In case you missed it… our CEO speaks out about her experiences: My story, Caroline Harroe

It has taken me a really long time to assemble the words for this, in both my heart and my head, and to find the courage to communicate them.

For those who know me I’m Caroline.

Friend.

Mum.

Wife.

To the broader world I’m Caroline Harroe, CEO of Harmless. Psychotherapist. Leader. Optimist.

2019, for one reason and another, has been particularly difficult for me. A year ago I had twins. I already have twins (and an older child) and a second set of twins was not in the life plan, so to speak. We are very lucky, we know we are, but unfortunately due to trauma and the strike of ill mental health, their arrival has been painful. They were so wanted but their little lives didn’t start quite how we had hoped.

Like many families, the unspoken trauma of birth was their beginnings.

For the best part of the year, like many parents with young babies, I have been tired. Robotic. I haven’t really had room to the feel joy of my babies, I have just been functioning. Doing. Being. Making sure my kids are ok. And my babies are fed. And safe. And feel loved. And looking after my wife, who has been unwell. And working in between everything else to try and keep my beloved service, Harmless, ok.

And look after my team.

And face some really terrible work situations.

And fight for funding that should never be so hard to come by.

And never quite being good enough.

And… keep… going… the rhythm of life maintained me. It didn’t sustain me in any way, but the demands kept me moving.

Like any vehicle running out of fuel, it was inevitable that I’d start to break down.

But I still didn’t see it coming.

My ‘breakdown’, for want of a better word took me by surprise. I am a woman of insight and intellect, of heart and soul and passion. I was too busy on this treadmill of life to stop long enough to look after myself. Too busy caring for everyone else to invest in my own survival.

I broke.

It started slowly, I guess. I started to fixate on my weight. Thoughts coming from desperate tiredness began assuring me that I’d feel better if I lost weight; in control, somehow.

And sure, it did help in the way any eating disorder helps. It made me feel in control when my life felt so overwhelming.

I continued to accept my failings like a sponge, taking criticisms and my sense of inadequacy inside of myself and wrapping my thoughts around them until they eroded me.

Before long this became my normal. The rhythm of life ‘keep going… keep going… get up… feed kids… be a mum… work… keep going’ was somewhat replaced with ‘eat less… eat less…be thinner..:’

For those who don’t understand eating disorders it can be difficult to contemplate but the rumination about food took the place of the constant overwhelm of life. It gave me a focus other than the responsibilities placed upon me. It gave me a place for all of the criticism of me to be acted upon, as though every judgment (internal and external) of me became a self depreciating punishment upon my body. When you have a public profile as I do, everyone’s a critic. No matter how much good you do, there’ll always be those who doubt you, blame you, criticise you… without even knowing you, or even when they do. I have learned, as is true of all of us, that I cannot please everyone but because I was striving to I began to feel as though the world needed less of me. And so I gave the world what I thought it wanted.

Less-of-me.

Each thought about weight loss was driven by a sense of never quite being enough for all the demands placed upon me. In reality I have come to realise that no matter how much good I do, or we do, the reality is that there will always be so much more to do… more money to raise… more people to help… more lives to save.

The greater the demands, the more my sense of inadequacy; the greater my failings, the less space I should assume and the greater the drive to lose weight because this is something I have mastered, something I CAN do well.

Soon enough the noise of this new rhythm meant I truly was out of energy, physically and mentally. My mood was low. My ability to perform against the many tasks in my life untenable. My weight loss goals not attainable (certainly at the rate I hoped for) and my sense of failure, of not being good enough, of being useless became a constant.

I stopped believing in a future.

I stopped feeling the hope that I preach so broadly about…

For a mum who’s never spent time away from her babies, a short stay in hospital was (with hindsight) inevitable but heart wrenching and soul destroying.

It was the ultimate failing.

But it happened.

What happened to me, happened. I steadily lost sight of a future. Of my worth. I was surrounded by personal and professional pressures that outweighed my own resources because I lost sight of self care and if realistic goals.

Support was thin on the ground, though those that were there for me every day and every night sustained me, as I continued to try and keep the plates spinning for everyone I know and love. Professional pressures and scrutiny remained high. Those things hit you hardest when you have been up every night, on your own with small babies, for months and months.

When the world is sleeping, I felt my isolation more.

What happened next, you ask?

Well that’s almost irrelevant. I wrote this down and committed my story to paper to show how easily someone of health and professional stature, someone with a home and a family and friends can steadily become unwell. How we can all be a victim of life and its unpredictable circumstances. I wrote it down so that I am living by the standards I set, that there should be no shame in speaking out about the vulnerabilities of being human. It makes us no less of a person, or a mum, a friend, a colleague, or indeed, a leader.

None of this is said with pessimism, but rather intended as a lesson for us all. We must look after ourselves. We must.

We will run out of steam if not replenished.

We are all vulnerable and at times we all need help no matter what the exterior.

Seek help. From us, from anyone. I am battling my own sense of shame in breaking a silence in the hope that it reaches someone and helps them to share their truth.

No one is immune from the human experience. And no one is professional at being that human. We absolutely have to let each other know that life is something that can be survived if we help each other and let those of us who let pride dictate our silences know that there is also a room for our voices to join the many that say ‘we’ve felt that way too!’

January is often the start of New Years resolutions- to start doing this more, or being that more … to get thinner.

For every person out there, making a decision because they don’t think that they’re good enough already, I hope that my story reaches you. You are enough. Make your resolution to care for yourself more. To take time out. To be home more with those your love. To forgive yourself more, but not necessarily to change yourself.

I hope that your New Years resolution can instead be to be kind to yourself, or to take time for yourself or to accept yourself as you are, or if necessary, to seek help for yourself.

Be healthier, sure but please don’t destroy yourself because of the pressures to be better than you already are.

You’re good enough.

Caroline

Meet Sofia, our new Suicide Bereavement Support Officer

Hi, my name is Sofia and I have recently joined the team as a suicide bereavement support officer, offering emotional and practical support to those bereaved by suicide. Even though I only joined the team not too long ago I have already learned so much through those that already work for harmless. Working here I can see that there is a variety of wonderful people, in different roles but who share the same passion and values for helping others and that harmless is a judgement free zone.

I have a background working as a support worker and volunteering with women’s aid, this has resulted in me working with many different people from all walks of life. My background has also shown me that I love working with people and know the importance of taking care of our mental health and of one another. In fact I wish I myself had known of these services when I lost a friend to suicide, but now I am aware and work for such a great organisation I want to spread the word and help those who need it.

One of my initial worries when first starting was that I was not good enough for this role when surrounded by so many impressive people. But then I remembered that one of my strongest beliefs is that you should love yourself and accept yourself flaws and all. I also realised that clearly others believe in me so why don’t we believe in ourselves. Something that I think many of us struggle with. Instead of comparing myself to others I should be learning from them and growing as a person, which is why I know here is a place I can really grow and flourish as a person.

Have you emailed Harmless for self harm support but not received a response? There may be a good reason…

We have become aware of people contacting us but thinking they’re not getting a response. There may be a good reason! Please read on. . .

We will try to get back to everyone who contacts us, and have systems in place to ensure that happens in the vast majority of cases.

The most likely occurrence is that our email reply has been sent to your junk folder (and not your inbox). We ask everyone to please check and add us as a safe sender. This is particularly true of those using outlook or hotmail.

It is important to remember our email support ends in .org.uk and not .co.uk or .com.

Did you get an auto response message when submitting a message online? If not, there is a good chance it didn’t send correctly. Also, our email support system sends an auto reply. If you did not get one, something may have gone wrong and we kindly ask you to try again or look in your jump or spam folder.

If you don’t provide an email address, we may be unable to respond to your message. This is because our email support is only set up to respond to those people who provide a working email account. We will be able to make contact using a phone number, but this will cause a delay in getting back to you.

When you send an email message, we usually need more information before we can support you further. This is because we have to keep you safe, and ensure you get the right help. If you do not get back to us with the information requested, we may be unable to support you fully until we do.

We take confidentiality seriously and are unable to confirm or deny if someone has contacted us unless they have given consent for us to do so. This is true of anyone aged 11 or over. That could mean you are under the impression we have not responded, however, it is possible that we have done but we have to maintain a level of confidentiality.

Sometimes we have responded but the time isn’t right for that person. They may chose to not opt in to services, or not engage with us. That is fine, and we are here when you need us and when you are ready. As mentioned above, Harmless will not confirm or deny if that person has or hasn’t responded unless we have consent. If a loved one has said we have not made contact, it could be they are not ready to engage. Remember, seeking support is often a difficult and daunting experience. This is especially true for those who may have been let down by services elsewhere. We would encourage family members and friends to support them during this distressing time, and seek help themselves in the meantime. We have a friends and family leaflet available if you need it. Also, we hold a monthly drop in service which often helps overcome barriers and challenges of accessing support.

Harmless aim to respond to emails within 5 working days, however, this may increase during busy periods. Please bear with us.

We do not get funding for our email support service. This is paid for by Harmless’ own generated income such as donations and training sales. That means we sometimes have to prioritise our funded face to face services during peak times. This can lead to a delay, but this is rare.

We are here to support you for as long as you need, but Harmless and The Tomorrow Project do not have the resources to provide immediate responses. If you need urgent help, we encourage you to contact one of the services below:

  • Samaritans on 116 123 (Listening support available 24/7, for all ages)
  • SaneLine 0300 304 7000 (Out of hours support service for those aged 16 and over, available 4.30pm until 10.30pm)
  • If you are experiencing a mental health crisis and need support, you can text SHOUT to 85258. (The service is available to all ages, available 24/7)
  • Childline at www.childline.org.uk (Phone, webchat, or email service for those aged 18 years old and under, available 24/7)
  • Hope Line on 0800 068 41 41 (For young people under the age of 35, open 10am – 10pm weekdays; 2pm – 10pm weekends; 2pm – 10pm bank holidays)
  • The Mix at www.themix.org.uk/ (Phone, webchat, or email service for those aged under 25 years old, opening times vary)
  • If you have an urgent medical problem and you’re not sure what to do, please contact NHS 111 (Available to all ages, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week)

Finally, on the very rare occasion your email has been overlooked, please contact us by emailing info@harmless.org.uk directly. Your email is important to us, and we are here to support you. We know that people who reach out to us are often in distress, and we are here for you as best we can. Remember, life can get better with the right help.

For and on behalf of The Harmless Team

Help us support more people like Graham….

Today, we are sharing Graham’s testimony (name changed for anonymity. The reason we’re pushing so hard for people to vote for The Tomorrow Project in the People’s Projects is so that we can support more people like Graham.

 

Now more than ever, we need your support to help us win a share of the funding to sustain and expand our life-saving project. We need to offer individuals who are facing issues of isolation, relationship and employment challenges and health needs a safe place. With your vote, we can do just that.

Please vote and share:

https://www.thepeoplesprojects.org.uk/projects/view/the-tomorrow-project

 

The Tomorrow project – a client testimony

“I first became involved with The Tomorrow Project at a suicide awareness event, when I met one of the Support Officers. She listened. She offered me help. After 6 sessions she has helped me identify myself, and plan the next step in greater exploration of myself. I will forever use the mantra she told me: “give yourself a break”.

If you also believe that everyone has a right to help and support, help us to keep our service alive: https://localgiving.org/donation/harmless?ref=aEpQP8AFnT&src=tomorrowproject

In the News – Some mental health services are telling patients: ‘If you really wanted to kill yourself, you would have done it’

People are encouraged to seek help if they are feeling suicidal like never before. Yet a deadly new mix of funding cuts and dangerous ideas about suicide are leaving many people with long-term conditions at greater risk.

Tom is 22 and has made a couple of serious attempts on his life following prolonged periods of depression. “When I regained consciousness after the last attempt”, he said, “I was told ‘If you really want to kill yourself, you would have done it’.” Tom, like many other people, feels like when he now contacts the crisis team, they treat him brusquely. “It is like they will only take me seriously if I actually die”, he continued. “I am told again and again ‘well if you really want to kill yourself, that’s your choice’.”

We are not talking about nuanced Schopenhauerian conversations about the right to die here. In the context of deep despair, the idea of choice is a deadly one, absolving the other party from doing everything they can to help the person in pain. If one is suicidal it is very difficult to feel any hope that things might change; one is often exhausted. It is crucial that hope is held actively by mental health professionals at these bleakest moments in a life.

To read the full article, please visit: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/mental-health-nhs-suicide-crisis-untrained-staff-high-risk-underfunding-a8110186.html 

Charity Tuesday

Today is Charity Tuesday! As we approach the end of the working day (for most), why not finish off by supporting our life-saving suicide prevention work? You could start up a fundraiser, make a one-off donation or monthly transfer, host a bake sale, or even take part in a sponsored run. The possibilities are endless! By providing this support, you will be helping us to save more lives.

Let’s make this week’s Charity Tuesday one to remember. Become a lifesaver and support us today!

https://localgiving.org/charity/harmless/

Help us save lives, we need your support

Would you help us to keep our life saving support services afloat? We are appealing for regular monthly donors. It could be £5, £10, £15…..every penny truly counts.

£25 provides one therapy sessions

£45 proves one information drop in

£80 will pay for one talk to a school

£300 provides short term intervention for someone

We need your help

If you or anyone you know have been effected by our work, or believe in what we’re doing then please consider getting behind us and making a one off or monthly donation.

We fund our work 77% ourselves by fundraising and sales and we don’t want to turn anyone away. We need your help and people need ours.

Click this link for more information and to make a monthly donation: https://localgiving.org/donation/harmless/monthly

If you would like to talk to a member of the team about how you can donate or fundraise for us, please contact us at info@harmless.org.uk or call us on 0115 934 8445.

Merry Christmas from Harmless and The Tomorrow Project

On behalf of the Harmless and Tomorrow Project team, we hope you all have a safe and happy Christmas.

As we said yesterday, Christmas isn’t an easy time for everyone. While some of us are celebrating with our families, others are suffering, often in silence. People can feel isolated at this time of year, alone, or because this time of year is a time of reflection, can feel mournful and sad. It’s important to notice people around you and how they’re feeling. Often it’s not the grand gestures that can make a difference to how someone is feeling but the simple things- a phone call or text, a hug and a chat.

If you need immediate support over the next couple of weeks, please call Hope Line on 0800 068 41 41 or the Samaritans on 116 123.

Send a card, Save a life.

Harmless’ Christmas Cards are now on sale!

Help support vital self harm and suicide prevention services by sending a festive card this holiday season!

Send a card, save a life!

Premium quality cards come in packs of 8 with 2 designs and self seal envelopes

All the money raised will go directly towards supporting the ongoing work of Harmless and The Tomorrow Project and saving lives.

Buy yours in our online store: www.harmless.org.uk/store/Christmas-cards