Harmless and the Tomorrow Project’s undertakes a self harm and suicide prevention programme in which the key aims are to
- raise awareness of the issues relating to self harm and suicidal ideation/intent
- undertake effective information sharing
- challenge the stigma attached to mental health issues
- Support individuals identified as being at risk.
Members of the Harmless team understand self harm and believe that the journey towards recovery may require different strategies, at different times for managing emotional distress.
As a counsellor within the Harmless clinical team, my work involves supporting individuals who daily face the stigma surrounding mental health issues and more specifically self harm.
Recently, I read with interest the experiences of Louise Pembroke who wrote about her experiences of self harm, regular rejection by A & E professionals and hospitalisation. She spoke of her loss of hope and difficulty caring for herself. The seriousness of her injuries increased in line with her distress. The turning point occurred when an ophthalmic nurse involved in her care noticed her anguish and simply asked ‘what’s wrong, are you hurt?’ As Louise acknowledged her emotional pain and physical injury, the nurse listened emphatically and went on to share information regarding ‘harm minimisation;’ this enabled Louise to safeguard herself from serious injury and undertake appropriate measures for self care.
Louise expressed that:
‘This non-judgemental and practical approach was imparted without any lecturing or catastrophising and had a profound impact on me…. She understood that was where I was at in my life and she accepted me whether I harmed or didn’t harm. I didn’t have to hide it, justify it, or make bargains or promises I couldn’t keep. It was such a relief.’
‘For the first time I had some control over my circumstances.’
Louise Pembroke’s experience highlights the importance of the approach of all professionals when providing services of any kind for individuals who are vulnerable to the risk of self harm.
This knowledge underpins the Harmless ethos of acceptance. We understand that treating each client with respect is of foremost importance; by supporting individuals to develop autonomy, minimise risk and, with time integrate alternative strategies for emotional regulation we believe that recovery is possible.
Naomi Stewart (Harmless Counsellor)
Spandler H, Ed Warner S Ed, (2007) BEYOND FEAR AND CONTROL working with young people who self harm Cromwell Press (Trowbridge).
Pembridge L, Harm Minimisation; Limiting The Damage of self-Injury.