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.
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.
Occasionally, but not always, you might need to decide if you need immediate medical help.
It could be that either accidentally, or deliberately, you have harmed yourself and now, you feel scared about the impact of it on your body.
It maybe that you need to dial 999 immediately: is your cut very deep and bleeding near an artery? Is your burn severe? Have you swallowed something? Get someone to call 999 or call it yourself. No one will be cross with you for taking up NHS time; it could save you.
If not 999 then:
Firstly – breathe. Slowly. Get control of your body by getting oxygen to your brain – I know it sounds stupid, but it’s harder to make rational decisions and deal with an emergency if you are in panic mode.
Secondly – if you are bleeding – press down on it firmly. Hold it there. If you need to, tie something above the injured area to stem the bleeping. If it’s a burn – run it under cold water for at least 20 mins, then wrap it in cling film.
Thirdly – if, after 20 mins, you are still bleeding/feel a burning sensation – get to the hospital.
If you are hesitant about what to say write down, or get someone to write down the following for you, so you don’t have to repeat yourself: your full name/school/address/GP/what you have done/how long ago/what you used, drank, swallowed, how long you have been self-harming. Doing this will help you loads and give medics the information they need immediately to know how to treat you.
If you do get taken to hospital, you may feel unwell on the way. Having someone with you will help you.
The blog post below was written by Lydia. She hopes you find it helpful.
I’ve never been very good at introducing myself so here I go. Hi there! I'm Lydia, most people know me as Lid. I am an 18 year old green tea and Netflix enthusiast. One of my favourite Netflix shows is 13 Reasons Why. I also have a passion for sport, Disney films and music. My favourite time of the year is summer, when the nights get longer and the weather gets warmer. Being able to go for long walks on the beach till late and watching the sun set over horizon. However I also love winter, being able to curl up in my window watching the snowflakes fall, wrapped in a blanket with and note pad writing. My favourite colour is blue and I hate the colour yellow, I find it extremely patronising. I also love doing my makeup and trying different eyeshadow colours. I'm not a pro at it but I try aha! I guess you could say I'm your average 18 year old.
I wanted to write for SelfharmUK because I personally deal with a lot of issues myself and have found through my own experiences, I can help other people which I’ve found extremely rewarding. I have suffered from a number of mental health illnesses since the age of 14, and whilst on my journey to recovery, the experiences I have encountered have shaped me into the person I am today. Not only do I want to write to help others, I have found writing extremely rewarding and beneficial to challenging the thoughts and voices inside my head. Yes, I am still recovering and struggle daily - but that doesn't stop me wanting to share my voice and challenge the issue I see within the mental health community.
Being diagnosed at a very early age has meant that I have encountered lots of other people with similar issues and experiences of self-harming from school, hospital (when I was hospitalised) and later Sixth Form. Not only have I had self-experience, but I have supported peers and friends when they too have struggled by helping them to understand my approach to the topics and see a broader view of the opinions of self-harm and mental illnesses as a whole. I have for some years now vlogged on YouTube about mental illnesses and reached out to as many people as possible by starting conversations about the importance of mental health.
When I'm not partaking in breaking the stigma of mental illness and starting conversations on mental health - you'll find me touring the countryside, taking photos or in bed relaxing. I'm excited for the future and steps I will be taking in the next year… and can't wait to start writing for SelfharmUK of course!
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
Self-poisoning is back in the news, with reports that more young teenage girls are using it as a form of self-harm than ever before.
We’ve said before that self-poisoning is much more than the assumed suicide attempt. People also use self-poisoning or overdosing as a method of self-harm – how we distinguish between the two is by understanding the intent, and the only way we can do that is by talking to those who are struggling in this way and understanding how they feel and and what they’re going through – not easy when mental health services are constantly being trimmed down.
Self-poisoning is incredibly dangerous; one of the only methods of self-harm that always requires medical attention, and potentially one of the riskiest in terms of endangering life. Even the smallest overdose can do irreversible damage, and the effects of such actions may not be evident straight away, leading some into a false sense of wellness. Self-poisoning kills.
I was one of the lucky ones. I was a teenage self-poisoner and lived to tell the tale. Looking back, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what was going on or why it suddenly seemed to be the best thing to be doing. I guess deep down there was an unbearable pain, and a desperate need to be heard. I’m not talking about someone sitting down and having a chat, I mean an urgent longing for someone – anyone – to hear something I had no way of communicating; of understanding The Thing I didn’t have a clue about. I didn’t have the words to express what was going on, and so it began to leak out through my behaviours instead.
Let’s be clear about something, though – taking an overdose is HORRID. Don’t ever for one second think anyone gets any pleasure from it, and the treatment isn’t exactly a walk in the park either – I’ve been made to drink charcoal, have had countless blood tests, and yes, I’m pretty familiar with what stomach pumping involves. Nothing before or since has made me feel as wretched as having my stomach washed out – it hurts, it’s undignified and you invariably end up with your hair matted in vomit. It’s not what some chooses if they think they’re being funny or just want a bit of attention; it’s seriously unpleasant.
But – it does get you in the system. People struggling with self-harm want to be heard and they long for a life of freedom, but getting the help can feel impossible at times. Too many people have now been assessed only on the extent of their wounds, and have left GP surgeries or A&E Departments with an indirect message of ‘you don’t cut deeply enough’ or ‘you’re not ill enough’ to qualify for treatment. This means we have a generation of people self-harming, but believing they’re not ‘good enough’ at being in pain or suffering in order to be taken seriously. It might not be what the intended message is, but it’s what’s being heard.
We need the tide to turn, we need people to be able to go to hospital saying they struggling with the thought of self-poisoning rather than turn up only when they have a stomach full of tablets or bleach or something else utterly destroying their health. We need access to mental health services to be about what someone is feeling rather than what they’re doing, and we need to know that the support will be given, that it’s ok to hope of a life free from harm.
Self-poisoning kills, and every time someone does it we risk losing another life. Don’t let it be you.
@FreedomFromHarm | @RachelWelch