Self-Injury Awareness Day Blog

Today, March 1st, is Self-Injury Awareness Day which is also known as Self-Harm Awareness Day. It’s a worldwide awareness event which gives us a chance to be more open about self-harm and to talk about our experiences.

At Accomplish Group, some of the people we support may have personal experience of self-harm. Many of our team members may have supported someone who self-harms.

As one of the UK’s largest providers of specialist therapeutic rehabilitation, residential and supported living services for people with mental health difficulties, we wanted to explore self-harm from the perspectives of the people we support. and the team who support them.

First, we hear from Kimbar. Kimbar sometimes prefers to be known as Sean, and vice versa. They are a person supported by Accomplish in one of our residential services in Wales and wanted to share their experiences of self-harming.

“I first harmed myself at a very young age and I was able to stop it. I was 15 or 16 when I first did it and when I did it, I felt relief. Some of the time I hid it but sometimes it was so bad I couldn’t hide it as I would need stitches. I was 17 when I stopped. I felt like my senses were coming back and I didn’t want to hurt myself any more. I knew if I kept doing it, it would get worse and I wouldn’t be around then.

“But I got admitted to hospital because of my mental health and I started when I was in there again when I was 22. Sometimes it was a relief but to be honest sometimes I just felt I wanted it to end. I was hearing voices. Sometimes I was hurting myself every day.

“My psychologist helped me and I got the treatment and help I needed. I had encouragement from my Mum too who wanted me to stop and I wanted to be there for her. I don’t do it any more.”

One of the reasons Kimbar says they no longer have what they and their team called ‘blips’ and haven’t since October last year, is through the support of an understanding and non-judgemental team. The team at the service which supports Kimbar are fully open and supportive of their gender fluidity and have encouraged them to embrace that aspect of their life.

Kimbar has celebrated this positivity by buying themselves some red shoes to wear when expressing themselves as Kimbar.

Kimbar said: “I feel a lot stronger and better and I keep positive now. It really helped when I was able to express myself and how I wanted to live more clearly.”

Getting the right support is key, not just for the people supported in services, but also for the staff working alongside them.

Cheryl Carmichael is a highly experienced care professional and is now a Manager, but at the beginning of her career in care more than 20 years ago, she had not supported anyone who self-harmed. The first time she experienced a person in her care harming themselves was, Cheryl said, something she will never forget. Here she shares her experience.

“I was working as part of a team in a residential mental health service which supported women. I hadn’t been there long and I will never forget that first experience of self-harm. I was in the office and a colleague shouted for help, a woman we support had self-harmed her face and it was a shocking sight to witness. This was not the first time the person we supported had harmed herself, but it wasn’t something I had ever seen before.

“I sat with her while my colleague cleaned the wound, it was a distressing experience for everyone involved.

“Afterwards there was no opportunity for us to debrief or talk about our experience. I was really shaken up, talking about it professionally with colleagues would really have helped.

“From that experience, I would always say it’s vital for all team members who support a person who has self-harmed should have the opportunity to debrief properly and talk about their experience.

“These days there is lots of training and self-harm is better understood now. The important thing for the team supporting a person who self-harms is to be prepared. People are being supported in the community who may experience quite significant self-harm and it could be very distressing. The key is to stay as calm as possible and ask for the opportunity to debrief afterwards.”

Thanks to both Cheryl and Kimbar for sharing their stories and experiences. If you would like to get involved in Self-Injury Awareness Day and show your support for raising awareness of this important subject, you can. To encourage awareness of self-harm, some people wear an orange awareness ribbon, others write “LOVE” on their arms or draw a butterfly on their wrists.

If you would like advice or support about self-harm, a number of resources are available. You can find more information here: www.lifesigns.org.uk/siad/

 

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