Tips to Support a Young Person With Self-harm

*This post is about supporting someone who’s self-harmed. There will be no descriptions of self-harm and should be fairly trigger free. However, if you are sensitive around talking about the topic I suggest maybe not reading it.*

As it has been over 3 years since I self-harmed I wanted to write a post on tips to support a young person who is self-harming, this could be your child, student, or someone you care for, it might even be your friend.  I am writing this from personal experience as someone who self-harmed for 6 years and as someone who has supported young people who have self-harmed. The things that helped me may or may not help others, but I just want share what worked and didn’t work for me. I am not a mental health professional. 

Tips if a Young Person discloses they’ve been self-harming. 

1.Don’t Panic, Do Listen.                                                                                                                     If a young person tells you they’ve been self-harming, don’t act shocked or surprised. Even though you may feel these things, don’t let it show in this instance. Listen to what they want to say.

If you are not the parent/carer and instead are a teacher, nurse, etc. and have responsibility to report it then let the young person know ASAP that this is what you have to do and follow your organisations protocol for this. Although this is something you should inform them of, try not to interrupt them.

This could be the first time they’ve confided in someone about how they are feeling so really do listen.

2.Get Help                                                                                                                                                If someone has come to you after they have just self-harmed and you feel they may need immediate medical help then try and get them that straight away.

On the other hand, if they are not at immediate risk, you may still feel like you can’t deal with this by yourself at the time, and that’s fine. Go and get help from someone else to support you in dealing with this issue. It is just as important to protect your own mental health when supporting someone else.

3.Be There (Again)                                                                                                                               If you can. Something I always appreciated from the teachers who supported me was the fact that I knew that they were always there for me. Having someone consistent who I knew was “up-to-date” in my situation was always really helpful. But always put yourself first. I had a team of teachers supporting me at the time so the weight of issue was shared between all of them.

4.Signpost                                                                                                                                                 Chances are, if you’re reading this you aren’t a mental health professional. So signposting is key, especially because you’re not always going to be there for them. This helps protect you but also helps protect them. Although I never used these suggestions that often, it was helpful if I was ever in crisis.

There is a list of signposting at the end of this post.

Tips if you find out a Young Person has been Self-Harming 

1.Ask them how they are                                                                                                                     Try not to go straight in with “I see you’ve been self-harming” or “why are you doing that?”. Start off with just asking them how they are. Ask them how they’ve been and what they’ve been up to. Try to ask open questions, that way they can’t close off the conversation with a “yes” or a “no” answer. But at the same time try not to push them as this could deter them from ever wanting to open up.

If they do open up to you then follow the tips above.

2. Offer support                                                                                                                                     Even if they don’t open up to you, be there for them. Try and offer support and be open that you are there for them. That way they might be more inclined to speak to you when they are ready.

Have an open door policy if you can. This way they can just come to you if they need you.

3. Keep an Eye                                                                                                                                        Just keep an eye on them if you can. Obviously if you get really worried then try and get help and report it if needed.

4. Report it                                                                                                                                                If you need to, then report it through your organisations protocol. This will help protect the young person. If you can please tell them you are going to do this, as it will be worse for the young person if they don’t know that this is going to happen.

Tips if a Young Person presents at A&E with Self-Harm

1. Don’t Compare                                                                                                                                   If a young person comes to A&E due to self-harm, then please try not to judge. The young person will already be quite distressed, so telling them that they don’t deserve to be there and that others have it worse doesn’t help. Don’t tell them that the people with a physical crisis are more important than them. And don’t tell them that it’s all in their head.

2. Don’t Guilt-trip                                                                                                                                   Similar to the above, don’t guilt trip them. Don’t tell them they’ve done something “silly”. Don’t tell them that they are being selfish. It’s hard enough as it is, guilt tripping them will make it worse, and there’s no need for it.

Take home messages

1.Be Human                                                                                                                                             Although I have given you these tips, the biggest thing for me is just being human. You just need to listen, and be kind. If you feel comfortable then draw on your experiences, if this is going to be helpful. This is something I always appreciated from others.

2. Look after you                                                                                                                                   In relation to the point above, always make sure you are okay to deal with what you’re going to deal with. Look after yourself, build a support network, and don’t take it all on yourself.

3. Signpost!                                                                                                                                             In order to look after yourself have organisations that you can signpost this young person to. It’s really important as you’re not always going to be able to be there. It protects you and them.                                                                 

 

How to speak to someone who used to Self-Harm.                                                                    On a slight side note, I wanted to just write a little bit on how to speak to someone who used to self-harm. Personally for me, I really appreciate people just asking me if they see my scars, obviously in a polite way, but I really don’t mind it. I’m used to children asking me now and my response is always that I was ill, and that’s fine. I’d rather someone asked than just stared at my arms.

But on the other hand, some people might not want to talk about it and that’s fine. Just don’t stare and don’t be rude about it. If you think they might be having a relapse just let them know you are there for them.

I really hope this is helpful, and I’m sending lots of love to those of you who are struggling right now or supporting someone who is.

Love,

Abz xx

For more information on Self-Harm visit the following 

https://youngminds.org.uk/find-help/feelings-and-symptoms/self-harm/

https://www.childline.org.uk/info-advice/your-feelings/self-harm/self-harm/

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/self-harm/

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/self-harm/#.XEhwTFz7TIU

Signposting 

Calm Harm – App

Samaritans- 116 123

The Mix-0808 808 4994

Childline- 0800 1111

NHS-111

If in immediate risk present to A&E or call 999

 

 

#MyNameIsBorderlinePersonalityDisorder

#MyNameIs a healthcare professional with mental health issues. #MyNameIs mental illness.

My new campaign is all about healthcare professionals who experience mental health issues. To kick off the campaign I have asked other health care professionals to write about their experiences as guest posts.

“#MyNameIsBorderlinePersonalityDisorder

I am a Student Doctor.

My favourite animals are rabbits.

I live in England.

I believe most people would have the impression that living with a mental health condition is made more bearable by being a healthcare professional, after all you should have a good understanding of mental health and this makes it easier to cope, right?

In my experience, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

 Being a student doctor, or in fact a student of any healthcare profession, is wildly different to being a ‘normal student’. The timetable is far more intense: I have teaching or hospital placement, all day, every day, and this can impact so many areas of your wellbeing, even for someone without a pre-existing mental health condition!

I have lived with Borderline Personality Disorder since I was around 14, although this wasn’t my formal diagnosis until 18. I am now 21 years old.

Over the years I have identified what helps keep me well, and what can send me into a mental health crisis, and the challenge of being a student doctor is lots of the structure I find helpful to keep my BPD in check, just isn’t possible.

For example,

I rely on making sure I get enough sleep each night, eating 3 meals a day, and allowing myself time-out to relax when I need it.

These might sound like simple activities that everyone can do, but the reality is with structured teaching up to 12 hours a day, commuting to and from placement hospitals many miles away and not having a moment to pop to the bathroom (let alone an hour for lunch!), means that in practice, basic self-care often gets left by the wayside.

Beyond the practicalities, the psychological strain that being a student doctor places on you can’t be overlooked. There is no question that I adore my degree and I cannot wait to qualify as a doctor; however, watching patients and their loved ones suffer and sometimes finding that there is nothing more than can be done for them is like nothing else.

I wish I could say that being in a healthcare profession would mean that when you reach out for support, you are met with kindness, understanding and the absence of judgement. And whilst this is occasionally the case, the progress that has been made in many professions around reducing mental health stigma has not been reflected fully within the medical community.

It is an assumption that we should be able to ‘just cope’, despite the fact that we are actually more vulnerable to mental ill health than the general population, that prevents individuals from reaching out when they need help. It is the fear that after all you have done to get to the point you are at in your training or career, someone will decide you aren’t cut out for it simply because of your mental health difficulties. Whilst clearly there has to be guidelines due to the nature of healthcare based roles, there is a distinct difference between identifying possible issues around Fitness to Practise and supporting those with disabling mental health conditions with reasonable adjustments, and using the presence of any mental ill health as grounds to undermine a person’s ability.

Unfortunately, the times I have tried to access support within my medical school, I have been met with ignorance and repeated suggestions that I should take a Leave of Absence, despite my continued efforts and above satisfactory academic achievement. However, support and guidance on a wider university level, for example a specialist mentor from the disability service to help with the difficulties I have around concentration, organisation and communication, has been invaluable.

To any other struggling medical students, I would say this:

your health must always be your priority.

The pressure and competition are immense; the fear that you will fall behind or are somehow inadequate is very real and I understand that entirely. But before anything else, you need (and deserve!) to be well. Not just for you, but for all your patients today and every day for the rest of your career. Finally, believe in yourself and surround yourself with people who believe in you. Because, sadly, there will undoubtedly be individuals ready to doubt you and question your capacity in your role, and the way I have found the strength to continue through my training despite this is with the encouragement from friends and family who remind me every day all I have overcome to be the student doctor I am today!”

 

 

I hope you all enjoyed this insightful post. If anyone reading this needs support below are some helplines and websites. Thank you for reading and a massive thank you to contributors of this series.

Look after yourself,

Love Abz

 

Signposting (UK)

The Mix (up to 25)-020 7009 2500

Samaritans-116123

Papyrus-0800 068 41 41

 

My Battle with Self-harm

It came out Wednesday that over a quarter of 14 year old girls admit to self-harming. Boys are obviously doing it too but there wasn’t a statistic realised on this. It is a problem that effects so many young people and we are gradually beginning to talk about it more but still not enough. I just wanted to write something brief on my battle with self-harm. 

I started self harming when I was 15/16, I don’t really know why, other than the fact that too much was going on in my head and that was the release. It became a regular thing and this carried on until I was about 19 as a regular occurrence. People tried to stop me but it didn’t help.

When I was in the self-harm cycle nobody could say anything that was going to stop me. It was an addiction. To start with it was something that made me feel “better” but eventually it became something that was being used as a punishment.

Although self-harm stopped being  a regular thing for me when I turned 19 I have had moments since.

I’ve had times where sometimes I’d do what I used to do, but also I’d fine myself harming myself in ways that weren’t so obvious.

It’s an ongoing battle, and it’s a battle only I can fight but I can have support around me.