I am super chuffed that in the last couple of days two of my pieces have been shared by the Huffington Post and The Mighty.
I think its so easy to assume as one human, just little old us we can’t possibly make a difference to this big wide world.
I am starting to challenge that within myself and think that maybe just maybe I can. We can. Not matter small it is, no matter what it is we choose to do to raise awareness, to be heard that it’s possible with a little hard work and determination and regarding mental health I have that in bucket loads oozing from my pores and I am DETERMINED to be a voice for those with mental illness.
My little tree of hope project was so simple. It cost me about £50 which I was more than happy to spend if it bought some hope to someone out there and that it did. It was also picked up on twitter with currently over 20k views and messages from others wanting to do the same, that means it not only impacted those walking past it in my local park but it also inspired people far and wide and it’s something that could be replicated so easily to offer hope and comfort and this gives ME hope.
The tree of hope was also picked up by the huffington post and you can see the article HERE
One of my favourite blog pieces was also picked up by The Mighty, it was one of my favourites as it was regarding the thing that I feel the most passionate about regarding mental health and that is treatment.
It’s a letter to mental health professionals from me and what i’d like them to know, on behalf of all mental health patients. You can see that article HERE
So please do carry on your own projects, your own awareness activities, they DO make a a difference, we CAN make a difference and as I always say. Don’t be ashamed of your story. it will inspire others. So keep writing, sharing and inspiring my beauties because our voices matter.
Self harm is misunderstood and often thought of as attention seeking behaviour. This couldn’t be further from the truth. People that self harm will mostly go to great lengths to hide it.
In a way, I was lucky that I learned to control it but this took many many many years and a distinct lack of help – including being told by a psychiatrist on an inpatient ward that it was “child’s play”, “didn’t I like that sort of attention?” ” you haven’t actually tried to kill yourself have you?” and I pretty much dealt with it alone.
It holds a lot of stigmas and people often don’t know how to react to it but the fact is the statistics are on the rise and young people are getting younger…
Once started it’s something that difficult to stop and very easily becomes an ingrained and “go to” coping mechanism.
My advice to anyone struggling is to speak to someone – whoever that may be – someone you trust, a helpline- anyone that will allow you to speak without judgment.
This is a very hard thing to do but it’s a brave and vital step to getting the help you need and the longer it lives in secrecy the harder things can become. It can be stopped. I didn’t think it could after years of not getting any real support for it, but you can come through it ♡
To any parents or carers I would say that just listening is so important, don’t judge, don’t assume they are trying to end their lives – while the self harming may be a way of expressing that this is how they feel the action of self harm itself doesn’t necessarily mean suicidal intent – it does mean there are overwhelming emotions and trying to get to the bottom of those is important and so talking, listening , and kindness are so important. Trying to get the person just to stop and focussing all the energy around that has the danger of pushing them away and making them less open and so supporting them emotionally and getting relevant help are vital.
Don’t judge people who self harm. Don’t assume their reasons for doing it. Listen. Be kind. It’s a very difficult time and words are important.
I hope that schools take note of the new statistics and mental health becomes spoken about it schools as part of a curriculum. Mental health issues are ever growing and children are getting younger.
I hope that children will be given the relevant knowledge and understanding to understand what is going on with themselves and also their peers!
Notes of hope were attached to a bridge where people have ended their lives – Worcestershire County Council tore them down three days later flagged as a “distraction to motorists”
I aim to prove that this project has been proven to save lives other areas of the country with no council backlash. People helping people is important. The smallest things can make the biggest difference!
I started the #muskettswaybridgehope project which the aim to attach “notes of hope” to a bridge in Redditch where people have ended their lives.
This particular bridge has been campaigned over for years for safety measures to be made to the structure of the bridge, including by a former mayor but nothing has ever been done about it.
This project wouldn’t cost the council a penny and also is very personal, each note written from the heart of someone who has felt suicidal or has dealt with mental illness to the heart of someone who may be feeling similar. This has been proven to work in other areas of the country, in one area alone having saved eight lives in a short period. All have had support from their local are yet the council for this bridge ripped them down within three days.
What does someone with a mental illness look like? Sound like? Act like?
Can someone be severely struggling with mental health but still able to portray themselves as a functioning person? Still look well groomed, hold a conversation to the point that you’d have no idea? Does someone have to have not have washed or got out of bed to be suicidal?
I believe that these are some of the most important questions that need to be asked and addressed in regards to mental health awareness.
These are factors that are so ingrained in to society about how someone with severe mental illness should present and portray themselves. Not just by the general public but also government bodies such as the DWP and also unfortunately by some mental health professionals themselves.
It makes us feel like we have lost ourselves and like we will never return, consumed by despair and hopelessness.
It’s easy to think when we are depressed that this is life. This is how it is now. We are lost in this hole and we can’t get out. There is no way out and we are now lost in this blackness.
This is where suicidal thoughts creep in. When we have lost hope. We believe there is no way out, no one can help. Nothing is ever going to make us feel good again and our old selves are like a dream that happened once upon a time.
People self harm when dealing with very difficult feelings and overwhelming situations and often comes hand in hand with mental illness.
I starting self harming from around the age of 14. No one would have known. I kept it tightly under lock and key.
I remember the first time I self harmed very clearly. I didn’t even know it was self harm, I didn’t know it had a name and I don’t know where it came from. It wasn’t something that was on soaps then that I had watched, I hadn’t heard of or seen anyone else doing it either. I just picked up that blade and cut myself out of the blue because I didn’t know what else to do with the noise inside my head.
I was feeling so much upset, frustration, anger and pain that at time I felt I could jump through a brick wall using the sheer force of my emotions as the fuel to get through it. I wanted to scream at the top of lungs but couldn’t and so it stayed a constant screaming inside my head that just got louder and louder.
It’s like a pan boiling over. Completely overwhelming emotions.
Self harm has a reputation for being an attention seeking behaviour. Let me say right now that it is not. If it was for attention we would cut where you could see, not somewhere that you can’t. In actual fact the thought of someone actually finding out is terrifying. Why else would people that self harm swealter in the heat in long sleeve tops or trousers in the summer? If people that self harmed wanted you to know then you would know the second they did it but that isn’t the case. People will to great lengths to cover it up.
People that self harm are experiencing extreme emotions that seem unmanageble, mental illness, overwhelming situations, using it to punish themselves for something that they feel they’ve done, to feel like they have control over their thoughts and feelings and while people that self harm aren’t doing it to kill themselves they may be doing it to express suicidal feelings without actually doing so.
It’s extreme emotional distress that is behind self harm and it should never be laughed off, shrugged off or assumed that it’s attention seeking behaviour. Trust me, to do that is very dangerous and only makes matters worse. Believe me. I know.
Self harm isn’t always cutting it can also include and not limited to : over eating and under eating, punching walls, deliberately getting in to fights, overdosing, hitting yourself and burning yourself.
My outlet was cutting and at it’s worst my thighs were completely covered in cuts. It was always enough to cause pain and to quieten the screaming in my head and fizzle some of the overwhelming frustration and sadness but never enough that it would require any attention for anyone else to have to see.
I was once asked by a psychiatrist on an inpatient ward “Don’t you like that kind of attention? You haven’t actually tried to kill yourself have you? You can leave if you want” Luckily it was decided by other staff members that I shouldn’t leave because If I had then I most probably would have tried to end my life at that point. Self harm should never be treated in this way, like it’s insignificant because it’s anything but.
It’s not something thats “trendy”, it’s not something that is only done by teenagers, it’s not attention seeking, it’s not something that is a “phase” and it’s not someone trying to kill themselves, however if it’s treated in these ways it very well could be.
Please don’t shout at a child if you find out they are self harming or demand answers, ask them why they would want to do something like that, ask if they are trying to kill themselves and belittle it. I remember the moment that happened to me and I will never forget it. Had I been given some time and compassion instead maybe things would have gone a little differently. It can be hard to know how to react. Just please don’t react in anger.
If you are struggling with self harm please know that things can get better. I self harmed for so many years I believed it was just a part of me, that I would never stop doing it when things got too much. Now I haven’t self harmed for around 8 years. It still crosses my mind at points, I can’t lie and say it ever completely 100% goes away.
There have been times when i’ve been extremely close but I learned to distract myself – I HATED people saying that when I was actually going through it, my reaction always being “If only it were that simple!” and you may feel that way too. That’s ok. It doesn’t mean that it will always be that way. It’s a process and it’s something that takes time but eventually it can get better and the urges become less and in time they can almost disappear. Just take it a step at a time. Little by little. I did it and believe me I didn’t think It possible. You can too.
Below I have linked some support options out there, but the main thing is to find the courage to tell someone. To talk about it. That is so important. Hiding it makes it grow and the secrecy eats away at you. It’s hard. So hard – it’s incredibly brave to speak out about it but you can do it. Find someone you trust. Take a deep breath and be honest – that’s the first step to getting better and something you CAN do. It may feel impossible but it’s a vital step.
I have recently been shown an app for young people who self harm, which has been co produced by young people themselves with lived experience of self harm which looks very good and well worth checking out if you are a young person or parent.
Blue Ice app is a prescribed evidence based app that aims to help young people manage their emotions and reduce urges to self harm. I wish I had been given something like this to try at the beginning of my self harming, it’s well worth looking in to. It includes a mood diary, techniques to reduce distress and automatic routing to emergency numbers if the urges to harm yourself continues.
It’s prescription based to be used alongside face to face intervention so you would need to check with your local CAMHS to see if they offer it, if they don’t it’s worth mentioning to them and see if they can subscribe to it.
Also for young people is selfharm.co.uk which provides a safe space for young people to talk, ask questions and be honest about what’s going on in their lives without the fear of judgement.
For adults there is is National self harm network which supports people who self harm to reduce emotional distress and has an online support forum which provides crisis support, discussions and distractions and it’s also closely monitored.
Can animals really have an impact on mental health?
YES YES YES!!
I like animals more than humans most of the time, Fact. They don’t judge me, they give huge dollops of selfless love and they just want to be your friend. This is a relationship made in heaven as far as i am concerned!
My fur baby Alfie has saved my life more times than he is even aware of. Many times i have got well for him, not wanting to leave him on his own because he literally is my baby. I have had people bring him to visit me when I have been hospital and seeing him walking off has given me a lot of motivation over time to get well. If I cry he licks my tears, if i’m sad he knows….If I’m anxious he too becomes an anxious slightly neurotic dog which is strange but almost beautiful that he is that much in sync with me.