Raising Teens covered self-harm this week, looking at how it affects teens and parents. Jane, whose daughter self-harms, spoke movingly about how it has affected her and her family. Jane’s story was initially told on our blog. We were also joined by CAMHS Nurse, Rebecca, education specialist, Kathryn de Ferrer and mental health specialist, Ren Rockwood.

🔊 Listen to Raising Teens: Self-harm

Here are our guests’ top tips:

Rebecca

If you’re really worried, go to your GP. Don’t be afraid of asking for help. Look up charities like Selfharm UK, Hopeline UK which is part of Papyrus, and Young Minds has a really useful crisis messenger service. Mind Out is a really good LGBTQ charity. (All details and links below)

Kathryn de Ferrer

Whatever you’re hearing from your teenager, stay calm. Don’t react, listen.

Ren Rockwood

Don’t worry about saying the wrong thing. If you’re really concerned and think they’re at risk, go to A&E.

Jane

Be really patient and calm Listen and don’t judge them. And when it comes to getting help, follow your gut instinct. You will definitely get it if you keep shouting loud enough – go to the school, your GP, CAMHS and even the police – they’re there to protect the public and can help.

Help & Advice

For more information and advice on self-harm and how it affects teens and parents: 

Selfharm UK, dedicated to self-harm recovery, insight and support  

Young Minds information and advice on dealing with self-harm 

Young Minds Crisis Messenger 24/7 for young people, crisis support for young people text YM to 85258
Free and Confidential on EE, O2, Three and Vodafone

Young Minds Parents Helpline 0808 802 5544

Papyrus ,For children and young people under the age of 35 experiencing thoughts of suicide or anyone concerned that a young person could be thinking about suicide

HOPELINEUK call 0800 068 4141 text 07786209697 email pat@papyrus-uk.org 9am – 10pm weekdays, 2pm – 10pm weekends, 2pm – 10pm bank holidays. 

Mindout,  LGBTQ mental health service

Mermaids, Gender variant and trans mental health service

It is estimated that more than one in five girls self-harm in the UK. One parent details the journey from the realisation that her teen was self-harming, through the maze of bureaucracy to try and get help. 

Links to organisations that can offer help and support are listed at the bottom of this post.

Chapter five: “She is addicted to social media”

Can I say what caused my daughter’s self-harming? No. Do I think social media and her mobile phone have had a major role in her self-harming? Most definitely.

My daughter is addicted to her phone and social media. I have an app that sets time limits on her phone and I can remotely block apps. She is obviously not keen on this, but it means we don’t have to get into an altercation with me physically trying to remove the phone every night. Some people say you should trust your child and let them monitor their own usage, and that these apps don’t help teach your child responsibility. I may have once agreed, but I think every child is different and therefore every approach needs to be different.

I take her phone away at nights and am amazed and appalled at how many notifications from her friends come through late on into the night. Have these kids’ parents not seen any of the research about screens and sleep and mental health? If I take her phone away during the day, she has a meltdown. I ask her to empty the dishwasher, and she’ll say she needs her phone to listen to music, when there is a radio right next to her. Ask her to do any chore, including homework and she will argue that she NEEDS her phone. She simply feels she cannot cope without it.

My daughter is obsessed with Instagram and Snapchat. She follows people like the Kardashians (seriously don’t get me started on that family and the damage they do to girls’ mental health!!!). Basically, she follows young women, and some men who filter their images so much it hardly bears any resemblance to them in reality. The photos are taken in stunning locations, and they’re either on a beach or at some fabulous party having loads of fun. This is not reality! They do not look like this and they do not have this lifestyle. It is not glamorous. I don’t think that they are with real friends. I think these skinny, overly made-up people are likely to be suffering from eating disorders, are very lonely and have their own mental health issues.

My daughter obviously also follows her friends. She will moan to me that her life is miserable compared to everyone else. She thinks they have the perfect life and she has a rubbish one. I tell her not to compare the inside of her life with the outside of everyone else’s, that people are showing her what they want her to see, not reality.

How often have you looked on Facebook and got a bit sick with jealousy when a ‘friend’ who you’ve not seen for ages posts photos of their gorgeous children having won some award or other, or pictures of their amazing happy family from some fabulous location? How often do people post photos of themselves looking knackered after a hard day or work, or during a family argument? If it affects adults in this way, just imagine how it is affecting a teenager who is still developing their personality and trying to work out who they are. Are they behaving how they think people expect them to be rather than being themselves? Trying to look and feel fabulous all the time is bound to have a detrimental impact on their mental health. It is impossible to meet the ideals of the world we currently live in. It is impossible to keep up with the Kardashians.

Read more from our blogger mum’s story:

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Where to get help and advice

It is estimated that more than one in five girls self-harm in the UK. One parent details the journey from the realisation that her teen was self-harming, through the maze of bureaucracy to try and get help. 

Links to organisations that can offer help and support are listed at the bottom of this post.

Chapter four: “I stopped having any life of my own”

My daughter has been self-harming for a while. This and her violent episodes are having such a major impact on the whole family in many different ways.

My son is scared. He can’t sleep at night as that’s when the majority of the issues happen. He hears her hurting herself and throwing her belongings around. During the day, chairs and other objects will get thrown, doors will get slammed, other items will be destroyed or damaged and he gets upset. He cries and runs away to a safer part of the house.

I have stopped having any life of my own. She sleeps in our room next to me, or I end up sleeping on her floor, as by the end of the evening she is so distraught she cannot get herself to sleep. I’ve tried waiting up until she’s asleep, but then I’m awake most of the night and she’ll wake up in the middle of the night and still be distraught. So we’ve just got into a pattern of me sleeping near her.

I can’t go out. Whenever I do, she threatens to hurt or kill herself. At times she has run away saying she is going to kill herself, so I’ve stopped even planning to go out. I can’t tell my friends because she doesn’t want anyone to know so I’ve just been making excuse after excuse as to why I can’t meet up. My partner and I have not had a night off in over nine months.

I stopped working. One day I was travelling to a meeting and had a mini panic attack. I was so scared that she was going to hurt herself whilst I was away for the day, and I just couldn’t cope any more. There had been a couple of times when I was away with work and received phone calls from her telling me she had cut herself. It was awful. Being hundreds of miles away from home when you receive a phone call like that hits you in the stomach and the heart. I don’t actually have the words to describe how it feels.

Work were great. I told them what was happening at home and they gave me time off, which was great in some ways. It meant I could actually take some time out in the day for me – I’d go for a walk along the seafront or go to the gym, and I could spend some quality time with my son who was so clearly upset by it all. It also meant I could spend some more time with my daughter. At first this was really helpful as I had more patience and was able to deal with her outbursts and self-harming with more calmness as I wasn’t so tired and stressed. She started to confide in me, but I also think she became too dependent on me and I became the focus of all her anger and outbursts.

My partner withdrew a bit. I guess as I was dealing with everything at home, he threw himself into work as a distraction. It has had a massive impact on our relationship. The dynamic has changed so much as I had all of a sudden changed from being the major breadwinner to stay at home mum. I was doing all the household chores, and everything to do with my daughter was left to me. There were so many appointments and meetings which I attended on my own or with my daughter. I spent many hours each day researching mental health and self-harming. I felt like I had lost all sense of my own identity. I had simply become my daughter’s mother.

Next post: “My daughter is addicted to social media”

Read previous chapters from our blogger mum’s story:

Where to get help and advice

It is estimated that more than one in five girls self-harm in the UK. One parent details the journey from the realisation that her teen was self-harming, through the maze of bureaucracy to try and get help.

Links to organisations that can offer help and support are listed at the bottom of this post.

Chapter three: The CAMHS appointment

We were told there could be a really long wait for the CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) appointment, so I was really surprised when the letter came through in about a month.

I was so nervous. I wasn’t’ sure I could actually get my daughter to turn up to the appointment. And if she did turn up, would she just stay quiet or worse lie and tell them that everything was fine? Would they be able to get her to be honest with them? She hadn’t been honest with any of the counsellors, so why would this be any different? Would they judge me? Would they be willing to help her or would they think that her situation wasn’t serious enough? Could they actually help her?

If I was this worried and nervous, I have no idea what emotions my 12 year old was going through.

It took a lot of convincing and persuading for me to get her to agree to come to the appointment. Her agreeing to seek help was, in itself, a massive step.

The day of the appointment started off badly. She didn’t want to go and had a few angry episodes during the day. It took a lot of bribery for me to get her to go to the appointment. I promised her that they would be able to help her. But what if they couldn’t, then what? I just felt that this was only chance to get her the help she needed and I couldn’t let this pass us by.

When we met with the CAMHS practitioner, she asked my daughter if she knew why she was there. She replied by saying, “ No, not really”. The practitioner then read out the letter of referral from the doctor, and asked me to say why I thought we were there. This was so tough as I knew my daughter would be mortified at having to sit there and listen to me telling a bunch of strangers all about her anger and self harming, and her talking about wanting to kill herself.

The practitioner was brilliant at getting my daughter to open up and talk. I left the room so they could talk privately. Whilst I was in the waiting room, the same fears returned. I’d promised my daughter and myself that we would get help. I was pinning everything on this, and I didn’t know what to do or where to go if they turned us away.

I was called back into the room and again the practitioner was fantastic. She didn’t say anything was wrong with my daughter but she did say she could help her by having some sessions with her, and also suggested a group mindfulness session. Both of these would start the following week.

I was so immensely proud of my daughter that day. I was in awe of how she’d handled the situation with everyone focusing on her. She was able to articulate herself and her situation so clearly and she was so brave. I no longer felt like I was dealing with this alone. We finally had help.

I went home with much more hope than I’d had in ages and collapsed. I hadn’t realised how much tension and stress I’d been carrying around trying to get my daughter help – and finally we were getting help. It was such a sense of relief.

Read more from our blogger mum’s story:

 

Where to get help and advice