“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.

Have you been following our amazing project about a celebration of womanhood?

Here is our photographer Thomas, in a rare shot of himself at a shoot with the Sheriff of Nottingham.
The project is focused upon exploring what it means to be a woman, looking at the individuality of woman hood and paying attention to the needs, vulnerabilities and strengths of women as we try to raise the profile of female suicide.
The exhibition will be held on the 8/3/20 @backlitgallery – please get in touch for tickets or book via the eventbrite link in our bio.
On the day we learn that @carolineflack has taken her own life, never has femalesuicide been a more necessary conversation.
suicideprevention suicide women femalesuicide rip women feminism
via Instagram
https://www.instagram.com/p/B8mpxdZHIWq/

CEO contributes to BBC Radio 4 podcast on female suicide

Yesterday Panorama featured a story about Callie, taking a look at the role suicide forums played in the death of a 24-year-old girl with autism and challenge the NHS over, what they have acknowledged as, failings in her care.

The programme highlights how important it is to have safe online spaces where people can share feelings and get support. Callie’s story is a stark reminder that there are still many unsafe spaces.

Caroline Harroe nipped into BBC Radio 4 to do an interview for their Beyond Today podcast series where she was asked about how we help understand the needs of women who are suicidal and how we help to create hope in the most hopeless of spaces. The podcast episode is a further exploration of the themes explored in the programme.

Listen here

Thank you Happy Daze!

All of us here at Harmless & The Tomorrow Project would like to extend a big thank you to Alex and Craig Earley who run the Happy Daze shop in Beeston.

They have been doing some amazing fundraising in the form of a raffle over the past couple of months  to raise money for The Tomorrow Project.

They had a target of £500 but have totally smashed it to raise a fantastic £618 for our suicide prevention services!

Thank you to both Alex and Craig and to all those who purchased tickets for the raffle. Your amazing support really does help us to support more people in need and help us in our mission to save lives.

Want to meet our next amazing woman?

The next in our series of images celebrating the needs, vulnerabilities and most importantly, the strengths of women introduces @thesarahmanton

Sarah runs Curious in Snienton Market creating designs from paper for her clients, twice for the royal family. She’s now also working on The People’s Forest, a project that is aiming to plant new trees throughout Nottingham in order to reconnect the city with Sherwood Forest.

 

A Derbyshire photo appeal

Hi there! Tom here from the suicide bereavement team working across Derbyshire. You might have heard that we have recently extended our support service to the beautiful Derbyshire county. If you haven’t, a warm hello to you! Our suicide bereavement pathway is now supporting anyone bereaved and affected by suicide in Derby and Derbyshire.

Setting up a new service has been equal parts challenging and exciting…

When we were furnishing our office we got to the stage where we had the desks, the computers, the chairs and the cushions and it started to feel like a proper therapeutic setting. A place where you can come in, sit down with a warm cup of tea and feel safe and comfortable.  Welcoming and cosy, professional but relaxed. We still have a way to go (having a welcoming base is essential, yet only the start), and right now we have lots of wall space, mostly bare.

That was when my colleague Lisa came up with the idea of having photos of our local and best landmarks, views and fantastic places that we’re all so used to we might forget how beautiful they are. So we picked a few of our favourites, where we like to go and recharge our minds and bodies after a busy week. Have a look below! Now what we would really love is to have some pictures taken by you of your favourite places in the area – are you up to the challenge? Contact us on bereavement.derbys@tomorrowproject.org.uk. And if you have some old photo frames that you don’t need any more and we could have, we also need those! Help us in providing this vital and so much needed support, be part of change.

Tom, Lisa & Ana