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We can’t be there in person to help and support you in a moment of crisis, but there are other options available to you if you can’t turn to someone you trust. By giving us your postcode (or one nearby to where you are right now) we can let you know about services in your area. Remember: this moment will pass; you won’t always feel the way you do right now. 

If in doubt always call 999.

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Dedicated to self-harm recovery, insight and support.

Movember

Rob talks to us about Movember.

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Anger

Matt talks to us about Anger.

SelfharmUK vlog: Anger
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World Suicide Prevention Day 2017

Words matter, don’t they?

They have the power to inspire hope or induce despair in seconds.

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day, and at ThinkTwice we believe that the words we use to describe the despair of thoughts of suicide are important.

It’s thought that up to a quarter of young people have suicidal thoughts - and yet so many suffer in silence  - afraid of the stigma that can be attached to suicide.

When we use phrases like “commit suicide” or “failed suicide attempt” we make it seem unspeakable.

And yet suicide isn’t a crime to be committed; it’s a preventable tragedy; and the way we prevent it is by talking about it.

When we talk about suicide, we want to be talking about hope, because where there is life there is hope.

Having thoughts of suicide doesn’t make you a bad person, it doesn’t mean you’re crazy, it just means you’re struggling.

And that’s okay.

It’s okay to speak out when you’re struggling - because when you speak out you allow yourself to be helped - and you help to lessen the stigma.

It doesn’t matter whether you talk to a teacher or a parent - what matters is that you talk about it.

If you’re the one hearing your friend speak about suicide, it can feel scary, but you aren’t alone.

Whether you're struggling yourself or it’s your friend - there are people you can talk to.

So this World Suicide Prevention Day we are encouraging everyone to speak of suicide and to speak of hope.

To find out more about our campaign head to ThinkTwice or follow the hashtag on Twitter #SpeakofSuicide #WSPD17 

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Alumina Summer Programme - Coping with scars

Jo talks to us about coping with scars.

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When it all seems too much…

Oliver shares with us what feeling overwhelmed is like for them.

Some days, just even opening my eyes feels hard. I lay there arguing with myself in my head: whether to try and sleep the whole day; or whether to try and talk myself into facing the day…

Then comes the endless interactions with others:

“did you sleep ok?”

“how are you doing today?”

“can you make sure you eat breakfast please?”

“got any plans for today?”

“what about your future – we need to get your college sorted?”

then I go upstairs to get dressed:

what to wear today, nothing feels ‘right’ or comfortable, nothing feels ‘me’ – how do I cover the scars?  Then I feel angry – why should I cover the scars? But I don’t feel brave enough not to. I feel so angry with myself for cutting, I hate that I did it but now I feel proud of myself for stopping, but sad that I did it…

I think I will just stay in my pjs today – getting dressed feels too much, too hard, too many decisions to make.

I sit watching TV, just trying to ignore the world and it’s many demands of me: from what I think of anything and everything (I am supposed to have an opinion on politics, my education, best films, worst band, foods I like…the list is endless). I like TV, I can get lost in not having to think or even follow what’s happening too much; my mind can flit in and out without demands or questions.

I am falling asleep when my phone goes: a text. Great – another distraction and prompt to enter someone else’s world.

This time it’s different:  someone is entering my world.

My Mum.

“ Hi love, just want to say – I love you. I know you are finding things hard and I may not help in the best way, but I want to help. Let me know how I can.”

I sit and think. Help: I am being offered it but I don’t even know what I need.

I reply: “Mum, I don’t know what I need. I am very unhappy but I don’t know why.”

Mum: “it’s ok to be unhappy and not know why. It’s ok to be happy and not know why. All you need to know is that you are loved, feeling like this won’t last forever, and no matter what, we will be with you, however long it takes”.

I fly downstairs and run to my mum, sitting in the sofa. I climb on her lap and am engulfed in her hug. I am safe (even when I don’t feel safe), I am loved (even when I don’t feel loved), I will get better (even when I can’t remember the last good day I had), my mum might annoy me and ask loads of questions but she actually wants to help.

When it all feels too much: I know this, I am not on my own.

I have found someone who wants to know me even when it feels too much.

It might not be your mum who texts you, it might be that you have to text someone a sad face to let them know you aren’t doing well.

I used to expect people to know that something wasn’t going well without me having to tell them, but now I realise, it’s up to me to ask for help: I can’t expect people to guess.

I am glad my mum text me, I know other people don’t have that. I hope you can find someone today to help you if you are feeling like this – it might be a friend, a counsellor, a youth worker or even the Samaritans – you can call them free or text them 116 123  (I have called them a few times and they were really helpful and kind and didn’t judge me at all).

 

SelfharmUK run Alumina which is an online support session for young people struggling with self-harm: it’s open to all, it’s confidential, very relaxed and run by professionals so is completely safe for you. 

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Taking Pride in who I am

The Pride celebrations in London are over for another year, but coming out can still feel like a struggle. The blog post below was written by Lydia. She hopes you find it helpful.

Coming out for many people is hard. But not for everyone. My own experiences shone a light on how enlightening this experience and care free it can be. In the past month I have finally come out as bisexual. 

Before it happened I was petrified, being bisexual was never something I was completely sure on. Liking someone of the same sex I had never denied the possibility but I had also never embraced it until it happened. My own experiences of coming out might be or have been extremely different from anyone else. Everyone is different that's how we're made and how we experiences life is also extremely different from one another. 

Coming out for me felt like I was finally being able to be who I wanted to be and like who I wanted to like. I had decided years before I was going to wait until I found someone of the same sex before I came out as bisexual. This decision was made by myself so I could find someone who I liked and take it at my own pace. The decision was also made so I myself I knew I like the same sex more than as friends since it was something I had questioned. And it happened. I found her. And it was like a tsunami sweeping me away when it happened. It was the most liberating and freeing thing I could have ever experienced. But fear also began to consume me. I had never dated a girl before so what would everyone think? But I thought about it, a lot. And I came to realise that there's millions of people out there who identify themselves in the LGTBQI society. I wasn't alone in this and this wasn't uncommon thing to be going through. Telling my family was the easy bit, luckily for me they were accepting and weren't phased by me being with a girl. My friends, what can I say? They were great about it, confused and questioning where it had come from but supportive. 

The impact coming out has had on my life has been incredibly positive. It's helped me overcome so many battles and issues and made me realise that it's okay to be myself. I've realised that the people who will talk are the people who don't understand and that's ok, that's not your fault, it's up to them to educate themselves. It also been a way of me accepting myself more and learning to love myself for who I am. Because I am a strong independent woman who falls in love with whoever I want to and I won't conform to  anyone's expectations. I highly recommend for those still in question about coming out to do it. Because you in yourself will feel so much better for it. 

To sum coming out in one word I'd use ‘empowering’. 

You can check out Lydia's blog and vlogging links here.

You can also visit the Stonewall website for further support.

For more information about self-harm in LGBTQI young people, check out our Facts page.

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I feel the urge

The piece below was written by Jo Fitzsimmons, a member of the SelfharmUK Team. The urge to self-harm is often all consuming and when it comes, it's hard to think of anything else! Next time you feel the urge to self-harm, try slowly reading this outloud, whilst breathing deeply.

 

I am twitchy, full of nervous energy

I can’t sit still, I can’t focus,

I am breathing quickly,

I am wringing my hands.

 

I try to calm myself

I try to take control

The thoughts are coming quickly

Spiralling into my head

My breathing gets faster

 

I must take control

 

Slow

Slow    slow      slow      slow

Slow

I tell myself

 

The battle is done – I make the choice

 

Run on the spot

Clench my fists

Breathe          Breathe          Breathe

Run on the spot

Clench my fists

Breathe         Breathe           Breathe

 

I feel the urge

 

                             Slow                             Slow                                     Slow

 

I match my breathing to the dogs

I bite my hands and wait

 

And wait

 

And wait

 

The tears begin to flow

 

The urge has passed

 

I made the choice

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Fear

We don’t often recognise fear in ourselves – perhaps we cover it with anger (at the thing we are fearful about) or shame (that we feel scared); fear is powerful and hinders us in so many areas of our lives.

As humans we are built with a ‘fight or flight’ response in our brains, this means we either stand and literally fight when we are scared or we run from the thing that scares us. But what do we do if the thing that scares us, is us?

Whether it be fear of our feelings and that we might act on those deep feelings; whether it be of a person we fear for what they might say to us or do to hurt us; whether it be the fear of feeling which cripples us – Fear is hard to overcome.

Often the feeling of fear is mixed with feeling anxious. Perhaps you get a bad tummy and have to run to the loo, maybe you take too many pills to ease the worry, you might cut to try and take away the fear – however you try and deal with it, here are a few ideas to help reduce the fear inside:

Acknowledge it. Learn to recognise which feelings inside you are which; fear feels different to anger, but often anger is an emotion that is secondary. If you are feeling angry a lot, ask yourself ‘is there another feeling underneath it’?

Get fear out of you. The more fear comes out from inside us, the less power it has to stop us living our life. Whether you are able to speak it by telling someone, whether you write out what it is that you are fearing, whether you draw it, whether you text it; get it out. It’s like a Harry Potter dementor, it will suck life from you.

Breathe. The more scared we are, the less we breathe, the less we breathe, the more we have panic attacks.

While you are calm, practise breathing slowing, count breaths in and out, teach yourself to breath slowly so the blood and oxygen allow you to continue to think clearly and remain calm.

Be active. Fear creates adrenalin in us, this makes us feel on edge and twichy. Work with your body, if you are feeling like this; do a work out, find a yoga clip on youtube, go for a run, repeatedly punch a pillow – let the adrenalin out of your system so you can calm down.

Deal with the fear. The hardest one of all: can you deal with the actual issue of your fear? Is there any solution or resolution in facing the issue or person that is making you feel this fearful? Currently the person or situation is ruling your life and hindering you flourishing: what, if anything, can you do to change that?

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Heartbreak

A broken heart hurts. It doesn’t matter how long you knew someone for or how often you saw them. If you have feelings for them and they don’t feel the same, they broke your heart and nothing will ever change that.

This may be your first heart break or you may have had your heart broken too many times to count. However many times it’s happened, it still hurts EXACTLY the same.

That pain in your chest that you’re carrying around makes you wonder if you’ll ever feel truly happy again. Sure, you can still smile. Like when your friends make you laugh, or you see something funny on Facebook. But you don’t feel it on the inside. All you feel is pain and emptiness, because the only person who can really make you happy right now - is gone. And they are never coming back.

OK, so they didn’t die. But they may as well have. They aren’t a part of your life anymore and all the things you loved about them are gone too.

I’m not talking about love here. Well I am, but you don’t have to be in love with someone to feel sad when they decide not to be a part of your life anymore. A friend of mine once said “I’ve been in enough relationships now to know that I haven’t really been in love with the people I’ve dated.”

She liked them A LOT. But the older she got, and the more couples she met, the more she came to realise that to love someone (and to be loved in return) is much more than just texting every day and spending time together at weekends.

Whilst you may not have truly loved them, you’ve still lost someone important to you through no choice of your own. And even though you might have known deep down that they wouldn’t be in your life for ever - you still secretly hoped they would.

If you type ‘heart break advice’ into Google right now, you’ll get a lot of tips (particularly around listening to Taylor Swift songs) about how to ease the pain of a broken heart. After you’ve read this blog, I suggest you do this (listening to Taylor Swift songs are optional however!).

I didn’t write this blog to give you advice about how to fix your broken heart. I wrote it because heart break can sometimes feel like the loneliest pain in the world, and I wanted you to know that you’re not alone. It can often be the type of pain that gets joked about or only associated with books or films. Sure, heart break will forever be a GREAT excuse to sit around watching Netflix for a whole weekend, not bothering to wash and eating as much ice cream and chocolate you can get your hands on! But what if the pain you’re feeling goes deeper than that?

Have you ever tried explaining to someone else that your heart feels like it’s been smashed to bits? Not easy is it. And that’s how heart break can so easily be dismissed. Because you can’t explain how you feel. Plus, even if you could, you feel pretty embarrassed and foolish that you trusted someone with your heart in the first place.

However you feel, know that your feelings are valid. Know that the pain you feel right now, is OK to feel. Sit with it. And cry with it. Don’t try to understand it or fix it. Just know that when it goes, you’ll be a stronger person because of it. 

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Dear Reader

The blog post below was written by a lovely lady called Emma, who got in touch with SelfharmUK to share her story about her recovery from bulimia and self-harm.

Dear Reader,

What I am writing here is really a love letter to my younger self, and I hope that it will help you too.  You see, I grew up not knowing how to love myself.  In fact, it felt selfish to do that. I felt, for many, many years, that I was somehow a bad and unlovable person.  I developed a lot of ‘coping strategies’ to keep myself feeling that I could not be hurt by other people.

I don’t know what tactics you are using, but mine were mainly around pretending: pretending to be confident, pretending to be friendly, pretending to be happy, pretending to be transparent and open – and all the time, inside, I hated myself (and many of them), I didn’t trust anyone, I was self-harming, bulimic and generally wishing that I was dead. 

There is so much stigma about mental health, when all it really is – is some sad memories and an imbalance of the chemicals in our brain. Isn’t it weird that society makes it seem more than that? That we feel embarrassed to be sick? Stupid, isn’t it. Well – I’m not embarrassed anymore. I am proud – very, very proud for having the courage to say I was sick, and continuing my journey to get well.

People often think that when we have depression and anxiety or hurt ourselves, we are being selfish – that we are ‘wrapped up’ in ourselves. I often found that people criticised me in that way. And yet I felt that I was living for others. I must have been – because I didn’t love myself enough to be living for me – back then…

You know what? Self-harm is not selfish. It’s self-preservation. The pain in the heart is so strong that sometimes you feel like you want to just smash the world apart, hit people, break things, scream, set the world on fire, destroy your life and that of those around you.  So, instead of doing those things, we turn the pain inwards and cut, scrape, pick, harm our own bodies… or stuff our bellies and throw it up… or refuse to eat… because for a little while we get to be in control, we get to decide - and while we are feeling that physical pain, we get some relief from the torture inside our chemically unbalanced little minds and our sad hearts.

I don’t know your exact circumstances or what you are doing to yourself in order to try to handle those very difficult feelings. But let me tell you something, I know for a fact that you are trying! I know for a fact that, right now, as you read this blog, you are doing your very best to try and get well.  People who want to stay depressed, anxious or unhappy do not surf the internet to find blogs like this one. Because you are looking for advice and help, you are on your way towards health.

Let that be a source of hope for you. I am so proud of you for investing in yourself by reading this blog. We have never met, but I promise you, you are more deeply loved than you can ever imagine. Recovery is not easy, but you can get well – and you have already started your journey of recovery. Keep going! I promise you, you can do this. I know you find it so very hard to believe – but I promise you, you can.

Lots of love,

Emma

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13 Reasons Why: the what's what

“Hey, It’s Hannah. Hannah Baker. Don’t adjust your… whatever device you’re hearing this on. It’s me, live and in stereo. No return engagements, no encore, and this time, absolutely no requests. Get a snack. Settle in. Because I’m about to tell you the story of my life. More specifically, why my life ended.”

Have you seen it yet? The compelling and heart-breaking story of Hannah Baker, because most of the young people I work with have. 13 Reasons Why is THE show we’re all talking about.

Here at SelfharmUK two members of our team spent a whole day watching the show from beginning to end. We had heard a lot of things about it and so we wanted to make our own minds up.

In the end, we realised there were several different things we wanted to address so decided to split them up. We’ve written an article for parents and adults urging them to take seriously the issues addressed in the show; bullying, sexting, sexual harassment, self-harm, suicidal ideation, drinking, drink driving, abusive families, loneliness, adults not listening or paying attention to what young people say etc. These are all things young people face daily, this story rings true for so many of the people we meet.

We wanted parents to know they need to listen and talk to their kids about stuff, but we don’t need to tell you that. We want to tell young people something else.

So now we are writing something for young people because we have some important things we want to tell you.

We want to tell you to speak up before it’s too late. We want to tell you that someone else choosing to take their own life is never your fault. We want you to look after yourselves especially when it comes to what you are watching. We want to tell you it gets better.

Let’s start with the obvious, Hannah isn’t real, her experience might be something you or someone you know has experienced but simply put, she’s not real. Her story isn’t your story. Her decisions, her life, is made up by an author and a screen writer and a few others. But they aren’t real.

Hannah’s story also doesn’t show the finality of her decisions, we still hear her voice, it’s not like she’s really gone.

Outside of the show it is final, it is real, and it leaves behind a lot of pain.

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide then PLEASE ask someone for help. There are some contacts at the bottom of the page.

Suicide is not the easy way out, it is not selfish and it is not for the weak. It is what people do when they feel like they have no hope, when they can’t see things getting better. Suicide leaves behind a lot of people who will be blaming themselves

Hannah’s family and friends are seen asking why? How did they miss the signs? They are already feeling guilty, like they failed her. But they are not responsible for Hannah’s decision.

Hannah is.

Nobody can make that choice for her, nobody told her to do it, nobody else is to blame. Yes, people hurt her and didn’t listen. But that does not mean it is their fault that she chose to kill herself.

What Hannah does to her friends is awful, she blames them for making mistakes, or in the case of Clay, for listening to her.

Clay had done nothing wrong, yet she made him feel guilty when all he did was care about her. It wasn’t fair of her to put that burden on him, to traumatise him that way. What does she think the impact those tapes will have on people? We see how it affected Alex, Jess and Clay, making them question their reality, leading them to hurt themselves

We need to take responsibility for our own actions, how we treat people and how we ask for help.

There are many things Hannah Baker could have done but chose not to do. She could have asked for help from her parents of a teacher. She could have been honest with her friends about how she was struggling. Instead she pushed everyone away and blamed them for her final decision.

We can ALWAYS ask for help, and people do listen. Think of the incredible friends you have around you, that one teacher who supports you, the person at the end of the line of the online chat. The story shows one bad example of her asking for help. That’s it. What it needs to show is the great help that is out there.

This show, whilst talking about real issues, lies to the viewer. It says that it is ok to blame other people for what we do, it is says that telling an adult is a last resort and that they won’t handle what you say well.

We want to tell you that this isn’t true.

13 Reasons Why tells a story of a broken young person who chose to make a very final decision without ever really asking for help. Hannah is gone, her story might live on but she doesn’t.

Hannah doesn’t know that it gets better. She didn’t get to see what life outside school would be like. What changes might have come her way if she had told people about what was happening her. She makes a decision that she can’t take back.

We don’t want that idea to be something that young people take from watching this show, we don’t want them to think suicide is ever an option.

As we said earlier what we want is for you to speak up before it’s too late. We want to tell you that someone else choosing to take their own life is never your fault. We want you to look after yourselves especially when it comes to what you are watching. We want to tell you it gets better.

Have hope. 

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Why that person?

Loosing someone you love is one of the hardest things in the world to come to terms with. In the blog below, Ben, a trainee Youth Worker currently living in Oundle, talks about his experiences of loss.

Over the last two to three years I have been unfortunate enough to go through the pain of grief and loos. Some of natural causes, some of unforeseen situations. The first of which was a guy I used to serve when I worked in my local shop. He was elderly and addicted to alcohol, so wasn’t living the healthiest of lifestyles. I came into work, expecting to see him, to buy his bottle and newspaper, but that day he never came. I found out later that he had died of a heart attack. I remember the shock, the last I saw him he was fine, I couldn’t get my head around not seeing him anymore, the grief came and passed quickly and I moved on with my life.

The next two were far more difficult to deal with. The first was a family friend. A family man who was the father of three young children and the husband to a wonderful woman. I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news I was having a family dinner with my girlfriend to celebrate the end of the school year, then the phone rang. He’d died, gone, never to be seen again. The loss was sudden and no-one could believe it and although everything was done to keep him alive, it wasn’t to be. I remember to this day being told and my heart sinking. The thoughts running through my head; “what do I say to the family? How do I support the family?” and then it hit me, the grief of thinking these things through, imagining life and what it must be like, but also knowing the family myself. I sometimes feel like I didn’t have the right to grieve, after all, he wasn’t my direct family. Then I realised, I still knew him, I had been around the family for a long time and it was obviously going to be tough on me too, but it was more the thought of everything that had been left behind. This caused me to ask a lot of questions and to get very angry at God; ‘why did he do this? Why of all people did you take him?’ I still don’t know the answer to this, but what I do know is that it has brought a close family even closer.

Just after I moved to Peterborough, I was scrolling through Facebook when I saw something that shook me to my core. A friend from my home in Essex, aged just 20, had passed away in his sleep. What on earth was going? I couldn’t believe that someone who was so healthy, so full of life and so joyful was taken in one night! It was only a few months before this I saw him daily and spoke with him. I couldn’t get my head around it. I remember thinking, this could have been me! A selfish thought maybe, but the truth. it made me realise that our lives are not everlasting and we never know what will come next, what’s around the corner. I remember coming home for the funeral though, there were so many people there, the church was full and not everyone was able to fit inside. My first thought after this was not of grief, pain, anger or hurt, although I did miss him, it was of thankfulness, thankfulness of a life lived and people re-connecting because of this sudden and sad loss.

I didn’t know why any of these things happened, or why those people were taken, I want to be able to say stay strong when these things happen but I believe that the right thing to do is to grieve. We are made to feel emotions for a reason, so don’t be afraid to get angry, don’t be afraid to scream and cry but remember, you will get through this and no matter what happens in life, live every second of it, because you never know what’s next. 

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Self-harm is real

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

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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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Warning - Implosive!

Emotionally exploding can be dangerous, often we end up hurting those closest to us and we don’t necessarily feel any better for it afterwards. That being said, sometimes I wish I had just exploded. Instead I was imploding.  I thought the latter would be safer, only hurting myself but really it’s just as dangerous as the first option.  I thought that I could handle everything I was feeling but the truth is I didn’t even know what I was feeling. I couldn’t separate out my emotions. Was I angry, hurt, depressed, frustrated, sad…? If I couldn’t even pin point what I was feeling, how could I explain it to anyone else?  How could someone else understand what I couldn’t understand? So I bottled it up inside, trying to deal with it myself.  Anxiety started to become the overriding emotion and once a week I would implode.  Panic would take over my body; I couldn’t get out of bed.  Simple tasks would fill me with fear and make my heart race. 

I tried talking to a friend about it a couple of times – they wanted to help and suggest things that I could do to help myself but I couldn’t hear it.  The fact that they could talk about my feelings so rationally and offer solutions so easily just made me feel pathetic.  I felt that I was the problem – I couldn’t cope with simple situations that other people could easily manage if they were in my position.

It seemed so hopeless until one day I had arranged to see the careers advisor at my work.  Before I knew it I was blurting out an incoherent, blubbering, rambling mess of how I was feeling. She was a stranger, sat there listening in silence until I had finished. When I’d finished, she didn’t try to offer an answer, she simply acknowledged that what I was feeling was valid. I wasn’t crazy, just confused and being too hard on myself. She offered me sessions with a counsellor where I could have the space and time to try and get to the source of what I was feeling, identify what was triggering my anxiety, and work on some practical tools I could use to stay calmer during an episode of anxiety. I’m still a work in progress but, a year after my turning point I feel the burden has lifted significantly. I’m trying to keep my family and friends clued in on what I’m working through so they can help spot when I am feeling overwhelmed.  When I feel the tendency to bottle it all up and implode I turn to someone I really trust and simply say “I’m feeling anxious today but I’m not really sure why”.  They don’t always understand but they are trying to.  I think it helps them to know I am not being distant and moody; I’m just trying to stay above water.

Try talking to someone. If you feel you can talk to a friend or family member then give it a go. If it doesn’t make you feel instantly better that’s ok. There are other options out there. If you would rather talk to a stranger, there are great free services through school, or through a recommendation by your GP.  If you don’t know what to talk about or can’t put into words how you are feeling then even saying that is a start. Stop beating yourself up for not being able to cope.  It’s ok to admit that you feel overwhelmed.  It will take time but you can feel better.  You deserve to be happy.

 Louise is a Research Scientist working in Dublin i.e. she is a massive geek. She is passionate about informing and encouraging young adults - empowering them to realise how awesome they truly are!

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