My daughter the self-harmer: Getting help

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. 

It’s incredibly brave to put your private life out there in the public eye, but our blogger  mum has done just that in the hope that others will see that they’re not alone. After last week’s post was published, she contacted us to say: “I felt so alone and didn’t want to talk to others for fear of making things worse with my daughter which just adds more pressure. It’s like walking on eggshells on top of broken glass whilst carrying the world on your shoulders. So many others must feel the same, so it’s a great that Brighton5 are helping to make a difference.”

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

Chapter Two: Getting help

My daughter had cut herself a few times by the time I went to the doctor for help. Each time she did it, I hoped it would be the last time, but after a few times I realised that wasn’t going to be the case and that we needed help. I’d previously been to see a doctor about her as I was worried about her behaviour. She didn’t seem able to control her emotions and would go from states of high anxiety into angry and violent outbursts. She would lash out at anything or anyone nearby and then hate herself afterwards.  She was a young developer and I thought that it could be due to hormonal changes, but did wonder if she was suffering from anxiety or depression.

I was told by the doctor that it was just part of growing up, and anyway, there wasn’t any help available. At 12, she was too young for one type of help and too old for another. Each time I visited, I left the doctors feeling frustrated and thinking that I was a terrible parent for not being able to deal with this.

After she had self-harmed a few times I visited the doctor again. I was told it was very common nowadays. They said that CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) get so many referrals and, yet again, said that she was too young for the type of help that was offered.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing so I started to do my own online research into where to get help. I sought out a counsellor, but my daughter wouldn’t open up and just told them that everything was fine and she refused to go back.

I decided to speak to my daughter’s school about it. At first I was scared, thinking that the school would judge me as a bad parent, but it was the complete opposite. It was then that I realised how many children were self-harming. The school explained that it was more common in recent years, but this didn’t mean that my daughter, and us as a family, shouldn’t get help and support. The pastoral leader I saw was amazing, so reassuring and full of advice about where I could go for help. She suggested I go back to the doctor and try and get a CAMHS referral. For the first time in ages I felt that I was getting somewhere, and that my cries for help were being taken seriously. I felt a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders knowing that someone at her school would be keeping an eye on my daughter.

I went back to the doctor. By the time I had the appointment things had escalated. The self harming was becoming more frequent and there was also an incident where my daughter had climbed out of a window and said that she wanted to kill herself. The suicidal talk was cropping up more and more often and I was despairing. I was worried that I was attending the doctor’s appointments alone; my daughter wouldn’t come as she didn’t want to talk about it or seek help. Without her there, I wondered if I would be taken seriously. Would they want to see that she was ready to seek help?

This time I saw a different doctor. I explained everything and by this point was exhausted. I virtually broke down in the doctor’s room. I asked “at what point will we actually get help? When she’s actually killed herself and it’s too late?!” This time I got the referral to CAMHS and I felt a glimmer of hope.

Read more from our blogger mum’s story:

Where to get help and advice