From Harm to Hope: Introducing the Speakers

Claire Dixon

Claire has been a specialist trainer with Harmless since November 2016. She previously coordinated and delivered healthy relationship work in secondary schools for domestic abuse prevention charity Equation.

Claire volunteered with Samaritans for five years as a listening volunteer, trainer, and coordinator for HMP Nottingham’s Listeners Scheme.

Claire’s passion for training in this sector comes through experience working with young people and schools, as well as personal experience of self harm, suicide and mental health problems. Through training, she hopes to further promote awareness and challenge stigma around self harm, mental health and suicide.

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A big thank you to Children In Need from Harmless for funding our young people self harm and suicide prevention support services.

Tonight (Friday 17th November 2017) sees the return of BBC Children in Need’s appeal show – an annual event which looks to raise money that will be used to make a real difference to the lives of disadvantaged children across the UK.

Harmless received £109,489, over 3 years, from Children In Need in 2015 to provide therapeutic support to children and young people at risk of self harm or suicide. Through counselling and support, we use the money to reduce incidents of self harm, providing coping strategies and improved psychological wellbeing.

Here is a short testimony written by a young person who has received support services funded by CIN:

”When I went to Harmless, at first it was to keep everyone else happy. My parents were worried about me and life felt as though it was falling apart. Then I realised it was for me. The people at Harmless wanted to help me find my way and figure out what I needed. They didn’t tell me what to do or what I should be like. They helped me figure out what to do different. 

When I first went, I had stopped seeing friends. I didn’t care about much. I just felt rubbish all the time and I was dreading the future and didn’t see the point. 

Now it’s different and I feel so glad that I went and was pushed to go.

I felt hopeless before but now I am looking forwards. I didn’t see my friends and felt as though everyone hated me but now I am happy with the friendship group that I have and I am starting to plan a future where I can help other people. Hopefully one day I can work for somewhere like Harmless.”

On behalf the Harmless team, I would like to thank Children in Need and their wonderful team for the continued support that they have given to Harmless and the children and young people that access our support service(s). We wish everyone all the best and hope that they have another record breaking evening.

Darren Fox
Business and Operations Manager

To view an animation created by BBC Children in Need and Harmless, please click Bronwyn’s Story.

Watch Appeal Show 2017 on BBC One from 7:30pm on Friday 17th November

You can donate to Children in Need by clicking here

To learn more about our self harm support services, please contact Harmless by emailing info@harmless.org.uk

Save a life this Christmas!

Please support our Christmas Appeal. if you were thinking of donating instead of sending cards, or you’d like to do something good for someone instead of buying a gift – then please think of us.

Each year we receive more and more requests for help and hear increasingly tragic stories of loss, yet we still have no statutory funding for our work.

For us to even think about delivering the same level of support in 2018 we are going to need your help.

Please share our appeal far and wide. However little or much you can afford, every penny will help. Please visit the following link if you would like to make a donation:

https://localgiving.org/appeal/savealife/?preview=1267

In the News: Children and young people with mental health problems waiting up to 18 months before they get help, finds report.

Investigators find youngsters are facing ‘agonising waits’ for treatment.

The Government has been accused of “neglecting” children’s mental health after it emerged some youngsters are waiting more than a year to be treated.

A major review by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) of mental health services for young people has found that vulnerable children are facing “agonising waits” for treatment, with one young person who spoke to investigators waiting for 18 months.

During prolonged waits, children and young people are unable to access the support they need, causing their mental health to deteriorate further, with some starting to self-harm, become suicidal or drop out of school during the wait to receive support, the report found.

The findings also showed that even when children do access treatment, the services were not always adequate to respond to their needs, with more than a third (39 per cent) of specialist child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) across the UK currently requiring improvement.

There is also regional variation in the estimated prevalence of mental health problems in children and young people, with an estimated 8 per cent of children aged 5 to 16 years old in the Thames Valley area suffering from a mental health condition, compared with 11 per cent in London, investigators found.

The report has prompted calls for the Government to ring-fence mental health budgets so that money reaches front line services and to set maximum waiting times.

Responding to the findings, Barbara Keeley MP, Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Minister for Mental Health, said: “This report reveals the Tory Government’s abject failure of children and young people in urgent need of mental health treatment.

“It is a scandal that as a result of the Tories’ neglect of child and adolescent mental health over a third of services need to improve access, with some children having to wait as long as eighteen months to be treated.

“Labour will continue to call on the Tory Government to invest in and ring-fence mental health budgets as Labour pledged at the General Election, so that money reaches the underfunded services on the front line.”

Former Liberal Democrat Care Minister Norman Lamb echoed her concerns, saying: “If the current Government had shown leadership in driving these changes and ensuring that funding was being spent where it was needed, we might have seen more progress.

“The Prime Minister makes all the right noises about improving mental health care, now she needs to translate these words into action. Children deserve better.”

The report comes as child mental health charities and campaigners warned that young people are not receiving adequate mental health provision.

Recent research by the Children’s Society’s found that 30,000 children were being turned away from mental health services every year and not receiving any support or treatment at all.

It also found that children missed 157,000 mental health appointments last year, with many missed appointments never followed up by health professionals to check that the children concerned were safe and well.

Matthew Reed, chief executive of the Children’s Society, said in response to the CQC report: “Despite increased attention and investment, services remain fragmented and are increasingly overstretched, and too many children are suffering as a result.

 

Read the full article here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/mental-health-children-waiting-times-18-months-care-quality-commission-report-a8021941.html

In the media: How shame can take a toll on your emotional health

The June 2015 cover of Women’s Health magazine featured a slender Gwyneth Paltrow and the words “BIKINI BODY In 2 Weeks! Tight Butt, Lean Legs, These Abs!” with an arrow pointing to Paltrow’s washboard middle. Covers like these have drawn their share of criticism. The idiom “bikini body” suggests there is only one kind of person who can fit into a bikini. It’s an example of body shaming.

That term can be imprecise. What exactly is shame anyway? And can we cope with it?

Author and academic Jennifer Jacquet defines the concept in her book “Is Shame Necessary?”: “Shaming, which is separate from feeling ashamed, is a form of punishment, and like all punishment, it is used to enforce norms.”

Stray from society’s expectations and risk being shamed. Jacquet notes that shame differs from guilt because, in “contrast to shame, which aims to hold individuals to the group standard, guilt’s role is to hold individuals to their own standards.” Sometimes shame can be healthy. Sometimes it can be harmful. Its value is a function of the norm being enforced.

If we demean a friend, it is reasonable for us to feel ashamed—we violated the norm of decency. As psychologist Brené Brown said in a TED talk, “We’re pretty sure that the only people who don’t experience shame are people who have no capacity for connection or empathy.”

Shame becomes harmful if it’s used to enforce an unhealthy norm, and there is no shortage of unhealthy norms. Type, “I feel ashamed of my” into Google, and the search engine will autocomplete with “body,” “job,” “past,” or “sexuality.”

Brown explained that unhealthy norms tend to be gendered—to conform to female norms, she said, women must be “nice, thin, modest, and use all available resources for appearance.” For men, it’s more simple: avoid acting weak. Men are expected to control their emotions, prioritize work, and pursue status. We are prone to feeling ashamed when we stray from these norms.

Shame can be most harmful when it becomes internalized; when it shifts from being about what we’ve done to being about who we are. Psychologists refer to “toxic shame.” as the feeling that we are wholly inadequate and fundamentally unworthy of love. [Editor’s note: when I feel like this, I turn to the Self-Esteem pack. It helps.]

Toxic shame can take a huge toll on our emotional health. “Shame is highly, highly correlated with addiction, depression, violence, aggression, bullying, suicide, eating disorders,” Brown says. The antidote to feeling shame is a willingness to be vulnerable, Brown says. To be human is to be imperfect— to have scars and stretch marks, and to cry when sad or afraid.

Brown suggests we seek the empathy of friends and loved ones. “If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence, and judgment,” she explains. “If you put the same amount in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive. The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle: me too.” Importantly, people also can work to change harmful norms. In a 2015 online survey, Women’s Health asked readers what words or phrases they might avoid printing on the magazine’s cover. Options included “slim,” “lean,” and “bikini body.” Respondents overwhelmingly objected to “bikini body.”

In a sense, readers chose to enforce a new norm. In their determination, the magazine should encourage health, fitness, and a positive body image. Wrote one reader, “I hate how women’s magazines emphasize being skinny or wearing bikinis as the reason to be healthy.”

In an open letter responding to the survey, editor-in-chief Amy Keller Laird said the term “bikini body” would be banned from the magazine’s cover. “Dear ‘Bikini Body,’” she wrote. “You’re actually a misnomer, not to mention an unintentional insult: You imply that a body must be a certain size in order to wear a two-piece. Any body—every body—is a bikini body.”

Link to full blog: https://www.headspace.com/blog/2017/11/02/shame-emotional-health/

In the news: The rise of mental health in hip-hop lyrics

Hip-hop is having a watershed moment for mental health. In the last two years, some of the biggest rappers have peeled back the curtain on their personal lives to shine a light on their struggles with mental health issues.

Take Kanye West’s album “The Life of Pablo”, where he mentions both seeing a psychiatrist and taking Lexapro, an antidepressant used to treat depression and anxiety disorders. Or Kid Cudi, who publicly announced he’d checked into rehab for depression and suicidal urges, writing that “anxiety and depression have ruled my life for as long as I can remember and I never leave the house because of it.” Even rap veteran Jay-Z has advocated the importance of therapy in recent months.

In the midst of hip-hop’s dive into mental health awareness, it’s perhaps unsurprising that many mainstream artists have also opened up about practicing meditation. Big Sean, Vic Mensa, Mac Miller, Earl Sweatshirt, J. Cole, and Drake, to name a few, have credited meditation as impacting areas of their lives and creative output. And, of course, Def Jam Recordings label founders Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons attribute much of their success to meditation.

“[T]he person I am was shaped by the experience of the years of meditation,” says Rubin, who produced albums for everyone from Beastie Boys to Kanye. “I feel like I can see deeply into things in a way that many of the people around me don’t, or can’t.”

“Meditation is a guaranteed way to not only dip into, but stay connected with, your creative spirit,” echoes Simmons. “People have this misconception that meditation will chill you out and make you soft, but the opposite is true. I meditate every morning when I wake up and almost the second my session is over I’m eager to tackle whatever is on my plate for that day.”

But perhaps the rap game’s biggest meditation advocate is one that currently holds the title as Greatest Rapper Alive: Kendrick Lamar.

Kendrick has plugged meditation on four (!) of his tracks. Take these lyrics from “untitled 03 | 05.28.2013”:

Meditation is a must, it don’t hurt if you try
See you thinking too much, plus you too full of yourself
Worried about your career, you ever think of your health?

In a 2016 interview for GQ Style, Kendrick elaborates on his meditation routine:

“I have to have at least 30 minutes to myself,” he says. “If it’s not on the daily, every other day, to just sit back, close my eyes, and absorb what’s going on. You know, the space that I’m in [and] how I’m feeling at the moment.”

Kendrick cites the frenetic busyness of his career as a motivator to practice being more present. “When you in music—and everybody knows this—the years are always cut in half, because you always have something to do,” he says. “It just goes and then you miss out on your moment because you’re so in the moment you didn’t know the moment was going on.”

After realizing that music was consuming his thoughts and attention, Kendrick turned to meditation for time and space away from his work: “That 30 minutes helps me to totally zone out and not think about my next lyric. You know? It gives me a re-start, a jump start, a refresh. It lets me know why I’m here, doing what I’m doing.”

Competition is ingrained in hip-hop’s DNA; there’s tremendous pressure to claim the “best rapper alive” throne by breaking the mold on verbal gymnastics, pushing artistic boundaries, and resonating with audiences through culture and emotion. Slap on deadlines from record labels, plus scrutiny and sensationalism from the public eye—it’s a paralyzing weight for anyone to endure.

“There’s a great deal of bullshit that people think about when they make music, things that don’t matter,” Rubin says. “[Meditation] kind of wipes that away, and you focus on the real job at hand, as opposed to thinking about what the management wants, or what the record company’s saying, or what somebody at a radio station might think.”

While the dusty notion that hip-hop is all about cars, money, and clothes may still ring true for certain acts, there’s no denying that the genre has evolved. By unmasking both the stigmas attached to mental health issues and stereotypes about meditation, the rap game is well set up for a healthier and happier road ahead—for artists and fans alike.

Link to full blog here: https://www.headspace.com/blog/2017/10/13/mental-health-hip-hop/

In the news: The counsellors on the frontline of the student mental health crisis

I am walking through Nottingham’s Arboretum park on a bright cold afternoon with 10 other people, all of us in complete silence. At first I find the whole thing so awkward I have to suppress an embarrassed laugh. But as we make our wordless way through the dappled shade, I feel an atmosphere of calm and thoughtfulness envelop us like a protective cloak.

The others in my group are undergraduate students, chaplains and other staff of Nottingham Trent University (NTU), all taking part in a mindfulness walk, intended to bring some space and quiet reflection into students’ hectic lives. Guided by the chaplains (who speak occasionally), we pause as a group to consider questions in the booklets we have been handed: “who am I?”, “where am I going in my life?” and “what brings me a sense of excitement?” Left to our silence, we note down our answers. Stopping by a rubbish bin, we ask, “What rubbish am I carrying with me in my life?” We tear off our answers and throw them in the bin. It sounds silly, but weeks later I still feel lighter for casting off that scribble on a scrap of paper.

Back in the bustling City Campus of NTU, students and staff weave their way around each other, a mass of hoodies and headscarves, skullcaps and backwards caps, hipster beards and hi-tops. Posters advertise a programme of free yoga, craft classes and eating-disorder information sessions: my visit coincides with Wellbeing Week, designed to raise awareness of mental health and encourage students who need help to seek it. This is just one part of NTU’s strategy to meet a dramatic rise in the need for support.

Last month, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) published a reportrevealing that nationally, the number of first-year students who disclose a mental health problem has risen fivefold in the past decade. A record number of students with mental health problems dropped out of university in 2015, the latest year for which figures are available. In the same year, 134 students killed themselves, the highest number on record. Similarly, the number of UK students seeking counselling has rocketed by 50% in the past five years, to more than 37,000, according to figures obtained by the Guardian. This trend is reflected at NTU: wellbeing services received 38% more referrals last year than in 2014/15.

There are many reasons mental health problems may arise at university. It is a time of transition: people are no longer living in the family home, but not yet fully independent either. Added to this, some might experience the big fish – small pond effect, where teenagers who are used to being recognised for their achievements find themselves in a more competitive yet more anonymous environment. Difficulties that have been repressed throughout school can bubble up when students leave their support network behind. As Glenn Baptiste, a mental health adviser at NTU says, “Sometimes it might look like it’s a problem that’s occurred within university, but that’s not always the case. If students come here with ongoing issues that they’ve not discussed, the university environment can make life difficult.”

Student Services manager Alison Bromberg says the most common mental health problems reported by NTU students are anxiety and depression. Bromberg can see how the challenges young people face today play their part in this rise – the burden of student debt, economic uncertainty, global political upheaval, apocalyptic climate change – “but,” she says, “I also think that a lot of work has happened and is still happening to reduce the stigma around discussing mental health and emotional needs. I think it’s making it more possible for people to come forward and ask for that support.”, global political upheaval, economic uncertainty, student debt

 

Rosie Tressler, CEO of student mental health charity Student Minds, tells me, “The 2016 Student Academic Experience Survey provided strong evidence that [undergraduates] have lower levels of wellbeing than the rest of the population, with roughly one-third reporting psychological distress, and we know that the median age of higher education students overlaps the peak age of onset for mental health difficulties.” In other words, evidence suggests many people with mental health disorders first experience symptoms between the ages of 18 and 25.

 

When I asked students around the country about their experiences of mental health, they talked about stressful deadlines, difficulties forming new relationships, balancing a job with studies, financial worries and social pressures. They also painted a picture of patchy provision: while some received prompt and effective help, others described underfunded services, excruciatingly long waiting times and dismissive attitudes. One student talked about desperately trying to get a counselling appointment when booking opened at 9am, only to find that all the slots had gone when she got through at 9.03am. A final-year student at another university wrote that she is experiencing increasing anxiety and can’t get help: “A good counsellor I saw in my first year has left, and they are not recruiting any more, so there are lots of students chasing very few appointments. They refer you on or offer leaflets. It seems very inadequate.”

Alex, 21, was a student at a Midlands university when she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, anxiety and severe depression. She says services are able to deal only with the most seriously distressed students: “Because of the strain on the service, if you weren’t suicidal at the current time, you weren’t helped. You had to be five minutes from death or you had to wait weeks. You had to be at your worst.”

The counselling she was eventually offered was helpful, but she felt the eight-week wait was too long and the six weeks it lasted too short. For long-term therapy on the NHS, she was told she needed to wait a year, by which time she would have graduated and moved home. “So it’s kind of pointless,” she says. For others, such as George Watkins, 21, who is at Cardiff and has had anxiety and depression for eight years, the experience has been more positive: “It is since coming to university that I have made the most progress. I came off the crippling medication, came through suicidal patches and have now come more or less out the other side.” After having a breakdown around the time of his GCSEs, Watkins didn’t leave his house for six months, and then didn’t leave his small town in Dorset for three years.

At NTU, Alison Bromberg still thinks there is cause to feel optimistic about the future. “I do. I actually do. It feels as if we’re embracing a much more holistic framework across the sector.” She cites proposed changes to the university curriculum, such as creating course content for all students on subjects such as coping with change and understanding stress and anxiety. “We’ve got to make sure mental health becomes everybody’s business. That’s the journey we’re on. And I think we’ve come a long way.” 

Click here for link to the full article: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/oct/28/campus-confidential-counsellors-student-mental-health-crisis

 

Caroline Harroe CEO of Harmless nominated at NCVS Community Stars

NET’s Community Stars 2017 will celebrate the voluntary and unpaid contribution many people make across the city by giving the general public the opportunity to nominate individuals that they feel have made a difference and the ultimate accolade is that the NET Community Star for 2017 will have a tram named after them for a year.

Tonight’s event celebrates the fantastic achievements of individuals in Nottingham who support and help others and all of the nominees, nominators and partner organisations have been invited to the ‘Best In Nottingham’ awards ceremony taking place on tonight at the Royal Albert Hall. The event is sponsored by Big Lottery Celebrate Programme and the NET Community Star 2017 will be named at this celebration event.

Big congratulations to all of the nominees!!

From Harm to Hope: Introducing the Speakers

Caroline Harroe, CEO, Harmless

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Caroline is Harmless’ CEO and one of its co-founders, launching the service in 2007 with fellow Director Amy, and ensuring the service has gone from strength to award winning strength.

Caroline has over 15 years’ experience in the field of self harm and mental health. A practicing psychotherapist and a tireless campaigner for equality for those experiencing mental health difficulties. Caroline is currently completing her PhD, is an elected member of the National Suicide Prevention Alliance and is involved in many local and national suicide prevention strategy and research projects.

Leading with experience, Caroline overcame her personal experience of self harm and mental health problems and after a long battle to overcome these difficulties, she now hopes to inspire hope in others by sharing her recovery.

From Harm to Hope Conference: 

We are pleased to announce that Harmless’ third national self harm conference will be held on Thursday 1st March 2018, Self Harm Awareness Day. This year’s theme is ‘self harm: suicide prevention starts here’.

As in previous years, the conference will be shaped around the following five strategic areas:

Collaborative partnership
Service user representation
Effective practice
Driving change
Overcoming stigma and discrimination

Our conference gathers together leading academics and experts in the fields of self harm and suicide.

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