We can’t be there in person to help and support you in a moment of crisis, but there are other options available to you if you can’t turn to someone you trust. By giving us your postcode (or one nearby to where you are right now) we can let you know about services in your area. Remember: this moment will pass; you won’t always feel the way you do right now.
If in doubt always call 999.
You can also sign up to Alumina, our online support for mental health and wellbeing here:
Jess Whittaker, a member of the SelfharmUK team, shares her thoughts about how you can stay smart on Instagram.
Today, as I was driving in to work, something I heard on the radio caught my attention and immediately made me turn up the volume. It was a report claiming that Instagram is one of the worst social media platforms when it comes to the impact on young people’s metal health.
In the UK, a survey of 1,479 people aged 14-24 were asked to rate which social media platform they felt had the most negative effect on them. They then scored each platform individually around issues like anxiety, depression, loneliness, bullying and body image.
Once the report had finished, I turned the radio off and thought for a moment. Like everything, Instagram has positive and negative sides to it, depending on what you use it for.
For example, lets’ say you’re someone who’s suffered from a mental health issue, such as self-harm or bulimia and are now in full recovery (well done you!). You might choose to use Instagram to share your story by posting inspiring quotes and photos that show the positive things in your life. There is no denying that Instagram is a really great way to visually spread positive messages quickly.
But what if you’re someone who spends hours on Instagram late at night, alone in your room, constantly comparing yourself to other people? You’ve stopped posting selfies because you’re so convinced that your photos look awful compared to your friends, that all you really use Instagram for now is to re-inforce your negative thoughts about yourself.
If you can relate to the above, don’t be embarrassed or afraid to speak up because… whoever you are and however you choose to use it, we have some great tips about how you can protect your mental health on Instagram:
The blog post below was written by Sophie, a Graduate Volunteer at Youthscape working alongside the SelfharmUK team.
Have you ever noticed that you’re a little happier on sunny days? When you get enough sunshine, your body produces vitamin D3, which has been linked to emotional well-being. Did you know that it’s actually called the “sunshine” vitamin? It does loads for you – keeps your bones strong, helps cells grow, and helps your immune system.
Research into the effects of vitamin D has suggested that people who lack vitamin D are 11 times more prone to depression than the average person.
Because Vitamin D is important for brain functions, and we all have Vitamin D receptors in the same areas of the brain associated with the development of depression, a lack of it has been linked to mental health issues, such as depression, seasonal affective disorder and schizophrenia. The science behind this is conflicting – one theory suggests that vitamin D affects how monoamines, such as serotonin, work in our brains. Anti-depression medication works by increasing the number of monoamines in the brain.
There are even government guidelines on how much vitamin D you should be getting every day. Adults and children (a year old and above) should have an intake of 10 micrograms of vitamin D every day, and babies under a year old should have 8.5-10 micrograms every day, especially during the winter months, when the weather’s not as sunny. To achieve the daily recommended amount of vitamin D, you might have to take a supplement. Anyone at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency is encouraged to take a supplement all year round.
There are a lot of factors which go into how much vitamin D your body can produce, such as lifestyle, weather, and access to sunlight. According to Holland and Barrett, 90% of our vitamin D levels are made when our bodies get enough sunlight. You don’t even need to spend hours in the sun – just 10 minutes in bright sunshine should be enough to boost your vitamin D levels! And sitting inside by a window, or in a car, even in sunshine, doesn’t count because the glass blocks the UV rays.
So, the next time it’s a lovely day outside, why not go out and spend some time in the sun? It’s better for your body than you think!
More young people than ever feel lonely. A recent survey by the BBC suggests that 40% of 16-24 year olds would say they feel lonely.
Most of us check our social media pretty often, and it looks like everyone else is having an amazing time doesn’t it? Pictures of them with friends at a party, on holiday with their family, chilling with friends that we don’t know, checking into the cinema with their partner…it looks like they aren’t lonely at all doesn’t it?
The reality is far from it – some people have many acquaintances to make it look like they aren’t lonely. They fill their lives with people who aren’t really friends and people they possibly don’t even trust much because they want to block out that feeling of loneliness.
Some people struggle to make friends and their online friends are the ones they talk to most because they can ‘pretend’ to be something they aren’t… but then end up feeling lonelier.
The common factor in the increase of loneliness in young people, is the rise in social media use because it doesn’t often create deep, meaningful friendships that are based on trust and shared lives. Ironically social media makes us feel lonelier, not less lonely.
So, let's look at some of the ways you could combat feeling lonely:
1️⃣ Seriously reduce your social media time.
2️⃣ Do something that creates connections with people face to face.
3️⃣ Find a hobby group – fitness, craft, music?
4️⃣ Eat with your family at mealtimes.
5️⃣ Say ‘yes’ to trying something new.
6️⃣ Connect with cousins, siblings, grandparents and wider family more.
There are lots of Organisations out there that offer opportunities to join groups or clubs in order to connect with other young people your own age. Do some research in your local area to find out what's going on and what you might like to get involved with.
If cooking's your bag - here at Youthscape, we offer something called Open House, which is a cookery project run by Gemma, our Drop-in Manager, and a professional chef! Over the eight weeks of the course you will learn to cook different dishes, improve your kitchen skills, and host a dinner for a disadvantaged group from the local community...
The aim of the project is to develop confidence in abilities, build relationships, integrate into our daily after-school Drop-in project, engage with a different group in the community, and through this become more connected, improve self-esteem, and begin to gain the skills that will enable young people to recognise and manage their feelings of loneliness and social isolation now and in the future.
If you are a young person aged 11-15 and living in Luton, why not get in touch with Gemma to find out more about our Open House project?
No one is to blame for feeling lonely: it’s not your fault, nor is it anyone else’s; so – this week; begin the journey to feeling less lonely.
Self-harm in its broadest sense incorporates eating disorders as a type of harm to your health and body. But there are also links between self-harm and different types of eating disorders. Both behaviours affect a lot of young people, and they share a lot of the same traits, such as low self-esteem, a perfectionist personality, anxiety and sometimes a history of trauma, abuse or family difficulty. Of course every person and situation is different, though, and so we recognize that although these are the common themes they are not the only reasons behind such behaviours, and not everybody will cross over between the two.
The prevalence of self-harm in people with eating disorders is thought to be about 25%, and is particularly high among people who engage in the binge-purge cycle of Bulimia Nervosa. For many, self-harm and an eating disorder co-exist, but for others self-harm can develop to replace an eating disorder or vice versa. If someone tries to give up their harming when they are not psychologically ready (for example, doing it to please someone else) then another self-destructive symptom can easily develop in its place. This is because both conditions act as ways for an individual to cope with, block out, and release intense feelings of anger, shame, sadness, loneliness, or guilt. A person needs to be able to address these feelings and find ways of dealing with them in order to break free of the harming cycle.
For some people self-harm and eating disorders could also be a type of punishment and way of expressing self-hatred towards the body. If somebody has poor self-image and is suffering with an eating disorder, they probably experience feelings of self-loathing, which in turn leads to a lack of respect for their body. This can then open the door to something like self-harm. Within the world of someone with disordered eating, especially one built around control and routines, the addition of self-harm might then also become a way of punishing the self for not sticking to a strict routine, or provide relief from the constraints of that routine. The relationship between the two conditions is complex and can differ from person to person.
Self-harm often goes alongside other emotional difficulties and it is really important that all things are considered together and addressed fully, even if it is decided that the different symptoms will be treated separately. Self-harm and eating disorders, especially when occurring together, can seem like an impossible cycle to be trapped in, but recovery from both is very possible. Seeking professional support gives someone the best chance of making a full recovery.
If you or anyone you know is affected by an eating disorder, you can talk-one-to-one with someone from Beat via their web chat service.
When someone we care about is going through a difficult experience that we have no control over, we often feel powerless to help them. We say what we think is best and what sounds the most supportive, but our words never quite feel like enough when compared with the difficulty of their situation.
I don't know about you, but I've read lots of blogs about what to say to people who are struggling with their mental health. I try to use phrases like 'That must be hard for you' and 'You sound like you're really struggling' when listening to my friend's troubles, but I can't shake the feeling that I'm simply stating the obvious.
As a Christian, I grew up in Church listening to people offering each other spiritual words of encouragement. Phrases like 'You're in my prayers', 'God has a plan for you', and 'Put your trust in him' were often said to me, to people I knew, and now by me as I've gotten older. Even though I believe that these phrases are true, I sometimes worry that they are far too easy to say, and that they simply aren't special enough.
I guess that's the thing about words though - sometimes there just aren't any that feel right to say.
And that's ok.
The act of doing something to show support for someone who is struggling, doesn't have to involve spoken words. Below are links to 5️⃣ things you can buy someone who is struggling with their mental health from some fantastic organisations that deserve your support...
PS. You don't have to spend money to show someone you care. You could make them something by drawing, baking, knitting, building, creating, designing, filming or decorating for example 😄
The blog below was written by Aurora.
Even if you’re like me and don’t go in for New Years resolutions, you probably started January with a lot of excitement, great expectations and ideas of what you were going to do differently, and how you were going to accomplish all the things you didn’t get to do last year.
And now, a few weeks later, you’re probably finding that you haven’t even started on half the things you promised yourself you would do, and that your energy and motivation have taken a big dive. If that’s the case, then you’re probably feeling angry and disappointed with yourself. Maybe embarrassed, if you’d boasted to your family, friends and colleagues about what you were going to do. This disappointment can often reinforce the bad habits you were trying to beat, and this can make it even harder to get up and try again.
There are two important things to keep in mind if you’re in this situation.
The first is that it’s always difficult, after the Christmas break, to get back into the regular swing of school or work. It’s always going to be a bit jarring, so it’s natural that you’re going to be more tired in January than in other months of the year. So you shouldn’t be disappointed in yourself just because you’ve been struggling to find the necessary energy.
The second, and most important thing, to remember when planning your New Year goals is to keep them realistic. It’s very easy, at the dawn of the New Year, bursting with excitement and optimism, to set yourself really big objectives, or aim to achieve them in a brief amount of time.
For example, if you’re overweight and want to get fit, you might have said to yourself: “Okay, this year I’m going to hit the gym three times a week, and I’m going to go on a diet. No more Fried Chicken Fridays...” Or something along these lines.
You have to bear in mind that just dieting, or developing a regular exercise routine, is hard enough by itself. Especially if you’re not used to it. So attempting them both at the same time would be very difficult; particularly if you’re struggling to adapt back into school or work. You may have a better chance of success if you keep your goals small and specific. Set yourself a measurable plan instead of a few abstract ideas about what you want to achieve.
To be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with challenging yourself. It’s better to set the bar too high than to just skate through life with no challenge. But in order to accomplish your goals, you have to balance your desires with what you can realistically achieve, and remember that nothing worth having comes without time and effort, and the occasional lapse. Having a well thought plan will better prepare you for dealing with failures.
And remember, don’t be too hard on yourself if you stumble. It’s only January after all!
Some young Japanese men are refusing to leave their bedrooms and are choosing to withdraw themselves from society. The reasons aren't always very clear, but in Japan, it's known as hikikomori.
Hikikomori refers to the act of isolation, and to the young men themselves. The word translates as 'pulling inward' or 'being confined'. Often, a hikikomori's family are both ashamed and at a loss as to how to help their child. Some men have not left their own houses in over a decade!
Isolation and loneliness can have a major impact on our mental health. A scheme called 'Rent-a-sister' in Japan is being used to help these hikkomori men to begin to recovery from their reclusiveness. You can watch more about this here.
The blog post below was written by Deanne.
I’ve never been good at introductions so here we are. My name’s Deanne, Im 16 and like many other teenagers struggle with my mental health. I’ve chosen to write for Selfharm UK because I want to share my story, advice and for you to all know that you’re not alone.
Anxious, paranoid, scared, lonely and isolated. Those five words describe who I was for a long period of time. For someone at the age of 16 this can be an overwhelming experience.
On the day that I found myself in the A&E department with two police officers I couldn’t feel anything but pure fear. Afraid of the two ladies sat with me, afraid of the outcome of this assessment. I had no clue what my future would hold for me and I didn’t care. This lead to the destruction of my life, not being able to remain in school, and ruining relationships with those who cared for me the most. As I sat in that chair, I was in denial. I was blaming everyone else for what had happened rather than accepting that I had responsibility.
It wasn't until they reached out to me (I had spent hours crying, unable to move, paralysed and stuck to that spot) that I was able to receive help. I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression, and I went on to receive CBT under the NHS. This helped me to take my first step on the journey of recovery which I am still invested in and still on now.
1 in 5 children suffer from a mental health illness. Knowing this, I urge anyone suffering to speak out. Whether it’s to a trusted adult, your GP or a family member - please speak out. Struggling with your mental health isn’t a sign of weakness and is much more complex than fixing a broken arm or a broken leg. Offering support, a shoulder to cry on or just being there could mean the world to someone who is struggling.
After years of self-hate I now realised the mistakes I made. I needed help, and thanks to the fantastic support from the NHS, I am back on track. Next year I will be 17 and I plan to start working towards having a career. All it took was for me to be gentler, kinder and fairer to myself. In the hardest of times, please remember to stay true to yourself and not lose sight of who you really are.
Please don't be too hard on yourself, lose sight of yourself, or feel ashamed if you have or haven’t asked for help. Together we will grow, together we will rise and we will thank our lucky stars that we are all alive.
The piece below was written by Jo Fitzsimmons, a member of the SelfharmUK Team.
Try googling ‘the kindest person in the world’…
Weird isn't it?
It wasn’t people I had ever heard of; it was all very random. Some are global business people doing amazing things with their money; others are travellers who give away all they have; others still are people who have passed away and their families recall them as being the kindest person in the world.
Kindness isn’t measurable. There isn’t a kindness scale which we can ‘achieve’ kindness or check on our Social Media profile to see what marks out of 10 we have been given for kindness. Why?
🌎 Because kindness is quiet.
🌎 Because kindness is done every day a billion times over.
🌎 Because kindness doesn’t need a fanfare.
🌎 Because kindness only needs one person to know about it – the person on the receiving end.
Today is World Kindness Day.
There are incredible sad and desperate situations happening today all over the world that we are limited in what we can do to help – but, perhaps, we can buy a homeless person a hot drink? Perhaps we can volunteer at an animal shelter? Perhaps we can help tidy the house? Text a person we have been angry with? Say ‘thank you’ to a teacher who has helped us?
Perhaps the hardest and most challenging thing to do on World Kindness Day is be kind to ourself.
The ultimate person to be kind to is us.
What can you do to be kind to you today? Give yourself permission to rest? To laugh without feeling guilty? To tell that small critical voice that it doesn’t speak truth?
What would it look like to you to be kind today?
The blog below was written by Jo Fitzsimmons, a member of the SelfharmUK Team.
Caring for others is often far easier than caring for ourselves, don’t you think?
Listening to others is one of the best gifts we can offer someone – the chance to be heard, to empty their worries and fears with us and for us to offer care, support and hope – is an incredible life giving gift.
Yet; how much do we listen to ourselves? Do we allow our own fears, worries and thoughts to be hard by others?
How do we offer ourself the same care and friendship that we extend to those we love?
I’m getting a bit older now and (I like to think) a little wiser. I now recognise I can’t help everyone or rescue them from their situations, but I can offer a listening ear or kind word... Only if I offer myself the same self compassion and care that I offer them!
To do this, I like to write a list of all the nice, encouraging, kind, thoughtful things I do to help others – and I apply it to me.
I tell myself how strong I am; how brave I am; how proud I am of me; and how thoughtful I am. I encourage myself to speak out my worries to a trusted person so I don’t feel alone with my fears; I allow myself to appreciate the things I am good at - and I outrightly laugh at myself when I make mistakes and look a bit silly!
For every person I help; I aim to help myself – by giving myself a break, by watching my favourite soap (Hollyoaks everytime!), by treating myself to a nice shampoo or baking a cake.
This week, on Self Care week, try one of these actions each day. It’s not selfish; it is life giving and will help you to become a better friend, a better son/daughter or a better sibling...
Now here's some GIFs to really get you in the mood 😂
Enjoy caring for you this Self Care Week!
Last week at drop in was ‘relaxation week’. What’s drop in and why was it relaxation week we hear you ask? Well, drop in is basically what we call our after school club for young people. Every week night from 3.30pm until 6pm, young people from Schools all across Luton come and hangout here at the Youthscape building as soon as the bell rings for their final class. When they arrive, they usually head straight for the PlayStations, the pool table or to buy themselves a milkshake or a toastie! But that’s not all there is to do.
Every week, we have a different theme a drop in. The idea of each theme is to offer advice and to encourage young people to reflect on what that theme means to them and their life. To do this, we often set up activities and games based around that theme. For relaxation week, we were specifically looking at:
One of the activities we invited our young people to take part in order to explore what the word ‘relaxation’ actually meant, was collaging. If you search in a thesaurus, you’ll find that there are lots of words and phrases that mean ‘to relax’. ‘Unwind’, ‘loosen up’, ‘calm’, ‘sit back’ and ‘feel at home’ are just some examples. Can you think of anymore?
Using these words and phrases, we asked young people to pick the one that resonated with them the most, and to create an image or collage that visually represented how they interpreted it. Here’s how they got on…
👆 Some chose to create images that related to their lives specifically, by drawing their house or showing how they relax by sleeping.
👆Others made images that were very literal of the phrase they were trying to represent.
👆And some were a lot more abstract and emotive.
Whatever 'relaxation' means to you, make sure your taking time to look after yourself. This week, it's half term here across the Schools in Luton. We really hope our young people found this relaxation activity helpful as they prepared to take a break from their studies. If you wanted to try this activity at home, all you need is some bits of coloured and patterned card, some glue and some scissors. What does relaxation mean to you? 😊
In this article, SelfharmUK Web Manager Jess chats to colleagues Jo and Helen about mental health and being a teenager for #WMHD
SHUK: Who are you and what do you do at SelfharmUK?
J: I am Jo, I run the Alumina programmes most nights of the week. And this is a photo of me when I was a teenager...
H: My name is Helen and I head up the emotional and mental wellbeing work that we do in Luton, this work feeds into what we do with the website and gives the young people of Luton a voice in what we do. I also deliver training and give lots of talks on mental health. This is a photo of me when I was a teenager...
SHUK: How has your understanding of the importance of looking after your mental wellbeing changed from when you were a young person?
J: I didn’t have a clue about it as a teenager; I was told it was attention seeking behaviour if you were down, sad or angry. Now, because i have struggled with anxiety and depression at times, I understand that that is so far from the truth.
H: When I was a teenager and you were struggling with your mental health it was put down as "hormones" or "attention seeking" because of this I didn’t understand that your mental health was something you had to look after and just thought it was something you had to be ashamed of. Now I know it is just as important as looking after my physical health, I go to the doctor for my asthma, which means that I also go to the doctor when I’m struggling with stress or anxiety.
SHUK: What do you think was your hardest life change as a teenager to adapt to?
H: Being noticed maybe? Every few years my mum would have another baby and so I just spent a lot of time feeling lost and unimportant. Especially as three of my siblings were in school with me and they all had better grades and didn’t get into trouble like me. I felt like an outcast at home and in school and with my friends.
J: For me it was bereavement. My best friend was killed in a car crash and I lost my much loved grandma all within a month. Loss effects our mental health greatly, I just didn’t realise how much when I was 12.
SHUK: What do you think is the hardest change for young people to adapt to now a days?
J: I think social media plays a huge part in how we feel about ourselves; how we want to look perfect and look like we are having fun because we believe everyone else is. I know it’s not true as everyone is struggling with their own stuff, also trying to make it look like they are having an awesome time. It is hard to turn away from social media.
H: I think the change from being a child to an adult, it’s hard to adapt to when you are expected to be an adult and make adult decisions (such as choices about your future) but at the same time being treated like a child and still dealing with the physical changes of becoming and adult.
SHUK: When you were having a bad mental wellbeing day at School, what did you do? Was there someone you could tell? What did they say? Did you tell your friends? Did they understand?
J: I struggled to talk about my feelings when i was a teenager as my family didn’t encourage us too so , I didn’t tell anyone until I was in my late teens about how hard i had found certain things. I regret that now, which is why I do my job: I know the value of someone listening to you.
H: I didn’t really have anyone to talk to. I would yell at people or walk out of lessons or get in fights. When I expressed how much I was struggling to a few of my friends they would call me a "psycho" and would walk away from me until I was “normal” again. I just felt ashamed.
SHUK: What advice would you give to young people struggling with any aspect of their mental wellbeing?
J: Find help - whether that’s through a friend, parent, counsellor, online safe place (Childline, The Mix or Young Minds) - and begin to explore why you feel like you do. Don’t stay silent, there’s people who want to help.
H: Ask for help, people are much more understanding now, it’s not something to be ashamed of and there are loads of different places you can get help from, online, in person, over the phone and more (as Jo has mentioned above). Also find healthy ways of expressing how you feel, art, music, baking, writing, working with animals. Mostly be kind to yourself.
I'll admit, when I was asked to write this blog, I wasn't sure how to start. Dictionary definitions have been done to death, and the definition of "self-esteem" doesn't really do a lot to explain what it's like to have good self-esteem:
"Belief and confidence in your own ability and value."
This is the first definition I found. I'm sure you knew that already. People talk a lot about having good self esteem, and believing in your own worth, and why good self-esteem is important. They're right -- it is important to have good self-esteem. You have to live in your own head, after all. It's important to get along with yourself. Having confidence in yourself, knowing that you're worth something, is important because it allows you to accept yourself, and buid on the skills you have, and learn to like yourself.
But where do you start? How do you build good self-esteem?
There are a lot of ways to do it. Why don't you make a list of all the things you like about yourself? Not just physical traits, but skills you have, or interests you love? That is the most basic and simple way to make yourself realise that there are things about you that are inherently valuable, things you're good at, things you're interested in.
But I'll tell you something that most people don't say, when they talk about self-esteem: Everyone has moments where it's hard. Where you feel unconfident, or out of your depth. That's why having good self-esteem is so important. Because, when you feel unconfident or out of your depth, you know that those feelings won't last forever, and you can pick yourself back up. Having good self-esteem doesn't mean that you're confident all the time, just that you have the tools and knowledge to remind yourself that you're valuable and important.
Another thing which helps improve your self-esteem is self care. Self-care isn't just buying some super fancy soap from Lush and baking a chocolate cake from scratch. Self-care can be something as simple as having a long shower, or eating your favourite food, or listening to your favourite song on repeat. Doing things that make you happy improve your self-esteem, because they improve your overall emotional well-being. Try to treat yourself once a week, if you can.
Building self-esteem, and maintaining it, is an ongoing process. It takes a long time, and it's not always easy. But it's so important to accept yourself. I hope these tips have helped, a little!
What have all these people got in common?
Yup, they are all imaginary characters, from the imagination of Roald Dahl. None of them are real, none of their lives are real. And yet…
They are orphans, sufferers, victims of bullying, often worried, scared and voiceless, strugglers who undergo changes to become the heroes of their own destinies.
Don’t we sometimes wish we could have that one person who encourages us, inspires us and help us, a magical person to guide us through our trials and pains?
Of course, you know that real life doesn’t have magic, Big Friendly Giants nor gigantic peaches that we can fly away on.
It does, however, hold real life catalysts: people who can help us become more of the person we want to be. These catalytic people are people who listen to us, who help us deal with the daily challenges we face. They might be a friend, a family member, a teacher, a counsellor, a CAMHS worker.
They aren’t magicians, they can’t make everything better, but, if just for 10 minutes a day, they make you feel like you can do this, then they are your BFG or Miss Honey.
Find your Miss Honey today!