A 21-YEAR-OLD Banbridge woman has spoken out about self-harming in a brave bid to help others in her situation.
Last week the Leader published figures revealing that almost 900 people from the district were admitted to hospital between 2000 and 2009 for self-harming - the equivalent of two each week in that period.
Now Sarah, whose name has been changed to protect her identity in this story, has decided to share her painful experience of depression and self-harm to help others who may be facing the same pressures.
Sarah began self-harming at the beginning of 2009 in the lead-up to her A-Level exams. She went to University later that year but said she couldn’t deal with being away from home and soon her self-harming became worse.
“I tried university after school but it wasn’t the right thing to do,” she told the Leader. “I was away from home and not coping well and soon I got addicted to it. I was cutting myself nearly every day and I had to seek medical attention many times and even get stitches. It happened more times than I wish to remember.”
Sarah said she can’t say why exactly she felt driven to self-harm but, looking back she recalls a very dark time in her life.
“I don’t think I can pin it down to one particular thing and say ‘This happened and I began hurting myself because of it’. But I was depressed and everything was very bleak and you just don’t know what to do. You feel like you have no other way of coping with life.”
Sarah said she feels the issue is misunderstood but tried to explain what goes through the mind of someone who harms themselves.
She said, “You see someone with a bunch of scars and people wince and ask what’s happened when people just want to be seen as ‘normal’ - whatever that is. But self-harm really is just a case of not coping with the things that life brings and taking the emotional pain out on yourself.
“For that five minutes that you are hurting yourself - be it cutting, burning, scratching or whatever - it takes all of your attention away from the emotional pain and you concentrate on the actual thing that you are doing.
“Some people actually believe that they deserve to hurt themselves too. I know I have felt like that before.”
As things got worse, Sarah said she realised that she needed to get professional help. Following a visit to her GP Sarah was referred for counselling from a psychologist and community psychiatric nurse. For the last eight months she has been “in recovery” - but added that her struggle is not over.
“Getting help from the services helped me a lot,” she said, “My family helped too - having them to talk to about things was a great help. But the whole thing is a constant cycle. Although I am eight months free from self-harm I do still get the urges, as they call them. Maybe when I’ve had a bad day or things aren’t good. But I know that when I wasn’t well and still hurting myself I didn’t have a great amount of support and it’s not always efficent or suitable to be turning up at the doctors when you are feeling like that. I know that it is very hard to get an appointment at times too.”
Sarah said she is very supportive of local groups who are dedicated to helping people with mental health issues. She added that, one day, she would like to use her experience to help others.
“I am glad to hear that there is the the likes of PIPS in Banbridge,” she said. “I really hope that things go well with the organisation as I think that it could really benefit people. Not only could I benefit from it if I need support, but people like me can support people and empathise with people when it comes to things like self-harm. I can see it through their eyes, so to speak. I would really like to help others in the future, so having a mental health problem doesn’t always have to be a burden. Although I regret at times the fact that I was depressed and took it out on myself it was a part of my life and couldn’t be helped due to circumstances that can’t be helped. But I really do hope to help others in the future.”
If you need help call the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90, Lifeline on 0808 808 8000, or visit the local PIPS facebook page. You can also be referred by your GP to other local services such as MindWise and Protect Life.