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In the news… Self-harm fears over parental surveillance of children’s ‘digital life’

Parents who are worried about their children being bullied or self-harming should not operate “surveillance” on their use of mobile phones and the internet, according to new guidance from psychiatrists.

The advice from the Royal College of Psychiatrists on self-harm says parents and health professionals need to take account of an “explosion in digital communication” – especially social media platforms such as Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter.

Health workers are urged to undertake “an assessment of a young person’s digital life” to find out how and when they use social media, phones and the internet, when there are concerns about a child’s mental health and a risk of self-harm.

But the guidance says that parents should not snoop on their children’s use of mobile phone or the internet, as this could make things worse, by leaving children feeling they are not trusted.

It also suggests that parents should be positive about the benefits of the online world – or risk young people clamming up and not telling them when they encounter bullying or disturbing images.

Latest figures show more than 22,000 incidents a year in which children and teenagers were treated in hospital for self-harming, with a 30 per cent rise in cases among 10 to 14 year olds in one year. Experts warned that cyberbullying on social networking websites is creating “toxic childhoods” for many children and young people, leaving some feeling they have no escape from pressures on them.

The new guidance for health professionals updates recommendations from 1998, about how to help those at risk of self-harm.

The advice about digital technology is the most significant change in the recommendations.

The report says: “Digital technology, particularly social media platforms such as Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter, is now a central part of young people’s lives, for information, entertainment and communication.”

The advice states: “It is important for parents to be interested and engaged in their children’s digital lives as early as possible.

“Recognising the benefits of the online world will often help a young person feel more comfortable when talking about difficult online experiences such as bullying or feeling uncomfortable about something they have seen or have been involved with.

“Given the rapidly evolving nature of the online and digital world, trust and communication are likely to be more helpful to the young person than attempts at surveillance, especially given young people’s use of mobile devices.”

Dr Andrew Hill-Smith, a consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist and a member of the Faculty of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Royal College of Psychiatrists, said all parents should talk to their children about their use of digital media, but should try to avoid snooping.

He said: “When kids are small you can see what they are doing to, but as they get older social media becomes much less visible and much more private. Obviously there has been an explosion in the use of this, and it’s really important that parents try to engage with it and understand as much as they can.”

Snooping on children behind their back was likely to prove counter-productive, he said.

“If you get into surveillance mode, you are creating more tensions and stresses,” he said. “It is better to try and have the conversations and untangle what is going on than to get into autocratic mode,” he said.

Psychiatrists also urged parents to keep an eye on the video games being played by children, with young children often playing violent games which were aimed at much older ages.

Studies suggest that one in 12 teenagers has self-harmed.

Last year, official NHS guidance warned that thousands of children as young as five were suffering from depression, with 8,000 cases among the under 10s.

“Suicide remains the second most common cause of death among young people. Self-harm is an important signal of distress so it needs sensitive responses with careful handling,” Dr Hill-Smith said.

Source: www.telegraph.co.uk

Date: 7th October 2014

Anonymous…

Anonymous…

I still just sat there and stared into the void, feeling as though I wasn’t truly there, like I was floating amongst the rest of existence, and after that I stood, naked, in front of the mirror and it was as though what I saw was changing with every second that passed. I stood there for a long time and I couldn’t even begin to comprehend what I was looking at. I’ve felt like that for a long time, I don’t think I could even put my finger on when it all started because for as long as I can remember I’ve felt like an alien.

‘ I always felt like that, even when I was younger. I remember once, when I was little, this kid I had made friends with had asked to come to my house to stay over. I remember being so excited – I don’t think I’d ever been that excited about anything – because I’d never really had a friend before, especially not one who wanted to stay over at my house. He was supposed to come over at 6.30pm, after dinner, and I wolfed down my dinner that night, barely even tasting it, because I was so excited, and I organised all of the things we could play with when he got here. I was so excited and so worked up that at 6.20pm I went and sat on the doorstep to wait for him. I waited there until 7.00pm, that was when I went in to get a blanket because I was cold. I was out there until 8.30pm, that was when my mother came out to bring me back inside. She didn’t bother saying what we already knew, she just told me that it was maybe time for bed. I never mentioned it to the other kid, my friend, at school the next day and he never mentioned it either. And I felt completely disconnected again. I’ve always had this difficulty relating to other people – the normal people – and I’ve always had this feeling that when I’m talking to someone, looking them right in the eye, that I’m somehow not looking at one of my own kind, like I’m from some other planet. I’ve always thought that this theory actually sort of held some weight because it isn’t even just that my mind isn’t of this planet, there’s so much physically wrong with me as well – my lungs don’t suit the atmosphere of this planet, and nor does my skin – I think I’ve maybe held out hope for years that maybe a spaceship would land in front of my house to take me home, and that one of my own would step out of it and say, “I’m sorry you got lost. Don’t worry, you aren’t alone anymore. I’m here to take you home”.

‘I’ve only told one person about this dissociative/alien thing, and I’ve decided against telling anyone else because that one person seems to think it’s a cause for concern since it was those feelings that led to that whole incident, that one that led to this whole situation and led to me having to do all of this sort of stuff, but that won’t happen again, there was a lot more than just dissociative feelings going on then, trust me. That whole thing was ridiculous if I’m honest, the whole thing attracted a really weird reaction from people, especially the medical staff. I mean, I get that they must encounter it a lot, but they just seemed so unenthusiastic about it, I guess the last thing you expect in that sort of situation is for people to react so…professionally; you don’t expect that situation to merit the standard/one-size-fits-all-seeming questionnaire that came with it, checking boxes and that kind of thing. Plus there was the aftermath, I mean…**** me. They said that I’d been made a priority case of sorts and that I’d be put further up the waiting list and that I’d be seeing someone within the next week – which was reassuring if I’m honest, because I can admit now that I definitely needed help as soon as was possible – but then I got the phone call, and the day of that phone call was when I realised that none of them actually gave a ****, that each person they dealt with was not, in fact, a person, but, in fact, a patient. They called me and told me that I wouldn’t be receiving any sort of priority treatment because I wasn’t what they considered a “crisis case”- which confused me, to say the least, because, as far as I could see, the only thing more extreme would have been if I were dead.

‘To be honest, the aftermath of the incident was entirely surreal because of the fact that you were very much dealing with two polar extremes: those who knew exactly how to react to the situation (or at least thought they knew how to react) and those who had absolutely no earthly idea as to what to do. I mean, I’m not blaming them, they reacted as well as anyone possibly could, I doubt anybody knows how to react  to such a situation – and I feel sorry for those who have had enough personal experience with that situation that they do know exactly how to deal with it. But, anyway, the thing that sort of exemplified the latter extreme was this: after I’d been taken home and put to bed, I slept for…I don’t even know how long, I think 14 hours or so, anyway, when I woke up I looked around my room – which I don’t think has ever been as silent as it was in that moment.

‘You know, it’s strange, even now, in retrospect, I can’t pinpoint why I did what I did, the whole thing is just such a blur, it just seems like such an abstract, faraway concept to me now. It just seems like such a spontaneous act. The feeling leading up to it…it isn’t just some intense sadness, like so many people assume it is, it’s just this dull, hollow pain, this strange emotional paralysis. So many people call it selfish to do something like that in response, and it’s often these same people who “really try to understand”, without realising how contradictory they’re being, but even they genuinely wanted to understand they couldn’t, because there’s nothing to understand. It is, in a way, like loss, except that those that try to take their own lives have experienced the truest loss, and I don’t mean the loss of a loved one or that sort of thing, I mean the truest, purest and most indescribable existential loss. Again this all sounds very selfish, and I suppose that’s because it is. This loss is…it isn’t like waking up one day and discovering that you’ve been robbed of everything, but more like the same thief kept coming into your home and taking one thing at a time, so you know something’s gone but you just can’t quite figure out what. Until one day there’s nothing left, so you just sit there in some unrecognisable empty space that was once home to everything you held dear, while all you can think is “how the **** did I let it get this bad?” And, I suppose, once you’re at that point, why would one more loss even matter?

‘Look, I’m sorry if I’m babbling at all, but I’ve only just started with those meds that I’ve been put on and they’re kind of flooring me. That’s another thing though, the drug situation. Like most other people I was under the impression that these doctors just threw pills at everyone who came their way, but that sort of thing obviously caught up to them. I got in a really bad way a couple of months ago – the demons caught up with me – so I asked to be put on a course of medication because I was sick of always having that hollowness in my chest, but I was told that my case would have to be reviewed by a board of doctors, which I had no problem with. After a week I got a phone call telling me that they didn’t think my case was extreme enough to warrant a course of medication, and they said the reason for their coming to this conclusion was that I had managed to make it through the highs and make it through the lows without any meds before. I didn’t understand that.  I don’t understand that. I didn’t understand it. I don’t understand it. As far as I can see, the lows led to the incident and the highs made me put my entire life on hold, and, as far as I’m concerned, that doesn’t constitute getting through it. When the doctors use that phrase they mean physically – that I got through it physically – and that seems contradictory to their profession, considering that their profession has nothing to do with the physical being of a human. The physical husk of a human. I suppose they’re right, I did get through it physically, since the flesh is still here. The husk is still here. All present and accounted for. I definitely made it through physically, but mentally, emotionally, existentially? Not so much, I don’t think, and those are the parts they should be concerning themselves with, as professionals, it’s the parts the demons concern themselves with, after all. Maybe, I dunno, maybe the meds will never work though. I’ve been thinking this recently, that maybe there isn’t anything wrong with me. I mean, you get all these terms thrown at you, and it’s like nobody can figure it out, regardless of their supposed qualifications. I’ve been told it’s Social Anxiety Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, and it just goes on and on and on, because I’ve supposedly, at one time or another, exhibited the symptoms of each of these conditions. But now I’ve got the meds – thanks to me insisting that I be put on them – and everything is going to be A-OK…it still isn’t though. They haven’t done anything for me so far, and that’s my point: maybe I’m not sick, maybe it’s just me, or maybe whatever’s wrong with me hasn’t even been discovered yet, maybe I’m unique and maybe I’m special. So now I’m on these meds, and they’re supposed to fix me, but I’m still broken. I suppose it’s advantageous for the professionals though, since they get to say that their patient is “making great progress” and that he’s “taking a big step in the right direction”, or however else they want to phrase it.

‘But then, that’s a big part of the problem too. As I said before, they don’t really care about you, you’re not really of any tangible concern to these people. They seem to be under the impression that – just because they’ve spent however many years training and earning their degree – they somehow possess a greater understanding of your mind than you do yourself. I spend hours with these professionals only to be told either that it’s the condition talking or that the condition isn’t supposed to affect me that way, that it must be something else that’s happened in the last few weeks. God forbid that they actually take just a moment to listen to their patient, to pay attention to their patient’s needs, to take into consideration just for a second that perhaps, maybe, just maybe, they don’t understand the mind of their patient quite as well as the patient themselves, to whom it is a unique and terrifying universe that they wake up to everyday, and a universe that they have to endure every day.

‘I keep having more and more these strange little realisations, these epiphanies, as the days go by, and I think even the demons are helping them along. One I had the other day was after I had this nightmare the other day: I was being chased by something, but all I could was this horrible shrieking, and I woke up just as this thing caught up to me. I realised after that nightmare that I hadn’t dreamt about monsters, in the true sense of the word, in years, not since I was a kid. That’s what everyone thinks: that when you’re a little kid you dream of the scary monsters, with such big teeth and such big claws, and then you grow up and you don’t dream of monsters anymore. But I realised something. I realised that you grow up and so you think the monsters aren’t a threat anymore, but the monsters are still there, they just grew up too, and they learned to stay with you, even when you’re awake. And, you know, people ask one another all the time if they believe in God, or a God of any sort, and I still don’t have an answer to that question, but I can say one thing for sure: I believe in the devil. I believe in the devil because I’ve seen him, because I’ve seen where the devil lives. The devil lives up here, he lives in the mind; the place that I call a prison, he calls home. And it’s not just me. He lives with everyone. He lives with you. I’m just the only one who’s ******* realised it. ‘So, yeah, sorry, anyway, what do you think?’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Support Harmless and our self harm services via Localgiving and double your donation!!!

Thinking about making a donation to Harmless? Donate via localgiving.com from today and they will double any online donations up to £10.

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Grow Your Tenner: raise up to 2x as much

Our upcoming match fund campaign, Grow Your Tenner, launches on the 14th of October. Throughout the campaign, we’ll be doubling online donations up to £10  – including those made through fundraising pages.

This means that during Grow Your Tenner, fundraisers can potentially raise twice as much for their chosen charity. This will continue until the 31st January 2015 or the match fund runs out, whichever comes first.

If there’s anyone you know who might be interested in running a fundraising campaign for a local charity in the near future, then please let them know about Grow Your Tenner. There’s never been a better time to start fundraising!

Please visit GrowYourTenner.com for more details about the campaign. 

 

Annual Celebration Event A Huge Success

On Friday, Harmless and The Tomorrow Project hosted their annual evening of celebration at the Riverbank in Nottingham.The event was held to celebrate our achievements, excellent work and commitment to the field of self harm and suicide prevention over the past 12 months.

The event gave our team an important opportunity to reflect on what has been a significant and remarkable year for our respective organisations as we continue to cement our position as a leading voice in the field of self harm and suicide prevention.

On the night, we welcomed back Hugh Gunningham who provided us with some live music and we were also treated to some spoken word from our very own Hayley Green. We also heard some inspirational words from a mother and daughter, previous service users, who spoke about self harm and how Harmless helped them towards hope and recovery.

Although the night was primarily full of joy and laughter, we also took time to acknowledge the challenging and sometimes painful work that we do. A short film was played around the impact of suicide which only emphasised the importance of our work.

We are pleased to announce that we raised over £2,000. As demand for our services significantly increases, we will use this money to help us to continue to work closely with local people to ensure that those in distress get the help and support they need to turn their lives around.

We are extremely grateful to each and every person that came along and supported us, and to all those who contributed to what was a wonderful evening of celebration. We now look forward to the year ahead!!!

 

Harmless to receive business award for Social Impact!

Great news! It has been announced this morning that Harmless have won one of the #O2Smarta100 business awards, celebrating 100 of the UK’s most innovative and disruptive small businesses. We are now in the running to win our category or ‘social impact’ with your support. To win is amazing, to win our category would secure money and even more support for the work that we do. Please vote for us here: http://www.smarta.com/smarta100/2014/harmless/

Mental health is all about money

Why mental health is all about money.

Harmless was set up in 2007 by two people who had faced and overcome self harm and mental health problems. It would be fair to say ‘they had a dream’ [of a service, that would save lives] however cliche that sounds. Unfortunately, that desire to develop a self harm service was born out of a catalogue of negative liaisons with namely NHS services. This post isn’t written to criticise that provision, or dissect some of the tragic experiences that our directors had with statutory provision, but to critique these events and find a positive way to use them to create change in the future. Our job is to collaborate well with existing services, but to do something different.

Self harm provision is slim. Fact.

If you are under 18, you will hopefully be offered some help via the NHS but not always and usually, not for very long. With the evidence indicating that some shift/change can be observed if people are seen for 12 weeks (or more) and with services placed under increasing financial pressure, it is unlikely that a young person will be offered that amount of help.

If you are over 18, this isn’t the same story unfortunately and as many of you will know- it can be a battle to be heard or offered any help at all.

NHS resources are slim in this field. There just isn’t the help.

Nationwide there have been cuts in the amount of health provision. Mental health services have been hit hardest by these financial cuts. Self harm support was limited even before these changes, and while we observe increases in self harm amongst the general population we still don’t have the services in place to respond to this well.

It’s a frustrating issue to observe, just as much for the healthcare professionals as it is us.

Whilst we have no funding for work with adults over 25, and only some for those individuals under 25 we are in a privileged position in many ways, to not be the NHS. We get to see what helps people, and provide THAT. We get to ask them what THEY need and still have the flexibility to respond to that. The people who come to us for help are able to stick with us until they see real change; they don’t have to be ‘diagnosed’ in order to receive our help- and we have the time to spend to really truly get to know someone and understand what is happening for them.

Self harm happens for a reason. Taking time to understand that and work with that thoroughly enables us to be effective at what we do.

In a time where the NHS is being squeezed so tightly that it runs the risk of losing some of it’s credibility, we are glad to be independent.

But in order to stay that way, we need to raise the funds to keep responding to the ever growing referral rate of people self harming. That’s why mental health is all about money- without it we all cease to exist: the work that we do fails to be long enough, specialist enough, thorough enough. Our effectiveness becomes reduced.

We need to value the emotional needs of society just as we value the physical health of those people and invest as equally and readily to stop the ever increasing spiral of mental health difficulties, self harm and suicide in this country.

If you believe in what we do and want to help, click here