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Dedicated to self-harm recovery, insight and support.

Expectations and dread...

Some people like this lead up to Christmas, some (like me and my family!), really don’t!

The Christmas decorations look pretty and the shops get busier and the Christmas feeling is in the air – but it doesn’t make me get the warm Christmas glow; in fact it begins to make me stressed right from the moment it starts…

The pressure for the perfect film like Christmas family gathering is unachievable – the perfect family game time; the perfect present wrapping, the perfect friends to go out with, the perfect family to share it will – perfection doesn’t exist, in any place at any time.

The media Christmas portrayal adds to our sense of dread – the pressure to smile, laugh, not row, not feel sad – can make us feel very detached from Christmas: so this year, in the lead up here are some tips:

1. Ignore TV films and adverts! We aren’t going to reach a Hollywood Christmas ideal – so let’s not bother. Watch Elf and comedies – they keep a good perspective on it!

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2. Try to imagine Christmas day now – what works for you? Do you need to communicate any of that to your family – who don’t you want to see over Christmas? How long do you have to visit relatives for? Begin to start the conversations now so they don’t come as a shock to your family – take control and be prepared to compromise.

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3. Make stuff – loads and loads of stuff! Don’t buy it, make it. Keep your hands and mind busy, the  personal stuff doesn’t need to cost much nor does it have to be perfect – enjoy the process and the result.

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4. Don’t give yourself sky high expectations of yourself over Christmas. If you need to take regular breaks from family, do it. Look after yourself now so that you have the energy for it as it gets closer; plan out the Christmas holidays so that you get a good balance of rest and play.

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Love,

The SelfharmUK Team

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New website!

Welcome to our brand-new website! We are so excited to be sharing with you all the weeks and months of work we have been doing to try and get this right. The first thing that you may notice is that we now have three very specific areas for the main people that visit our site. This is so you can feel totally at home sharing any stories or questions you have, knowing that parents and professionals won’t see it. Please be aware if we are really worried about you we may need to pass this information on.

To post content and to see what other people have posted you must be logged in, you can do this by clicking the register button and filling in the form that follows. 

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Please give us honest information, we may need this in the future to help keep you safe.

We want you to feel at home here, we want to try and help you build a safe online community that helps you begin to share how you are feeling about your self-harm and meet other people who can help you in this journey. Sometimes we will comment on your posts, but overall, we want you to have the space to help and support each other where you can.

The site is broken down into different places for you to get the help and support you need we have our main chat space where you can upload appropriate pictures, questions and tell us your story. When you post on that page you get to choose your colour background, your font and picture so it feels more personal to you. 

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We want you to feel supported in your times of crisis and have somewhere to take your concerns and fears when you feel lost and alone. This main chat forum and space is for you to help and support one another. This will be monitored, please remember we are all about pro-recovery here so be sensitive and supportive to everyone needs.

We will also be hosting live chat sessions where we will look at a whole series of topics from anxiety to LGBTQ+ to depression and many more. These sessions will start on the 1st November 2017 at 7pm. They will run for approximately 30-40 minutes and will be held once a week on a Wednesday evening. These are completely informal and will be hosted in a chat room format. We would love you to come along when you can. You can find the links to these chat rooms and a little bit about what we will be discussing that week under the help button on the main page of our website.

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Finally, when you are ready we have our weekly support group called Alumina, you can find information about this and sign up under the Alumina tab in the main menu. This is a more intentional form of support and we would love to welcome you when you feel ready.

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If you have any questions, concerns or suggestions please contact us at info@selfharm.co.uk and we will try and see if we can help. We really want you to feel supported in this journey and have the space to share your experience. Be sure to follow us on Instagram and like us on Facebook

Love,

The SelfharmUK Team x

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Kelly's battle with Self-harm

Dame Kelly Holmes; seven times gold medallist, Olympic extraordinaire and exceptional athlete, Kelly has worked incredibly hard for all she has achieved and I’m sure there has been sacrifices along the way.

This weekend Kelly revealed that in the lowest point of her life she turned to self-harm. Her exact words in the interview were “At my lowest, I was cutting myself with scissors every day that I was injured to cope with my emotional anguish”

There can be many reasons why people begin to self-harm and the pressure that Kelly felt in those weeks and months would have been devastating and all consuming, she had no other way to deal with the emotional pain she was carrying and her self-harm was the only thing that helped her to cope.

I think this is another stark reminder that it is not just 14-year-old girls who self-harm, but that it can affect anyone at any stage in their life, whatever circumstance they find themselves in. Kelly Holmes is not an attention seeker, she is not crazy, she was just totally unable to process the divesting news that she may not compete again. I would imagine she felt lonely and completely out of control.

Feeling out of control is something a lot of the young people we work with feel and can lead them to harm. This story is also a reminder that all people regardless of what they do for a living or their worldly status can feel lonely, isolated and out of control.

This interview does however end with a light at the end of the tunnel, she kept going and got the help and support she needed. With this support, Kelly managed to stop harming, this is remarkable and I think offers real hope for anyone who currently finds themselves in a dark and lonely place. This is not to say the road to recovery is easy and doesn’t take a lot of time and perseverance, but it does remind us it is possible. We must be ready to share how we are feeling with someone in our lives to begin our journey of change and healing. This is not easy, but is necessary to begin to process how we bring about change.

This should also challenge us to think about our own recovery, so ask yourself:

  • What are the things that are causing you to try to gain some control?
  • How does controlling food help to make things better?
  • What things may need to change for the need to control to fade?

If you would like to gain some support about self-harm you can sign up to Alumina, our six-week support programme.

We also have books to help with the self-harm recovery which you can purchase via our store.

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Alumina Summer Programme - Relationships

Jess talks to us about Relationships

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Alumina Summer Programme - Coping with scars

Jo talks to us about coping with scars.

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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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Will alternatives work?

The road to ‘recovery’ from self-harm can be full of twists and turns: you may feel that you are ready and want to look for alternative coping strategies – here are some things to consider:

Deciding the stop, or reduce your self-harming behaviour is a huge step forward: it shows a mindset desperately wanting to find a ‘new way’. Go gently on yourself.

Many people talk about reducing gradually before deciding to finally stop. This may be helpful for you or you may decide you need to separate yourself from it immediately. Either way is fine – don’t put too much pressure on yourself though.

Take a day at a time, or even half a day. This is will depend on what your pattern of harming is, the frequency of it, how long you have been engaged in it and what are the external things that might be causing you stress. Perhaps set yourself a timer, and add an hour/half day/day to it each time?

Plan when and how to reduce or stop. Think about what else is going on for you currently  -how are you coping with school, exams, family stuff, friendship issues? If you have any major stress factors (like exams), consider waiting until they have been as resolved as they can be, before reducing or stopping. This way, if you are struggling, you won’t be putting yourself under impossible pressure.

Recognise it may take a while. Whatever form of harming behavior you have been using to cope, it will be an addiction and a habit. Retraining your brain to find a new way of coping will take time – allow yourself time to experiment with different coping strategies to find what works for you.

At the start, it’s important we are honest with you: none of the coping strategies will give you the same relief you have found in your harming. Wearing elastic bands, using ice cubes or exercise are alternatives; your brain will take a bit of time to rewire itself to recognize this as the new way of coping. The physical and emotional relief you might get from your harming, may not be fully relieved immediately by using alternatives.

The most important thing is, however long it takes; even if it’s two steps forward and one back; you move forward at your pace. Don’t go too hard on yourself. Be as kind to you, as you are to your friends.

Show yourself love, patience and gentleness.

We have list of tried and tested alternative strategies, but please, let us know others as the longer the list, the more we can all offer other young people who are seeking to looking for a new coping strategy.

We are with you in this, you aren’t alone. Literally thousands of others are with you in this journey through self-harm to recovery; let’s take small steps forward together.

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10 tips for managing your mental health

As Mental Health Awareness Week draws to a close, Jo Fitzsimmons shares her thoughts on how you could think about managing your mental health going forward in our latest blog.

Here are 10 things you might not have known about managing your mental health:

  • Extroverts can have poor mental health – ask them! They like to talk!
  • People who are appearing to hold it all together; might not be, and in fact, probably aren’t.
  • Most people only have 1 real friend (yep – my counsellor told me that, honest!) Find your 1 and learn to be open with them.
  • Get rid of people in your life who don’t return your calls/texts/FB messages – don’t put energy into unreturned ‘friendships’, some people are fun to be around, some people aren’t. reduce your friends!
  • Caregivers are often overlooked – the people who put others first are often taken for granted, so when they struggle they don’t have people to ask for help.
  •  Conserve your energy – some days give yourself permission to rest, tomorrow might require more energy than you currently have.
  • Consider medication for your mental health: if you had a physical illness you would take something for it; perhaps you need to consider it as a real option and talk to your GP.
  • Consider coming off your meds if you have been on them for many years – talk to your GP about the implications and risks of it; perhaps taking up exercise or having a project may help your mental health (watch Mind over Marathon on the BBC iplayer if you need inspiration).
  • Get a dog. It’s the best thing I ever did, it gets me away from my kids, house and work long enough for a walk around my council estate to calm down.
  • Get rid of your phone, or swop to a cruddy basic one that doesn’t make you wonder what everyone on ‘bragbook’ (facebook) is doing or bring worrying news headline alerts to your hands.
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Mental Health Awareness Week 2017

Physically we are all well, or unwell; it’s easy to spot an unwell person in a queue next to a well person – there are physical signs like runny noses, pale skin, perhaps reduced mobility, sleepless eyes.

What does a person who is unwell emotionally look like?

Nope? No guesses…? That’s because a person can look ‘well’ on the outside but be very unwell in their self esteem, their confidence, their ability to think clearly, to sleep well, have high anxiety which leads to panic attacks, or deep depression. The fact is this: with 7 in 10 young people having poor mental health now, you don’t know if someone is well or not in their thought life.

The recent report on behalf of the government states that young people have the highest levels of poor mental health. Young people aged 18-25 report not being able to think clearly, have positive relationships, feeling like they aren’t able to contribute to society and feel devalued. Wow, what a frightening picture this shows.

Contrast this with people over 55 who have the best mental health and what can we learn:

- Older people feel confident to make new friends and join groups; young people feel nervous about joining a new group for fear of being judged;

- Older people take up new hobbies and activities; young people often can’t afford new hobbies or expensive activities;

- Older people have built up trust worthy groups of friends; young people struggle to know who their ‘real friends’ are rather than those who just ‘like’ or ‘retweet’ their thoughts.

Let’s face it; age does bring experience and knowledge – but can we wait 40 years for teenagers to grow up into confident older people?

So – if you are a young person struggling with your emotional and mental health here are some ideas for you to try in Mental Health Awareness week:

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

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

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Blue Monday

The article below was written by Graeme Bigg, a member of the SelfharmUK training team.

Christmas leftovers have been eaten, decorations have been tidied away and presents are either now in use or have been returned for store credit, and you’ve now been back at school or work for over a week.  Some people find it easy to return to the routine of regular life, with all the promise of a new year and a new start, but others can find it much tougher, particularly if there are stressful situations going on from which the holidays offered a all-too-brief break.

The third Monday in January has been labelled as ‘Blue Monday’  - the reasoning being that as the wait for the first pay day since Christmas goes on and the weather gets colder, there is very little to raise the mood.  Indeed, everything from mock exams to presidential inaugurations can add to that existing weight.  So, if you’re feeling glum at the start of 2017, here are a few things that might help:

Blue Monday is made up.  The concept of this being the most depressing day of the year was made up twelve years ago by a travel company[1] – who understandably have a lot to gain by people looking to cheer themselves up by booking a holiday.  Marking out a particular day as ‘the most depressing day in the year’ offers a lot for retailers, who would like you to make comfort purchases, but the meaning behind the day in question is even emptier than November’s Black Friday.  So while the media might play it up, try to remember: Blue Monday is a lie.

January can be depressing.  Although the science behind Blue Monday is rubbish, part of the reason the term persists is because we can see why it might be true.  Punishing New Year’s resolutions that involve depriving ourselves of things we enjoy (our favourite foods, our favourite TV shows), the struggle for funds, the return to our work, going to and returning from school in the dark[2]: all of these can get our mood down.  If you’re struggling with these things, you don’t need to hide them, and because January is a month where people are more aware that life can be hard, you might find it easier to chat about it.  Samaritans are running a campaign this year called ‘Brew Monday’, encouraging people to meet up for a conversation over a cuppa[3].  Whether you’re finding January tough, or actually life is always tough, why not meet up with someone to chat about it.  And if you’re not finding it tough, check in on those around you to see how they are.

New Year, new start.  The tradition of New Year’s resolutions is one I sometimes find a bit daunting, as people ask me what commitments have I made for the next twelve months.  Memories of resolutions that were quickly broken add to the pressure, as does the fear of not making any and what that might say about my character, or thoughts about what ambitious scheme I could set myself.  This year I’ve been reflecting on, when it comes to resolutions, smaller might be better.  A New Year’s resolution is, ultimately, a personal target: it’s for you.  Devising something massive that, when you fail, just crushes you, is not helping you.  Attaching such great value to a resolution that your value becomes wrapped up with it has a similar risk.  You are more than your resolutions; don’t let them define you.  Instead, try to create something that is achievable and fun, something that will build you up rather than knock you down.  I do think making resolutions is a good idea – it helps us focus and be positive – and so I would encourage you to make one (or some) and write them down, so that you can see how you get on  However, they are also not exclusive to New Year’s Eve/Day, so if you do break a resolution, start again.  Make it a year of new starts – however many are needed.

Don’t look back – not yet.  Janus, the Roman god from whom January traditionally takes its name, famously is depicted as having two faces, one looking forwards and one looking backwards.  Because the New Year start in January is an annual occurrence, sometimes we can get tied up remembering Januaries from the past, with their joys and pains.  But this is the first January 2017 we have come across; let’s aim to live this one and not the ones of the past.  We don’t need to ignore of forget the good or (particularly) the bad moments from 2016 and before, but at the start of this new year try to put them to one side and see what this year has.  There will be new conversations, new experiences, the chances to try new activities and make new friends.  It can be good for us to reflect on these new things and the old things together, but leave that for now.  Let’s get this year started first, and see what it has in store.

[1] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/blue-monday-the-science-behind-the-most-miserable-day-of-the-year-a6816926.html

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2012/jan/16/blue-monday-depressing-day-pseudoscience

[3] http://www.samaritans.org/media-centre/our-campaigns/brew-monday

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Letter to January 2016 Me

Whilst Sophie was part of the Graduate Volunteer scheme at Youthscape, she worked closely with the SelfharmUK team. The blog post below is something Sophie found extremely helpful to write as it's helped her to reflect on her year and to think positively about the year ahead. Sophie continues to write blogs for us even though her time as a volunteer has come to an end. She hopes you find this blog helpful.

Christmas is almost here, and with that, the end of 2016. I’m sure there are many mixed feelings out there about this, and I am one of those people with mixed feelings! When I reflect on my year, I feel as though so much has happened, both good and bad, but I don’t have an immediate “2016, wow what a great/bad year” reaction. Recently, a friend told me about a letter she had written to her younger self, and I thought it would be the perfect way to help me reflect on my year and encourage myself for the year ahead. Maybe it’s something you could try?

So here goes:

Hi Soph,

Future you here (it’s currently December 2016). 2016 is going to be an interesting one, it’s going to have highs and lows, but don’t worry, it looks like it will end on a high.

I know you’ve just come off your medication, and I’m not going to lie, it’s going to be a tough few months, but I promise you; your body WILL adjust, so bear with it. Yes, at some points during the year you’ll slip back into self-harm, anxiety will get the better of you every now and then, some ‘sucky’ things happen, and at times life is going to feel pretty overwhelming. BUT, good news! As horrid as it may be, those times don’t last.

You grow so much this year, Soph. You FINALLY start making decisions that are looking out for your own wellbeing rather than based on making other people happy, how great is that?? I won’t tell you what these decisions are, but just go with your gut and know it’s okay to look after yourself. Oh and remember, admitting you need a bit of help again doesn’t mean you’re back to square one.

You know this already, but you have some really amazing people in your life who are totally going to be there for you – try to not feel guilty or ashamed to reach out to them if you need it – they HONESTLY don’t mind and only want the best for you. And be honest, Soph, I know being vulnerable can be scary, but opening up to these people is so safe.

You’ll start worrying about what to do job-wise after July, and then you’ll freak out about not having a job. Again, things work out; don’t put a load of unnecessary pressure on yourself. You don’t need to try and live up to the expectations of other people, this is YOUR life, and you need to do what’s best for you.

Spoiler Alert! You voluntarily say you’ll get up on stage and talk to 100+ people, AND you actually go through with it… AND it goes pretty well! Who would have thought it!?

2016 will be okay, but here’s a little peak at what I’ll try to remember and take into 2017 with me:

  • You are SO loved
  • You are SO blessed. Even when life is tough, keep what you’re thankful for close to your heart.
  • It’s okay to ask for help
  • Fight the fear
  • Being vulnerable is not weak, it shows strength and courage
  • Keep writing down what goes on in your head; it’s a great way to get it out!
  • Keep your chin up girl, you can do this!

Love, almost-2017-Soph

If you were to write a letter to yourself this year, what would you say? How would you encourage yourself for 2017?

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

This article was written by a member of the SelfharmUK team, Jo Fitzsimmons. Jo is our Alumina Program Manager and has parented a child who was a self-harmer for many years. She has an acute understanding of the impact self-harm has on not only young people, but their whole family. She hopes you find the below helpful.

All those lovely adverts on tv of families playing board games, watching each other open their presents laughing and smiling, the Christmas films where families realise they love each other more than any present they have ever had….

In my house reality looked like:

Smiling when you got a knocked off Care Bear that was misshapen and looked nothing like the ones my friends had; watching your parents  argue by 10 am as the pressure to be nice to each other all day is too much; my missing my Nan who passed away recently but we never mention her; once the presents have been opened we all disperse and meet up 3 hours later to eat too much food (that I hate myself for doing) and then fall asleep watching a crud film….

Sound like yours?

Or Maybe YOU LOVE Christmas?

Perhaps having people around you is a good thing as it makes you smile, gives you chance to see people who you actually like spending time with and you feel you can talk to; maybe the Christmas films take you back to feeling younger and happier…?

Either way – we can’t ignore it…It is Christmas! However we feel about it….

We know for some young people the idea of endless days spent at home with family is hard; perhaps being told you have to see relatives you don’t like causes you anxiety; perhaps you are missing a person you love at Christmas. However you feel, we want to get you through this, so here’s our tips for you:

Surviving Christmas Tips:

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

May you know Hope this Christmas.

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My friend self-harms

It sounds like you are worried about your friend, and it’s great to hear you want to support them. Self-harming can be risky and it is understandable that you are concerned.

Firstly, it is important to remember the following things;

- you are not responsible for your friend’s actions.
- you cannot make them stop self-harming if they are not ready to.
- there is no quick fix or magic formula that works for everybody.

But here’s what you can do.

Friendship can be a powerful thing, and just being there for your friend may be a great comfort to them – to know they are not alone.

This doesn’t mean you should feel a pressure to be able to be around for your friend at all hours. Helping them create a bigger support network may be of great benefit to you both. Maybe you could tell them about this website or the young minds website. They could contact Childline and chat to a counsellor in confidence at any time of day or night, (for children and young people up to the age of 19). Or perhaps you could find out who else they trust that they could talk to.

People try all sorts of different ways to cope with their feelings – and different things work for different people. Some people keep a diary, others like to read or listen to music. Some people find it helpful to stimulate their senses – so they might put on their favourite perfume or aftershave for the nice smell, eat their favourite snack for the taste, cuddle their pillow or pet for the soft touch and so on. Maybe you could think about telling your friend about this.

Perhaps your friend might find it helpful to have a think about the things that trigger their self-harm. Perhaps they need support more so for the trigger than the self-harm itself. For example, if bullying is triggering their self-harm, perhaps reporting this will help take the trigger away. Or if exam stress is the trigger, maybe asking a teacher to help with a revision timetable will help.

Many people who self-harm and try to stop, feel like they’ve failed if they do hurt themselves again. Reassure your friend that it is normal to find stopping self-harming difficult, and that every urge they do manage to conquer is a victory.

Just by reading this article shows you are an amazing friend and doing a great job. It is a real balancing act to support a friend and look after your own feelings at the same time. It is a good idea to make sure you have support too, whether that be from another friend, an adult you trust or from a reliable website like this one, young minds or Childline

By Sam Firth who works for Childline

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How Zayn’s pain helps us to think differently about eating disorders

One Direction: the biggest boy band on the planet; the one with all the screaming fans and everyone wondering about their every move. People will often assume these pop stars and many others in the public eye have a perfect, pain-free life. We might think, if I could have one day in their life, all my problems would seem to disappear.

This week Zayn Malik released his book, “Zayn”. It offers an insight into what he describes as the darkest and most difficult times of his life. It’s even refreshing to hear that sentence isn’t it? Don’t get me wrong – I would not wish dark and difficult times on anyone, but I think that sentence causes us to take a step back and realise that those times come to and are felt by everyone.

Zayn openly expresses in his book that during the last few months of One Direction he had an eating disorder. He says this:

“I think it was about control. I didn’t feel like I had control over anything else in my life, but food was something I could control, so I did, I had lost so much weight I had become ill. The workload and the pace of life on the road put together with the pressures and strains of everything going on within the band had badly affected my eating habits.” (Taken from Zayn Malik’s autobiography Zayn 2016)

There can be many reasons why people can develop eating disorders, and most of us instantly assume it is about being thin. While this can sometimes be the case, as Zayn so eloquently points out one big reason can be about gaining some control.

The online resource Eating Disorder Hope talks about anxiety and control linked to eating disorders:

"Often, it is the case that anxiety precedes an eating disorder. In struggling with severe anxiety, for instance, being able to control the aspect of one’s life, such as food, weight, and exercise, indirectly gives the suffer a false sense of control, which can temporarily relieve symptoms experienced due to anxiety." (Taken from Eating Disorder Hope website 2016)  

Zayn has also spoken in depth before about his own anxiety and how he has at times been unable to go on stage due to feelings of overwhelming panic. This is actually one reason he gave when he left the band back in March 2015. Popular vlogger Zoella has also created a fantastic video about her own panic attacks and anxiety, you can see it here

I think it is important for us to try to realise a couple of things from stories like Zayn’s. Firstly, we must remember that all people – whoever they are and whatever they do for a living – feel, live and experience pain. Secondly we should be challenged to think about our own recovery, so ask yourself:

What are the things that are causing you to try to gain some control?
How does controlling food help to make things better?
What things may need to change in order for the need to control to fade?

From there you can begin, as Zayn did, to find a place of freedom. 

SelfharmUK eating disorder resources can be found here

A Parents guide to eating disorders can be found here

B-eat are another eating disorder charity that are there to help you 

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Finding Myself

Sanyha is a sixth form student and the self-harm team met her at the Priory School Mental Wellbeing Fayre, Sanyha has suffered with depression and self-harm and uses this blog to talk to us about where she has come from and where she is now. It's really inspiring to read and we hope this helps some of you think about a life without self-harm. 

Imagine being so confused with yourself to the point where you can't even recognise who you are anymore; well that was me roughly two years ago.

I was diagnosed with severe depression in January 2015 when I was fifteen years old, at this time I was referred to CAMHS where I had regular therapy sessions since until October 2016. I have been discharged from the services, however in the past two years I had an incredibly difficult time in living my life as the thoughts of worthlessness and uselessness overwhelmed the positivity that I once had. Fortunately, I have regained my usual self through therapy as well as medication which I was put on in December 2015 as this was known to be a better route for me. I went through more than 3 suicide attempts and I am near to 11 months clean from self harm which is such a proud achievement for me.

I can honestly say that, I would never wish any of the experiences I went through on anybody at all because feeling like you want to leave the world is such a horrible feeling and us teenagers should not be thinking such a thought when we have our whole life ahead of us. The same goes for anybody of any age group as everybody has a purpose, whether you can see it yourself or not. This is why mental health awareness is vital and too important to ignore. Since my diagnosis, I have learnt so much about mental health and this has added to my passion about mental health and getting people to start talking about this topic rather than viewing it as a weakness and a taboo thing to talk about. It is my mission to do my best in raising awareness to mental health as it certainly does not get the attention that it should do. I raise awareness through my blog, YouTube Channel, Instagram, Twitter and my Snapchat Vlogs.

Currently, I am at Sixth Form studying Art, Sociology and Philosophy & Ethics and I am absolutely loving Sixth Form life! As well as studying my A Levels, I am beginning an Art Therapy group for the younger students at my school. I have started doing freelance makeup artistry as I have a passion for beauty as well and I also attend blogging events and meetings.

I have huge plans for my future which I did not think I would have as I honestly did not think I would get this far in life but I have, which is saying something – if I can then anybody can! I want to make a difference and I want to inspire, those are my main goals.

Mental health is like physical illness; how long will it take for people to realise this?

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 https://www.youthscape.co.uk/store/project/selfharm

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