Category Archives: Supporting Others

Things To Say To Someone Who Is Suicidal

When someone is suicidal it can be difficult to know what to say. You can be scared that something will make the person feel worse and even push them over the edge. However talking to someone who is suicidal is so important. It can make such a difference and can be so helpful. Below are a few things that may be helpful to say.

1. “I care if you’re here or not”

This simple phrase means a lot as when feeling suicidal it can feel like noone cares whether you are around or not. You feel useless and a burden and just think that it’s for the best of everyone if you are gone. Hearing that people care can hit deep and although it may be hard for us to believe it is still good to hear.

2. “You deserve love and support”

When you’re feeling suicidal you can feel like you deserve nothing but to be gone. You most likely don’t feel worthy of love and support so being reminded we are can be important. It may also help us to reach out further if we feel like maybe it is OK for us to ask for help.

3. “You are good at…”

When feeling suicidal it can be impossible to believe you are good at anything. Telling someone they are good at something and if possible providing evidence of how good they are at it can really help. They may not accept the compliment easily or at all but it will quite possibly stick in their mind when they are thinking the worst of themselves.

4. “I will stick by you”

Knowing we have someone by our side is really important. Feeling suicidal can feel really lonely. We may feel totally on our own. We also may feel that we are upsetting people by the way we feel and they might leave us. This can make us feel worse and like life is even less worth living. Knowing we do have someone offers hope.

5. “I don’t know what to say but I will listen”

It’s OK to say if you don’t know what to say and rather than pretending you do know it’s OK to say you don’t know. What is more important is that you are there to listen and support and that we know you’re there.

If you are trying to support someone who is feeling suicidal it is important that you take care of yourself as well. You are important too.

For more support you can contact the Samaritans or the crisis lines in the menu. Or you can contact a health professional.

If you have more ideas of things to say to someone who is feeling suicidal then please share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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Self Harm Etiquette For The Medical Profession

This is a blog post for anyone working in the medical profession. This includes Doctors, GPs, Nurses, Healthcare Assistants, Paramedics, Support Workers, Psychiatrists, Care Coordinators, Psychologists, Pharmacists, Admin staff and Receptionists. Basically anyone who comes into contact with a person who may have self harmed (therefore could also be useful for police officers too).

It has come to my attention that some of the people we want to help us deal with self harm can be some of the least useful with their comments and actions regarding dealing with self harm. Therefore I thought I’d put some tips together specifically for them and any professional that needs to help with self harm.

1. Don’t comment on it in front of other patients

This may sound really obvious. Patient confidentiality is key. Bringing it up in front of other patients without permission is wrong and can cause harm to the person who is self harming, the relationship between patient and professional and possibly even the other patient/s who could hear about it. You never know where this information will go. Unfortunately I know it happens. I’ve seen it happen.

2. Don’t guilt trip us

I’ve had this happen with a former GP. I was told I obviously didn’t love my parents over my self harm. It was awful. I didn’t return for treatment until two years later after a suicide attempt. This isn’t the only impact it can have. Self harm is not a selfish act. It’s a way of trying to keep going. It’s a way of coping. Most people who self harm probably already think about the perceived damage they do to others. To be guilt tripped by a professional is more likely to make the situation worse and even cause the patient to withdraw from seeking help, maybe until it is too late.

3. Don’t mimick self harm behaviour

Again this is something I have encountered and not just with one professional but many. It seems some can’t bear to say the words “self harm” and so use actions like using their hand to mimick cutting across an arm. Not only is this not clear communication, it can be triggering. It is a difficult topic but it is one that needs to be dealt with sensitively and professionally. Yes you do need to ask, but please use words rather than miming actions.

4. Be careful with what you say

Most professionals are careful with what they say. They think before they speak and take into account the individuals situation. That’s great if they know the patient. However without continuity of care, which is heavily missing in places, you may not know details or you may just be someone that only encounters someone briefly so has no background information to draw on. This means being careful with what you say. I’ve heard things that concern me. They may be useful for some but I can also see them as potentially inflammatory to the wrong person. I’ve heard “you’re scars look cool”, “just use your faith” and “what would your family think?” as common phrases among others. Let’s work backwards, the last comment can easily be seen as a possible guilt trip but it can also cause some negative emotions to surface, particularly if there is friction within the family. The middle comment is also dangerous as some people don’t have a faith and this may be because of trauma or abuse. It can also suggest unless you have a relationship with a god, you can’t be helped. The first statement may be the most troubling though. You’re reinforcing the behaviour. Yes self harm shouldn’t be something people feel ashamed of, but it shouldn’t be highly celebrated either.

5. Don’t judge or use stereotypes

Some professionals have a preexisting picture of what a person who self harms is. They may see them as frustrating and a drain on resources. They may see it as attention seeking. These stereotypes tend to grow over time within a staff member. I can see how hard it must be to treat someone who seems to be causing their own suffering. But it is a symptom of an illness. It is like an addiction. It is hard once you have started to stop. It can feel like all you have in the world at that time. It is a sign of distress. Being compassionate, non judgemental and just kind to the patient goes a long way. It can help the person to keep accessing help. Doing the opposite could push people away and leave them in dangerous situations.

6. Don’t compare us to other patients who have self harmed

Every person is going through their own unique experience with mental illness and self harm. Self harm is self harm. So it may not be as deep or as “bad” as someone else you have treated, but to that person the pain they feel inside is probably just as intense and unbearable. Hearing that we aren’t as serious as someone else because it doesn’t reach a certain level is heartbreaking and can have a negative impact. It can cause us to try and do more damage. It makes us think we aren’t good enough or that we don’t deserve help. Everyone, whatever level of self harm they present with, deserves support and compassion.

7. Don’t use the terms “superficial” or “attention seeking”

I hate the term superficial when it’s used to describe my self harm. It makes me feel like a rubbish self harmer and that I need to harm worse or more. It can encourage the behaviour and make things worse. The same can be said about the term attention seeking as it can drive the behaviour underground and prevent people getting help.

Those are just a few helpful hints for medical professionals. It might not be a regular thing you encounter but it is always useful to know how to help someone who self harms.

If you have any tips you wish professionals knew then feel free to use the comments or Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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Self Harm Scar Etiquette

As it’s summer the weather is warmer and people are starting to reveal more of their body. This brings an anxiety to people who have self harmed, past or present, as they are faced with the choice of covering up (and boiling) or revealing their scars and self harm to the world. Therefore I thought I’d come up with some things that will make it easier for the person with the scars or self harm if you encounter them. Obviously this is just my opinion and others may feel differently.

1. Don’t point it out

This seems obvious to some but not to others. Pointing out scars adds to the self consciousness. We’re already worried what people are thinking without it being obvious that they’re looking at the scars. Also if we are starting to forget about them and enjoy what we’re doing then pointing them out takes away from our enjoyment.

2. Don’t ask us why we did it

Again, this adds to self consciousness. We become aware that you’re really looking and thinking about our self harm or scars. It can make us feel awkward and like we’re being judged. Quite often we don’t know why we self harm or don’t want to discuss it as its obviously something that has caused us great pain. We can easily be taken back to that dark place.

3. Don’t tell us to cover up

First of all why should we cover up? This makes me a little annoyed. I’ve been made to feel ashamed of my scars a long time and this shouldn’t be the case. It’s part of an illness. I have every right to not boil in summer. I don’t want to make people uncomfortable but I also shouldn’t have to feel uncomfortable. People who self harm feel enough shame and it takes guts to show your scars, we shouldn’t have that shame added to.

4. Please don’t stare

This can feel awful. I already feel self conscious enough without people staring at me. I had this once on the train and it really fed in to my paranoia. I know it can be hard to look away sometimes but please think of the person you’re staring at.

It takes real bravery to overcome the barriers to have your scars on show. It is revealing yourself to many people, including strangers. It can take a long time to accept your scars are part of you. Shame is a really strong emotion that people who self harm feel and can be added to by other people making ill thought out comments. Please think before you speak.

If you have any other things you feel people should do or not do help you feel comfortable showing scars feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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Unhelpful Things That Have Been Said To Me

This is a personal piece. Please be aware that some content may be triggering.

I’m currently in a state of crisis. I’ve been struggling with self harm and suicidal thoughts. I’ve been quite open about this on social media and had lots of supportive messages but there have also been some extremely unhelpful comments too. Here are a few.

“Everyone feels like this some days, it will be better tomorrow” – A well meaning comment I know but for those who have a chronic mental illness it feels like you are downplaying what we are feeling and going through. Often tomorrow won’t be a better day. In fact it could be ten times worse. This makes us feel like we are doing something wrong to still be in this pit of despair. Also not everyone goes through what we are going through. A lot of people will experience similar things but what each person feels is unique to them. While there may be some comfort in knowing we are not alone, pretending everyone has experienced it just makes us feel like we are not coping as well as others do.

“I’ve heard camomile tea is calming” – This was said to me by someone with a mental illness and again I know they meant well. The problem is camomile tea is not going to solve suicidal thoughts. My mental illness is much more complicated than that. If it was as simple as that I wouldn’t repeatedly fall into crisis.

“Have faith in God” – I have nothing against anyone who believes in God or follows a religion. That is great for you and if it helps you to feel better than I am pleased for you. However please don’t try to make me believe in God or have a faith. There may be a number of reasons someone doesn’t have a faith and even if they do it can not always help them when dealing with a mental illness. It is not a crisis of faith that causes mental illness.

“There’s plenty to do that could take your mind off things” – I know that keeping busy can be useful to distract from the distressing thoughts but I had been doing hours of distraction and keeping busy when this was said to me. I felt like I couldn’t do anymore and even when I was busy the thoughts were still there. Also sometimes it is not possible to just keep going. Having a mental illness can be so exhausting in itself that doing something else is just impossible. Distraction also only works for so long. Eventually your thoughts will catch up with you if you don’t deal with them.

Those are just what have been said to me this time round in crisis. There have been many more that I have experienced over the course of having had a mental illness.

If you have had some unhelpful things said to you and feel you would like to share, feel free to use the comments or Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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Losing A Mental Health Professional

This piece contains my personal opinions and some of the content may be triggering.

Sometimes in life we can’t control what is happening around us. People come and go in our lives whether we want them to or not. This can be hard to deal with. One big change can be when we lose a mental health professional who has been involved in our care for a long time. We may have come to rely on their help and support. We may have built up a good relationship with them. And then it ends.

As someone with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) endings can be particularly tough. Having a fear of abandonment means that when someone does actually leave our lives it is like a self fulfilling prophecy. Our worst fears are happening. This may lead to us getting involved in risky behaviours or rejecting the person before they are out of our lives in a way we believe will protect us.

Recently I was given the news that my care coordinator was moving on and I was going to have to say goodbye. It was difficult news to take as we had a good relationship and she was a great and supportive care coordinator. Getting the news made me feel like I was being abandoned as at the time there was no replacement on the horizon and no idea when one would be recruited. I was close to tears. Many thoughts went through my head including “was this my fault?”.

As I came to accept that this was going to happen I started to pull away from my care coordinator. This is what often happens with people who have a BPD diagnosis. It’s a way of protecting ourselves from a perceived abandonment even when it is not a true abandonment.

What helped though was the way my care coordinator rounded up our sessions together. She made sure my care plan was updated before everything ended so the next person would know what I needed help with and what I was working on already. Also in the end a new locum care coordinator was appointed so my old care coordinator could introduce me to the new one. This allowed her to inform the new person as to how often we met, what my major issues are and what needs to be brought up at my next psychiatrist appointment. It also helped to make a plan with the new care coordinator as to how our meetings would work.

What should a mental health professional remember to do when leaving a therapeutic relationship?

  1. Let the person know your leaving face to face
  2. Answer any questions about the change that the service user/patient has about the change
  3. If possible introduce your replacement to the service user/patient
  4. If unable to introduce your replacement, leave notes for your successor
  5. Tie up all loose ends

What can I do if I’m losing a mental health professional?

  1. Talk about any issues you feel need to be taken into account with a member of your mental health team
  2. Make sure you have numbers of people you can contact if you need help
  3. Create a support network (if possible) away from the mental health team
  4. Be open to a new mental health professional, remember just because they are new doesn’t mean they’ll be awful

Those are a few pieces of advice that I have but if you have more then feel free to use the comments or Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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Time To Talk Day 2019

It’s that time of year again. Yes, today, 7th February 2019, is Time to Talk day. I must admit that I have struggled to think of what to write about for this year’s Time to Talk day so where this blog post is going I have no idea. And that is OK.

Sometimes we have difficult conversations and we don’t know how the other person is going to react to what we say. This makes us hesitant to talk about the difficult things. That’s why Time to Talk day is important. It’s an ice breaker. It helps us discuss what isn’t always an easy topic; mental health.

I still struggle to talk about my mental health. I’m hesitant to say I’m struggling to those important people in my life. In fact they are sometimes the last to know what I’ve been going through. Yet I can blog about it to lots of people I barely know.

So why is it so difficult to talk to the ones we love the most? I think it has to do with how they will react. This is something out of our control and we don’t know if they will be upset, angry or any other emotion. Because of the stigma surrounding mental health still we are on edge as to whether we will face it from those we love the most. And we know that we could end up feeling worse if they don’t react how we hope they will.

So this year I think I might just share a few pointers for those who are listening to someone share about their mental illness. I don’t know if it will be helpful but I’ll give it a go.

1. Just listen: Sometimes it is simply having someone to listen without judging or making suggestions that means the most to us. If we ask for help then yes by all means try and help but we don’t always want that.

2. Be calm: It can be hard to do but staying calm will allow us to open up more as we see you are not reacting. Going straight into panic mode can make us feel guilty for talking and stop us opening up when we really need to.

3. Find an outlet: You are as important as the person with the mental illness who is talking to you. Therefore make sure you have support too. It will make you stronger for the person who is confiding in you.

4. Don’t guilt trip us: Telling us that we are making you feel bad or causing you stress will just make us stop talking. It will play into the negative thoughts we have and make us regret opening up and may even stop us from opening up to others.

5. Don’t shut the conversation down: If you say you don’t want to hear this then you can make us feel like we shouldn’t talk. If you’re finding it difficult suggest alternatives. Make sure that they know it’s OK to talk.

So those are a few tips to help you support someone who may start a conversation about mental health. Hopefully they might be useful. If you have any more ideas feel free to share in the comments or via Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

What Not To Say: Self Harm

Please be aware this post discusses self harm and therfore some of the content may be triggering.

Self harm is still a taboo subject and is often met with stigma,even from health professionals, who don’t understand what it’s like to deal with. Therefore I thought I’d put together a quick guide to things not to say to someone who self harms.

1. “You’re attention seeking”

Most people who self harm don’t want the attention. We often hide what we are doing much to the detriment of our mental and physical health. In fact there are easier ways to get attention than to self harm. Self harm is often a very secretive act and this can cause us trouble when we hurt ourselves to much. If this happens we’re often scared to get the health care that we need due to the stigma surrounding this subject. Also if someone is self harming for attention they still deserve your help and care. They obviously need that attention for some reason so it should not be dismissed.

2. “You know you’ll have scars for life”

Yes we know this. But at the moment our emotional pain is too much to deal with and we don’t care about the future at this moment in time. We also don’t need the judgements that you are placing on us. We often feel bad enough already without this comment.

3. “If you want to die why don’t you just do it?”

Self harm is often not a suicide attempt. Yes some people who self harm do want to die but often self harm is a way of coping with life and trying hard to stay alive. Also telling someone to just die is plain wrong. Why would you encourage someone to die?

4. “Don’t you feel pain?”

This is one that I’ve heard recently. And for me I don’t feel the pain at the time of harming myself. Everyone is different though. And even if a person doesn’t feel pain, pointing it out is not necessary and can be potentially triggering. This is why you shouldn’t say it to a person who self harms. It’s just unhelpful.

5. “Ugh, your scars are horrible”

My scars may look horrible to you but to me they are a symbol of what I’ve been through. Also its really unhelpful to say this as showing our scars is difficult enough. People should not be ashamed to show their scars. It is nothing to be ashamed of.

6. “Why don’t you just stop?”

If it was as easy as just stopping it wouldn’t be the problem it is. Self harm is like an addiction. You come to rely on it even though you know its not particularly helpful and in the long times makes things harder. Self harm becomes like your best friend as its always there for you but you know it’s actually toxic. It is a hard relationship to break down. So saying “why don’t you just stop?” is unhelpful. What we need is support to learn healthier coping strategies.

So that’s a few things not to say to someone who self harms. If you want more information on self harm you can check out the Mind website. If you want to share things not to say to someone then feel free to use the comments, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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