Today is our Nation Self Harm and Suicide Prevention Conference- From Harm to Hope

The day is finally here! Today’s conference is looking at Apathy: The growing need for us to listen to our ‘hysterical’ women. 

This theme is in response to the shocking rise in female suicides. Rates for females’ ages 10-24 has seen the most significant increase with deaths at 3.3 per 100,000 females in the UK.

Research is telling us that whilst men are the most at risk group to die by suicide, the rate of deaths by women are increasing at shocking rate, and Harmless in response have themed our conference around this.

Throughout the day we will see presentations and workshops around self harm, suicide, trauma, personality disorder, domestic abuse, eating disorders and many more. We hope the day will respond to the needs of women, firmly and positively.

Would you like to work for Harmless and The Tomorrow Project?

Harmless are pleased to offer this exciting opportunities to join our passionate team and help us save lives. We are looking for dynamic individuals, who are willing to develop their skills; work outside the box and challenge themselves.

We are currently recruiting for a Suicide Bereavement Support Officer to join our team.

There is no set deadline for the Suicide Bereavement Support Officer role and we will  be interviewing periodically. Once this position has been filled we will no longer be accepting applications, therefore applying early is advised.

Click here to download the application pack for the Suicide Bereavement Support Officer role

___________________________________________________________________

JOB TITLE: 
Suicide Bereavement Support Officer

HOURS: 
Up to 37.5 hours per week
(Both part time and full time available)

SALARY: 
Up to £21,819 per annum, pro rata
(Depending on experience)

Please note: Work as part of this role will take place across the East Midlands, therefore driving will be a necessary part of the role applicants will need to hold a valid driver’s license and have access to a car to be able to undertake the position.

______________________________________________________________________

Click here to download the application pack for the Suicide Bereavement Support Officer role

 

If you have any questions regarding these roles or the application process, please contact us:

Phone: 0115 880 0280
Email: admin@harmless.org.uk.

A message from Helen, our Suicide Bereavement Worker

I’m writing this in rainy Leicester and reflecting on the week that has gone by. My personal experience of this week outside of my working life has been a reflection of my working life in the respect that the topic of conversation has been around suicide. A friend’s relation had taken their own life, and then on the news was the tragic story of Caroline Flack.

What seems to be clear to me, is that we all vulnerable to thoughts of suicide at times in our lives, but the thing that might prevent us from acting on these thoughts is having the right kind support at the right time. For the lucky ones in our society this role is filled by family and friends that we can offload our feeling with, and share the emotional isolation that goes with thoughts such as these. For others just the stigma attached to admitting thoughts like this creates a barrier to sharing that is hard to overcome. These can be the perception of being seen as weak, not able to cope, being ‘heavy and ‘intense’, being ‘difficult and depressing to be around’, as well as being labelled as having mental health problems. With this in mind, it is hardly surprising that people make the decision not to share suicidal thoughts and perhaps don’t receive the help and support they need. What never fails to surprise me is the amount of people who disclose suicidal thoughts that they have had at some point in their lives, when they feel that they are in a safe and non- threatening environment. It really is quite common! What is also apparent is that these people have never shared those thoughts with anyone and certainly never did at the time. At the Tomorrow Project we are always starting the conversation, without stigma or judgement because it is a topic that really needs to be addressed both locally and nationally. We want to remove the stigma around suicide that prevents it being a conversation that affects and determines mental health policy, and encourages an open debate about suicide and mental health. I hope that these few days and all the media interest propels the topic of suicide not just as a subject that affects celebrities that are harassed and pursued by the media, but as a subject that affects all individuals and communities in the UK at some point and is an indicator that people’s mental health needs are not being met.

Introducing Sonia, our new therapist

Hello, my name is Sonia and I have been a therapist with Harmless for three months now, working with men and women of all ages affected by self harm and suicide. It’s taken me a while to get this post written as it’s the first blog I’ve actually ever done!

I was really pleased when I was offered this position and excited to get to know more about Harmless and the work that they do. I have been amazed by the organisation so far and how many different services are offered to people in real need of support during some of the most difficult times in their lives.

I come to Harmless from a background of working as a counsellor in third-sector voluntary organisations, for example, in a Leicester-based women’s counselling service working closely with domestic abuse and sexual violence. I am also a trained peer support worker and in this role have greatly valued opportunities to share my lived experience with those I have supported.

I feel my own personal values of hope and recovery, plus my person-centred approach to therapy, are well aligned with those of Harmless as a user led organisation – empathy and compassion are held especially close throughout the services that Harmless offers. I am also passionate about campaigning for and developing compassionate mental health services and look forward to engaging more in this process as a member of the Harmless team.

I’ve also been impressed by the training team (Let’s Talk Training) after attending three of their courses: Mental Health First Aid, ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) and Working with Self-Harm. These courses have proved invaluable to me already, both on a personal and professional level. It is great to see how the training Harmless delivers feeds directly back into the work that we do, by helping to fund therapeutic and practical support free at the point of access.

I feel part of a great team, who are really committed to the work that they do, and have felt very much welcomed as one of Harmless’ newer members.

Support Errol who is raising vital funds for Harmless by running the 40 mile Ultra-Marathon

Errol was in a dark place, but he recovered with the help of his running club. Now he plans to run his first ultra-marathon (that’s 40 miles!) on Saturday 9th May, and he’s raising money for Harmless. We’re impressed, humbled, and extremely grateful.

Here’s what Errol has to say:

“Hi, my name is Errol. I am currently training to run the Dukeries 40mile ultra-marathon, the run is around Clumber Park and Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire. Although, as I’m finding out, ultras are all about finishing and not about times, I’m secretly hoping to get around in 7 hours. Just two years ago this would have been totally impossible, as up until January 9th 2018 I had not even began running.

The years preceding this point I had been lost in a battle with mental illness after quite a severe breakdown. This had taken everything from me, I had become a virtual recluse in my worst times. The side-effects of the medication had taken me over 20st. and due to self-medicating I had become addicted to alcohol.

Slowly and with much help I had started to turn the corner and was finding recovery, but it wasn’t until my teenage daughter called me fat and lazy in a teenage rant that I decided to try do something about how I had ended up physically.

In early 2018 I took up a running club’s c25k program. The first few weeks were horrid, both mentally and physically. I could barely run half a mile after two decades of very little cardio, but the support I got from the running club really helped get me going. I soon realized my recovery was going better the more I ran, so I took to doing it as much as I could. It’s been a fight all the way but one I have totally enjoyed. It’s a journey that’s helping me get good recovery and maybe helping me get back into the world.

I’m never going to be a great runner or a fast runner after the fights I have had, but after I learned what ultra-marathons were I just knew I wanted to test myself to find my limits and to get over them, and see some great countryside. If I can survive mental health battles and addictions why not try to push myself in something I’m beginning to love? And that’s helping save me

I was unsure about linking my first ultra to raising money for a charity, as I have become quite isolated over my illness and I was unsure it would go well, but I witnessed something on the way home the other day that was both extremely upsetting and sad to see, but also triggering to me and was a stark reminder of where the darkness can take people, especially concerning suicide.

Someone I know mentioned Harmless, and as soon as I looked into it I decided to try help if I could. It took ages for me to seek any kind of help, but without the help out there with mental health groups, therapy and my running club I wouldn’t be here today. I definitely wouldn’t be trying to run a 40mile ultra (gulp). The fact there are charities out there like Harmless will save lives. I just hope I can raise as much as I can for them.”

For more information about the race, go to www.hobopace.co.uk/dukeries-30-40/

If you’d like to support Errol and Harmless, go to www.localgiving.org/fundraising/my1stultra/ and help Errol smash his target!

“Women: A Photographic Exhibition”, a fundraiser to celebrate International Women’s Day 2020

Press release, 20 February 2020

Harmless is proud to announce that they will be holding a photographic exhibition and spoken word event at Backlit Gallery, Nottingham, to celebrate International Women’s Day 2020. This critical event will raise the profile of female suicide by celebrating diversity in womanhood.

Recent statistics released by the Office for National Statistics show that in 2017 there were 6,507 registered suicides in the UK. 75% of these were men. The suicide rate in 2018 (11.2 deaths per 100,000) was 11.8% higher than in 2017 – the first increase since 2013.

The suicide rate among females aged 10–24 years has increased significantly to its highest recorded level since 1981. From 2017 to 2018 the rate increased by 18%, and it has increased by 83% since 2012.

Harmless has been quietly working on the next phase of their ‘everyone’s.business’ awareness project. Responding to the new statistics about suicide, they have been focusing their work around the often unmet needs of women and will be hosting the first national conference on female suicide on Friday 28th February 2020.

In an effort to raise the conversation about female suicide, this year their photographic project focuses upon the specific needs, vulnerabilities and strengths of women in a celebration of womanhood.

This event gives the general public their first chance to view the exhibition and to find out more about mental health issues and Harmless.

“The photographic project is focused upon exploring what it means to be a woman, looking at the individuality of womanhood and paying attention to the needs, vulnerabilities and strengths of women as we try to raise the profile of female suicide. Together, let’s celebrate humanity and the strengths of women in all walks of life, united in our difference.” Caroline Harroe, CEO Harmless

Spoken word performances will be presented by SANE SISTAS, a collective of women sharing lived experience of surviving trauma and adversity. Featured performers include Ravelle-Sadé, Sunita Third and Micha Bradshaw. There will also be music from Holly Fallon.

Harmless has worked closely on this project with well-respected local photographer Thomas Griffiths, who is based in Nottingham City Centre, and who has worked tirelessly on this exhibition. The collaboration shows the importance of community and local support, and working together to make a difference.

The exhibition will be open from 1pm on Sunday March 8th at Backlit Gallery, with a spoken word event, bar and welcome drinks from 4pm.

The Day It All Went Wrong – A Story Of Strength

I stand on the brink of massive change again.  A feeling I know well enough, a feeling like I’m silently slipping without direction.  Although I am more used to it now the strength of my overwhelming emotions still completely flips me out and I am vulnerable once more.

Throughout my childhood and younger adult life I have experienced repeated trauma and abuse yet I somehow struggled through; an eternal optimist dreaming of a knight in shining armour who would rescue me and take me away from the life I had to live.  It was England in the 1980’s when children didn’t really have their own identity or rights.  I trusted in those I shouldn’t, some I should and an in an overwhelming connection to the earth through a universal purpose which seemed to somehow steer me away from adversity and into strength in the most unexpected ways.  I guess I was like a cat, but unlike a cat I seemed to have more than 9 lives!

It is this strength in adversity I wanted to talk about and I have wanted to share this story for many years but currently only have the courage to do so anonymously through the shame I feel but then I ask myself why do I feel ashamed?  I was poorly; do we feel ashamed to have physical illnesses?  Why is mental health any different?  I am hoping that by sharing about my experiences it will encourage others and encourage me to keep sharing.  I went through hell but have come out with a story I can use to hopefully help others.  The brink I currently stand on is not created within me but in the happy occasion of securing a Peer Support Role on a female inpatient ward at a mental health hospital.  It is important to note here that any massive change can be challenging; even a positive one and in my new role I will be the person I wished I had during my admissions, a person who understands and who has the time to talk.

My negative experiences led me to become very poorly over and over again and I can’t remember how many times I survived lethal overdoses, self-harmed significantly or ran away and I’m sure the eating disorder voice in my head will probably never be silent.  I had many psychiatric diagnoses up to 2011 including anorexia, bulimia, post-natal depression and chronic recurrent depressive disorder.  I have also had physical health issues all my life; scoliosis, hypermobility, congenital rib defect and poly-cystic ovaries then more recently osteopenia, osteoarthritis and radiologically isolated syndrome!  However, although that list sounds exhausting I am amazingly well with it all and can still walk, do exercise and enjoy life! I have fostered an attitude for gratitude and an annoyingly positive attitude.  However, this story is focusing on the day it all went wrong…

I took my first overdose aged 16 and struggled with overdoses thereafter as well as eating disorders and physical self-harm.  My early 30’s (a couple of years after the birth of my second child) I started with hospital admissions, after more acute life trauma, and by the time 2011 came around I had been in and out of inpatient mental health wards more times than I’ve had hot dinners.  One admission lasted around 6 months and I was offered ECT (which hubby thankfully talked me out of).  Every time the tablets didn’t help I was shoved on more medication and at one point I was on around 6-8 different medications.  It was amazing that I managed as well as I did because I was, quite frankly, off my face.

It was around this time the osteopenia was diagnosed after I stood up, twisted my ankle and broke straight across the two leg bones; I was put in a cast.  However, once the two weeks were up they didn’t put me in another full cast but one that could be taken off and my leg could be washed.  Sounds fair enough but it completely freaked me out and I started having psychotic breaks and hallucinations so badly that I gave up hope and I threw myself down the stairs.

In A&E I waited, waited and waited some more; eventually being sent for a mental health assessment.  I had arrived at the hospital early afternoon, had refused to eat or drink and by the time I had been transported and assessed it was around 2am (12 hours later!)  I have no memories and no idea what I said to the Psychiatrist but he let me go home (after assessing me with just us two in the room).  My Mother begged him to keep me in but I must have convinced him, somehow, that I would be OK.

We got home, I went upstairs and went straight out of the window.

I had broken my entire spine and skull needing metal rods inserting and I had three massive bleeds on my brain.  I now know that I was having a complete psychotic break on the day it all went wrong.  I received no support coping with life after spinal surgery or brain injury and because I was mentally unwell for some reason that was the medical world’s main focus.  I didn’t even know the extent of my injuries until I asked for my records a few years ago and I still relive the trauma of the fall in my nightmares and the window remains locked.

Recovery was hard and especially harder on a mental health ward not geared at all for the physical and mental health fusion; no person centred care.  It took days to get the right bed, my clothes all went missing, I struggled to get food and carry drinks, to get washed (asking for a bowl of warm water was like asking for gold) and some staff were truly horrible to me; you get the picture.  The treatment was so neglectful that when I was discharged around 4 months later my back wound was still open and infected because the nurses wouldn’t listen to me and change the dressing more frequently.  Nearly every morning I woke up with my own infected puss against my back meaning clothes and sheets needed constantly washing and changing which I couldn’t do.  It was appalling, they wouldn’t listen to me and to discuss it all I would need to publish a book.

The reason I am sharing this story though is because many amazing things came out of this experience;

  • I finally got a proper diagnosis – Borderline Personality Disorder which eventually let me access Mentalization Based Therapy which has revolutionised my life
  • Fracturing my skull led them to see a white spot on my brain which led to my diagnosis of Radiologically Isolated Syndrome for which I receive medical support
  • The complaint I made meant my local hospital started a mental health liaison team onsite which is now being rolled out nationally as RAID teams. The same hospital are now opening a separate area in A&E for people with mental health with its own entrance
  • The metal rods inserted into my back will help me stand straighter for longer with respect to my scoliosis
  • Although it was hard I got to spend a year at home with my husband
  • I joined my local service user network and helped design the new mental health hospital for our area, I co-deliver training to professionals on Personality Disorder and I wrote a course for the inpatient Recovery College
  • I am a published author on a UK website’s mental health pages
  • Plus much, much more and as an eternal optimist – there is more to come!

I am passionate about mental health and helping develop better strategies and outcomes for people who are NOT JUST their diagnosis.  It shouldn’t have to escalate to the level my illness did in order to get the correct help and diagnosis.  I am 44 years old and I have BPD, dissociative disorder and an acquired brain injury, but I am also a musician, cook, wife, Mother of two and own a very fancy cat named Oliver (my motivational kitty).  I work part-time in the NHS, am a trained Nursery Nurse, have level 2 Mental Health and Counselling, worked abroad in my younger years and love days out by the sea.  Let’s not forget who we are and who our patients are because they forgot who I was when they treated me like an animal.  I’m here to tell them otherwise and fight for those who cannot speak up!

To me, the journey of the soul is about connecting, disconnecting and re-connecting with ourselves and the world around us in a deep and meaningful way, as many times as we need.  It’s OK to have days we hide and days we shine and it’s OK to be silent as well as speak.  Without the pauses there would be no melody to our tunes.  Thank you for reading about the day it all went wrong for me and how it led things going right.

A huge thank you to Ethan and Elaine

A huge thank you to Ethan and Elaine for this lovely donation of art materials.

Ethan wanted to donate these to the Tomorrow Project, so that other children who access our service could enjoy them.

Thank you so much Ethan, I’m sure they will be invaluable to other children. We have taken them to our new Chesterfield centre as we don’t have much there at the moment. Our younger clients in Derbyshire will make very good use of them!

Harmless is the Nevile Arms Charity of the Year 2020!

This morning our colleague Pippa visited the Nevile Arms in Kinoulton to meet with staff about the exciting news that they have made us their Charity of the Year. It’s a lovely local pub in a small village to the south-east of Nottingham which offers a friendly atmosphere, good food, and has a thriving community. Last year they held a vote on Facebook, and their followers overwhelmingly voted for us.

They say:

“In a society where more and more people are suffering from mental health problems, Raw Pubs Ltd are thrilled to announce that they are supporting Nottinghamshire social enterprise Harmless. Over the next 12 months we will aim to raise as much money as possible to help make a difference and raise funds for such a worthwhile cause.

As a business which serves a community, for some people, we may be the only people they see for days at a time! This is why, with the help of Harmless, we are planning to educate staff on the signs of mental health issues, suicide prevention and helping those at risk of self harm.

The next 12 months are going to be a really exciting time for Harmless and Raw Pubs to see what we can do in a partnership and try to help our community, as well as those who need the service Harmless provides.”

We are looking forward to returning there to talk about what we do, take part in their fundraising Music Quiz, and meet more of the staff and locals.

For more information about the Nevile Arms, see their facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pg/NevileArmsKinoultonRP/

#It’snotokay

This is not the most pleasant of ways to introduce my new blogs for harmless, but most definitely an important one. Both personally as a victim, a professional but more so as a society; because we need to talk more about it abuse. However as a victim, I am past awareness and think I can safely say many of us are.  Because let’s face it, we are more than aware abuse happens it just sits more comfortably to bury it, both as a society and individually.

If I had a pound for every time someone told me “you don’t really need to tell them, it will upset them” I would be a rich women. The burden sits so heavily on victims; to prove, to know when it’s ok to share, to heal, to manage others feelings of your abuse and to “blend in” like it never happened. Well I refuse to blend in; because it happened and denying it might be easier for you, but it’s invalidating for us.

I like to think some part of people not believing victims comes from a good place, because I like to believe that beneath the narcissistic society we are creating that we still know how to be human. Humans naturally find it easier to accept more positive things, things that sit better with us and thanks to the conformation bias of social media you can now be fed your own version of truth constantly. Here’s an example, victim vs perpetrator; the victim shares a gruesome event, the by stander can barely hear it. The perpetrator sugar coats, scape goats and it sits more easily with the by stander, so automatically although wrongly it becomes easier to accept. After all who wants to believe someone is a monster? Just as victims are daughters and sons, perpetrators are also. Of course misogyny is the chocolate to the digestive of this crap biscuit and plays a huge part in resistance, but needless to say it’s a sad and prevalent tale of events.

The #metoo movement was a prime example. Various people, ranting of stories made up for attention. Misogynist fantasizing of gaggles of women around cauldrons stirring me too stories, rubbing their hands together that patriarchy may finally collapse? Get real. It’s not to say that people do not make false accusations but the vast majority and then some more will and have been abused.

I will let you into a secret, to those that think there is something to gain from having a #metoo story…there isn’t. Unless that gain is disappointment sandwiched between trauma and injustice. The truth is, being a victim is already a really isolating and scary experience, without being trolled by someone with a toxic masculinity complex.

As a child hood survivor I often found myself desperate to attain the “normality” that those that aren’t victims had. I tried to be quiet, get on with it, go to my therapy and work hard for my silver lining. Only to get a silver lining and find it’s lined with asbestos and that justice is as much a fairy tale as those Disney princess films I was dragged through as a child. I spent so long thinking someone will save me from the feeling of it; the police, family, my therapist. I remember my therapist telling me when I was 16 “it will never leave you but one day you will know how to live with it”. It took several years to realise I was actually more ok with living with it than anyone else around me. Because I have accepted what happened was wrong, it wasn’t my fault, nothing could have been done and no justice will be found. What I would like is for my abuse to be accepted by society, not shrugged off as the unspoken topic or turned into some hysterical narrative. Because my abuse is a part of me whether I or others like it or not, it shaped me into realising my capability and strength. No, I am not thankful for it and its not some profound comment that “my abuse made me who I am”, hell no I will take that credit thank you. I (and my various wonderful therapists) made me who I am.

My progression in recovering has been my truth; it’s been wearing it fearlessly, shamelessly and unapologetically. So if you are reading this as a victim, keep your truth with you and never ever be ashamed. There is freedom within it, but the path to it is to be paved by you. Just make sure others help you lay the slabs, or you will do your back in. Do not carry it all alone.