often far easier than caring for ourselves, don’t you think?

Listening to others is one of the best gifts we can offer someone – the chance to be heard, to empty their worries and fears with us and for us to offer care, support and hope – is an incredible life giving gift.

Yet; how much do we listen to ourselves? Do we allow our own fears, worries and thoughts to be hard by others?

How do we offer ourself the same care and friendship that we extend to those we love?

I’m getting a bit older now and (I like to think) a little wiser. I now recognise I can’t help everyone or rescue them from their situations, but I can offer a listening ear or kind word... Only if I offer myself the same self compassion and care that I offer them!

To do this, I like to write a list of all the nice, encouraging, kind, thoughtful things I do to help others – and I apply it to me.

I tell myself how strong I am; how brave I am; how proud I am of me; and how thoughtful I am. I encourage myself to speak out my worries to a trusted person so I don’t feel alone with my fears; I allow myself to appreciate the things I am good at - and I outrightly laugh at myself when I make mistakes and look a bit silly!

For every person I help; I aim to help myself – by giving myself a break, by watching my favourite soap (Hollyoaks everytime!), by treating myself to a nice shampoo or baking a cake.

This week, on Self Care week, try one of these actions each day. It’s not selfish; it is life giving and will help you to become a better friend, a better son/daughter or a better sibling...

  • Look in the mirror and say one thing you like about yourself
  • Today, think of one good thing you have done to help someone and think about how it felt
  • Encourage yourself – you are braver and stronger than you will ever realise
  • Name one thing you are proud of in your life
  • Do something thoughtful for yourself in the same way you would for a friend (bake your favourite cake/watch your favourite tv show)
  • Take yourself to a place you enjoy
  • Spend time with people who love you and make you smile

Now here's some GIFs to really get you in the mood 😂

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Enjoy caring for you this Self Care Week!

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World Mental Health Day 2018

In this article, SelfharmUK Web Manager Jess chats to colleagues Jo and Helen about mental health and being a teenager for #WMHD

SHUK: Who are you and what do you do at SelfharmUK? 

J: I am Jo, I run the Alumina programmes most nights of the week. And this is a photo of me when I was a teenager...

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H: My name is Helen and I head up the emotional and mental wellbeing work that we do in Luton, this work feeds into what we do with the website and gives the young people of Luton a voice in what we do. I also deliver training and give lots of talks on mental health. This is a photo of me when I was a teenager...

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SHUK: How has your understanding of the importance of looking after your mental wellbeing changed from when you were a young person?

J: I didn’t have a clue about it as a teenager; I was told it was attention seeking behaviour if you were down, sad or angry. Now, because i have struggled with anxiety and depression at times, I understand that that is so far from the truth. 

H: When I was a teenager and you were struggling with your mental health it was put down as "hormones" or "attention seeking" because of this I didn’t understand that your mental health was something you had to look after and just thought it was something you had to be ashamed of. Now I know it is just as important as looking after my physical health, I go to the doctor for my asthma, which means that I also go to the doctor when I’m struggling with stress or anxiety.

SHUK: What do you think was your hardest life change as a teenager to adapt to? 

H: Being noticed maybe? Every few years my mum would have another baby and so I just spent a lot of time feeling lost and unimportant. Especially as three of my siblings were in school with me and they all had better grades and didn’t get into trouble like me. I felt like an outcast at home and in school and with my friends. 

J: For me it was bereavement. My best friend was killed in a car crash and I lost my much loved grandma all within a month. Loss effects our mental health greatly, I just didn’t realise how much when I was 12. 

SHUK: What do you think is the hardest change for young people to adapt to now a days?

J: I think social media plays a huge part in how we feel about ourselves; how we want to look perfect and look like we are having fun because we believe everyone else is. I know it’s not true as everyone is struggling with their own stuff, also trying to make it look like they are having an awesome time. It is hard to turn away from social media. 

H: I think the change from being a child to an adult, it’s hard to adapt to when you are expected to be an adult and make adult decisions (such as choices about your future) but at the same time being treated like a child and still dealing with the physical changes of becoming and adult.

SHUK: When you were having a bad mental wellbeing day at School, what did you do? Was there someone you could tell? What did they say? Did you tell your friends? Did they understand?

J: I struggled to talk about my feelings when i was a teenager as my family didn’t encourage us too so , I didn’t tell anyone until I was in my late teens about how hard i had found certain things. I regret that now, which is why I do my job: I know the value of someone listening to you. 

H: I didn’t really have anyone to talk to. I would yell at people or walk out of lessons or get in fights. When I expressed how much I was struggling to a few of my friends they would call me a "psycho" and would walk away from me until I was “normal” again. I just felt ashamed. 

SHUK: What advice would you give to young people struggling with any aspect of their mental wellbeing?

J: Find help - whether that’s through a friend, parent, counsellor, online safe place (ChildlineThe Mix or Young Minds) - and begin to explore why you feel like you do. Don’t stay silent, there’s people who want to help. 

H: Ask for help, people are much more understanding now, it’s not something to be ashamed of and there are loads of different places you can get help from, online, in person, over the phone and more (as Jo has mentioned above). Also find healthy ways of expressing how you feel, art, music, baking, writing, working with animals. Mostly be kind to yourself. 

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Roald Dahl Day

What have all these people got in common?

·     Matilda

·     Charlie

·     James 

·     Sophie

·     Danny 

Yup, they are all imaginary characters, from the imagination of Roald Dahl. None of them are real, none of their lives are real. And yet…

They are orphans, sufferers, victims of bullying, often worried, scared and voiceless, strugglers who undergo changes to become the heroes of their own destinies. 

Don’t we sometimes wish we could have that one person who encourages us, inspires us and help us, a magical person to guide us through our trials and pains?

Of course, you know that real life doesn’t have magic, Big Friendly Giants nor gigantic peaches that we can fly away on.

It does, however, hold real life catalysts: people who can help us become more of the person we want to be. These catalytic people are people who listen to us, who help us deal with the daily challenges we face. They might be a friend, a family member, a teacher, a counsellor, a CAMHS worker.

They aren’t magicians, they can’t make everything better, but, if just for 10 minutes a day, they make you feel like you can do this, then they are your BFG or Miss Honey.

Find your Miss Honey today!

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Having hope

The Hope group is a small group of young girls that meet every week to help each other encourage positive mental health and emotional wellbeing within their every day lives.

The group has been running for a few months now and we wanted to share with you some of what we've been up to. So far, we've...

Talked about our aims for the group 👍 ------>

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Shared what helps us when we're having tough days 👎 ------>

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Discussed the things we're looking forward to 👀 ------>

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And the things we're always thankful for 💝 ------>

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We've even created and designed our own positive quotes 💙 ------>

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And did some decoupage too 🦄 ------>

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If we could give you any message, that message would be to believe and to have hope that whatever you're going through, you're going to get through it and become a stronger person because of it 💪 ------>

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Love, the Hope group x

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Have a Little Patience

I don’t know about you, but having patience is something I really struggle with. A quick Google definition search brings up that the word ‘Patience’ means ‘the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious’ and the example given is "You can find bargains if you have the patience to sift through the rubbish."

You know that saying ‘all good things come to those who wait’? Well that’s all well and good, but how do I know how long I should wait? 

Life can sometimes feel like a bit of a waiting game. When we’re young and at school, we wait for the Christmas holidays and then the summer holidays, and as we get older we wait for the end of school, the end of college and then the end of university. Once we start work, we wait for the pay rises, promotions and job changes; and in our personal lives we wait to buy our first car, our first flat, to meet someone, and to hopefully buy our forever home.

But not all of these things are a given and that’s where my struggle to have patience comes in. If I don’t know something is guaranteed to happen - what if I end up wasting my life waiting for it? 

When you suffer from anxiety, having patience can seem impossible. My anxiety is often caused by my constant catastrophizing and endless ‘what if…?’ questions that I allow to spin around and round in my mind… “what if I never get a promotion?”, “what if I never move out of my mum’s house?” and “what if I never meet anyone?”. These are completely irrational thoughts as they aren’t based on any fact! 

But irrational thoughts often cause us to act irrationally. So, instead of having patience, I regularly lose my temper and blame the people I love for the fact that I’m not where I want to be in life. Whilst behaving this way always feels good at the time, in the long run it actually makes me feel bad about myself and brings me no closer to answering those “what if…” questions.

Perhaps the key to finding patience and knowing how long to wait is to simply change the question. Instead of worrying ‘what if I never get a promotion?’, I should change the question to become ‘what if I don’t get a promotion in the next five years?’. By putting a realistic time frame on it, this not only helps me to feel positive about it potentially happening, but it also helps me to feel in control of how long I should wait, which then in turn, encourages me to be patient. 

Think you could give it a go? Maybe this will help…

Let’s turn that example from Google into something a bit more relatable:

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Feelings

Sophie talks to us about the importance of sharing our feelings.

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How will this ever change?

Changing yourself: not in any big way and not too much at once. Choose one area at a time and work on that. School? A friendship? Your relationship with your parents? The more in control we feel of the choices we make; the better our mental health. 

Asking for help: it is hard to ask for help as we are admitting we can’t manage on our own, but the reality is, we aren’t made to. If you think we way to the beginning of time, people have always existed in groups – none of us are meant to manage life on our own so asking for help, not only helps you but actually creates stronger relationships too. Who would you like to ask for help?

Saying no: it’s a hugely important skill. We all need to practise it more, as it means we are taking control about what we don’t want to do; who we don’t to spend to time with; what we aren’t comfortable with…. Is there anything you want to say no to?

Making small steps: don’t try and leap… one small decision a day is a big step forward. Often we want to change so fast and we want it all done now. There are many trite sayings but the fact is, they are true. Long lasting change takes a lot of time and investment. What small step would you like to make today?

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What happens after you tell someone you have self-harmed?

Telling someone is a long and hard process for many of us – it starts by choosing who, then deciding how to tell them (face to face, via text or on the phone) then we have to work out what words to use…

The overwhelming response from telling the right person is the feeling of being supported. Once they have heard you and tried to help you work out why; they should suggest telling a professional person like a teacher or Doctor.

A teacher, a parent or Doctor are good people to tell: telling your friend and only your friend puts an unfair amount of pressure on them so together telling someone else who knows how to support you, is more helpful.

If you tell your parent, they will most probably take you to the doctor;

If you tell a teacher, they may inform your parents depending on your school’s policy;

If you tell your doctor, they won’t inform your parents if you are over 14.

One way or another – you will most probably end up seeing your Doctor.

So then what happens...?

Your doctor will ask you:

  • How long you have been harming?
  • If you know why you harm?
  • Have you told anyone else?
  • Have you thought of suicide? 

If the idea of answering these questions is too overwhelming, you can write your answers before you go and just pass the doctor the piece of paper – it doesn’t matter how you communicate; just that you do.

The Doctor will almost certainly refer you to CAMHS (children and adolescent mental health services). This doesn’t mean you are mad or mentally unwell; it means they are specialists in supporting young people and their counsellors are trained to help teenagers. 

Frustratingly, there is a huge waiting list all over the country, it may be up to a year before you get an appointment L  Your school might have a counsellor you can talk to; they often have spaces quicker than CAMHS or, which is happening a lot more, young people are seeing private counsellors which their families have to pay for. If you want to look up a private counsellor in your area check out www.bacp.org.uk 

The first appointment is called an Access Appointment; it is an assessment to make sure they are the right service for you. They often get you fill in a long form called a Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire which is a multiple choice set of questions about issues such as food, sleep, moods, school, relationships…there are no right or wrong answers as you are the expert in ‘you’!  

From there, they will often give you a set of 6 sessions (to start with) with either a mental health nurse, a Community Psychiatric Nurse (a CNP it’s called for short) or a Psychiatrist. It doesn’t matter which you see and there is no real distinction between them, it’s often about who has space for you in the diary. 

It is a Consultant Psychiatrist who will over- see your case and line managers the others to make sure they are supporting you; it is also the psychiatrist who can write prescriptions if it is felt you need any medication to help you until your mood stabilises.

www.headmeds.org.uk is a great website to help you understand what medication is what and that it's your choice as to whether you want medication or not.

Each area in the country has a slightly different way of doing things, but overall, this is the process for supporting young people who are self-harming. 

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Talking To The Doctor

Here at SelfharmUK we want to help people understand their harming behaviour and explore other ways to cope with life's challenges.

If you get in touch we'll listen to your story and suggest ways to help you move forward ... but somewhere along the line we'll almost always suggest you visit your GP.  This can be a really tough thing to do, we know it can be scary, and can mean having to tell your parents too (though not always) but we believe it can be a significant step towards feeling better.

We asked GP David Roberts what you can expect when talking to your doctor about self-harm and whilst this article is only a guide - and not a definitive set of facts - we hope it will help you feel more in control, if and when, you walk into that consulting room...

Why do I have to go to the Doctor?

Self-harming is usually an indication that all is not right. People sometimes do it because it relieves internal tension and stress. It is not a very good way of doing this and like drugs, alcohol and smoking ultimately doesn't do any good. But in the short term it gives a temporary relief from emotional pain. However, it can be a symptom of a more serious mental illness and so your doctor can make sure you get the help you need.

Can I go on my own or do I have to take a parent?

You can legally go to the GP alone aged 16, but doctors can accept that you may be able to make your own decisions about your health (eg contraception) from 14 if they think you understand things and are mature enough to do so. A doctor would want you to involve your parent(s) in your care until you are 16 and are likely to encourage you. They would not give you an injection or carry out an operation, or even do an intimate (embarrassing) examination (physical check) without your parent's permission before you are 16.

How can I get ready for my appointment?

Even if you are under 16 That does not mean that you cannot talk to them about your problems or issues. It is a good idea to think about what you want to say and write the main points down. Lots of people get embarrassed at what they want to say and so don't get to the point. Doctors are busy and don't get embarrassed by what you think or say, so it is better to take a deep breath and say it right at the beginning rather than put it off. They won't mind and it will give them more time to talk to you than if you spend the first five minutes talking about a rash that no one can see because it really isn't there!  Think about what you want to get out of the appointment - do you just want to tell someone and get it off your chest, do you want help stopping it, do you want them to refer you on to someone who could give you specialist help? If you tell them what you want then they can work out how best to support you.

What will happen if I say I self harm?

Self harming is quite common and they will have seen other people who do it. So they won't be shocked, but they will be concerned. The biggest concern they would have is that you might want to kill yourself. Not many people who self harm want to do this but doctors have a professional duty to assess the risk of that happening. they are obliged to keep what you say confidential and private between you and them, unless you tell them something that they think might indicate that your health is seriously at risk (or you might be planning to do something that might endanger someone else) - see later - in which case they may be obliged to break your confidence. They should tell you this. They will want to help you, and so if you have plucked up courage to tell them, they will try to find ways to do that.

What will they ask me?

This might include asking some deep questions which you might find embarrassing: don't be though, they're only trying to work out what's making you do this. They'll ask about cutting, taking drugs, overdoses, and other ways you might be tempted to hurt yourself. They may ask you about how you feel (low, depressed, crying, worried, frightened, angry) and how things are at home or school or work.  If they feel you trust them they might ask you to come back again to see them, and they might suggest that they refer you on to see a specialist from the CAMH service (people who work most of their time with young people with similar problems). They might encourage you to speak to a counsellor at school, particularly if there is someone there you feel you can talk to. They will want to know why you have come to see them at that time and to find out what help you want them to give you. You may not be able to say this, but if you've thought about it beforehand it will help.

Do they have to tell my parents?

They are obliged in law to protect you and others from actions you might take that might harm you or others. But they need to check how likely your might be to do something you say you want to do so they will question you quite hard. If you are under 16 and they think you are suicidal (or planning a murder!) they will have to tell your parents or other authorities. They will still encourage you to involve your parents as they have legal responsibility for you, but if the risk is low in their view, they will try their best to keep what you say confidential.

Will I have to show them where I have self-harmed?

They can't and won't force you (unless they are seriously worried about you being in danger and even then they will ask for advice from someone who specialises in child protection). They will want to assess how bad your injuries are - you might need antibiotics if your cuts are infected, and you might need dressings to protect the wounds.

Remember they aren't easily shocked or embarrassed and really want to help you - showing them the extent of your cutting will help them work out how serious the problem is and how to get you the best help.

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Forgiveness

There are so many things we can achieve in life – whether it’s the first steps in walking; being able to read; working out a maths problem or getting your first job – we learn new things daily.

One thing I think is way harder than anything else to achieve in life is forgiveness.

It sounds so easy yet is so very, very hard to do. It’s a long process – we might say ‘we forgive you’ but the feelings of resentment, hurt and anger are harder too control. 

Forgiveness is a choice – it involves our brain deciding on it as it’s a choice; it involves actively putting it into practise and it involves letting go of the emotions that are so strong – even more so if we need to forgive ourselves.

We all make mistakes; perfection isn’t real and doesn’t exist (see the vlog on perfectionism); we are going to mess up – life is a learning curve. In the same way it took most of us about 18 months to walk; it takes years to forgive.

Forgiving yourself is the same process as forgiving someone else, but often harder as we are the forgiver and the forgive (the person being forgiven) so most of us go through a cycle of being kind to ourselves about the mistakes we have made; then, once we feel the resentment/anger creeping back, we are even harder on ourselves than before – and so the cycle continues……

Breaking the ‘forgiveness/self- anger’ cycle takes time; a lot of daily positive self-talking (list things you do like about yourself), often physically writing what you forgive yourself for (arguing with people, saying unkind things, not doing as well as you could…) and learning, again and again, to tell yourself ‘ I am human. I will make mistakes. I am forgiven. I choose to forgive’. 

It’s a life time mantra  - it will take forever because our life is about journeying to grow as people, so be gentle to yourself and start your self-forgiveness journey today.

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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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Helping your friend to ‘train their mind'

So, this isn’t Derren Brown stuff...

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Honest!

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

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

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

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

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

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Friends are heroes

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

“It helps,” Regan says.

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

“It itches,” she says sharply.

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Eating Disorders and Self-harm

Self-harm is a way of harming our bodies in a variety of ways; most of them around us feeling out of control in some way.

This week is Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Eating disorders come under that category as the effects are on your body, as well as emotions and having psychological effects. For most people, they begin gradually, over a period of time: maybe skipping a meal? Taking up exercising a few times a day? Things that can appear to actually be ok and not cause anyone to notice as they slowly develop…however, what started as a way of taking control and coping, can soon become an addiction.

Addictions start small scale: one day at a time incidents “I’ll do this today because I feel like this today….”, however, it doesn’t take long for the addiction to take control of our feelings and become the master of us. Habits are formed within 30 days, so our brain rewires itself to follow our actions – both positive and negative.

Eating disorders encompass a huge variety of issues around disordered eating from bulimia (eating and then vomiting), to anorexia (self-starving) and binge eating (eating loads and loads); yet they all have some similarities:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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