We all have times when we struggle to cope with the constant pressures of life. But for some people, that emotional and physical stress bubbles up to such an extent that they need a release, which is often in the form of self harm.
Self harm covers a huge variety of self destructive behaviours, perhaps the most common and well known one is cutting. But self harm does not necessarily leave a mark. When I have self harmed in the past, I have overdosed. A particularly nasty habit. But self harm doesn’t always mean you are hurting yourself physically. Self harm also covers people that put them selves in dangerous situations on purpose, for example being sexually promiscuous, walking alone late at night, stopping needed medication or cutting themselves off from their support network.
It can be hard to tell if someone self harming is doing it for the attention, or because they need a release. So, in my opinion, the best thing you can do for someone that self harms (especially children) is give them positive attention WITHOUT mentioning the self harm (at least never in a bad, negative light). It becomes a vicious cycle if you are dealing with someone who self harms because they need a release. If you make them feel bad for it, they will be more than likely then need to self harm because they feel so guilty for what they have done.
I would suggest a trip out to the cinema, or a coffee house, or to dinner. But don’t do it because they self harmed, do it because you want to spend more time with them. Of course, if they flaunt tiny scratches around or overdose on 5 paracetamol then it is more likely it is an attention seeking behaviour. If it is attention seeking, do not treat that as a negative thing. Often it is a cry for help because they are unhappy, not because they are trying to make life difficult. It is still a sign they need your help and support.
If you find that you are looking after a friend that self harms, it is important to get the the correct help for them. Many people forget however, that the people affected by other people’s self harming also need support and guidance. You can’t take on someone else’s problems like that without some support. There are groups and organisations that can help. Speak to your GP for more advice.
Onto the crisis box. This is a box that you set up yourself, that you can turn to when you want to self harm. It distracts all of your senses and helps calm you down. I recommend all that self harm have one, so if you know someone who self harms then please share this with them, it may just save their life. The sad fact is, a lot of suicides are accidental, which is a scary thought.
I will be writing about what I have in my box, but we all have different tastes and likes, so you tailor the box to things you will find useful. Mine is in a cardboard box that I decorated, but as long as everything you need is together in one place that is easily accessible it doesn’t matter where you put it or what you put it in.
Eyes: Put in pictures of your favourite people, puzzle books, jigsaws, favourite film, paint by numbers, and mood lights (you can pick them up for a fiver, they are just little lights you can watch that change colour, the are very calming- I would consider this one a must).
Ears: Put in your favourite CD’s, music has amazing powers to change your mood. Pick music that will lift you up (I find wake me up before you go-go and greased lightening good to improve your mood). If you play an instrument, sit and play that for a while.
Nose: Put in some scented candles or incense sticks. If there is a particular scent that brings you back to a happy place, try and put that in there. You can get most smells bottled up now!
Taste: put your favourite chocolate bar in there. Or any other sweets you like. Cook your favourite meal. Grab some popcorn to watch the film with. Anything you like really, the possibilities are endless.
Touch: Put a rubix cube in there so you can keep your fingers busy, a stress ball, play-dough, a colouring book or sketch pad and pencils, paint by numbers, a soft toy etc etc.
You should also include a list of phone numbers to call in a crisis, This includes any family members that may be able to just come and sit and talk for a while, or calm you down over the phone, your care co-ordinator, GP, crisis team (should be located at your local hospital), the mental health support line on 0800 107 0160 and Samaritans on 01843 229 422. If you have a care or support worker, they can provide you with numbers you need and they will come up with a care plan for you, it is important that your main support person has a copy (could be your parents or a friend) so that they know what steps need to be taken.
I know this was a long post, but my crisis box has saved my life repeatedly. Even if this helps just one person it is worth it. If you ever want to ask any questions or need advice, you are welcome to contact me.