I was told by one of my classmates today that they didn’t ‘want to be involved with someone who self-harmed’ and then looked at me, knowing full well I am involved in that behaviour. It then really hit home how closed-minded some people are, and how we really need some better self-harm education for young adults.
I’ve engaged in this behaviour since I was 11 years old, which means I’ve been battling with it for over three years. It’s an addictive habit. Smokers say they can’t quit because it relieves stress, while drug addicts say that drugs make them calm - and that’s exactly how self-harm works. It’s a stress relief, an anxiety relief, an anger release, or whatever you feel it needs to be. I first used self-harm to cope with difficult feelings, as I always had trouble expressing how I feel, and it’s been like that since I was young. Then it developed into a way to deal with stress and anxiety, as well as dark thoughts and feelings.
But luckily, I spoke up in time. With encouragement from a teacher, I spoke to the child protection officers about things that were going on and causing these urges for me, which they helped me to address and overcome. They referred me to the school counsellor. I had weekly sessions with her, trying to find new ways to cope with my stress and feelings. I had six weeks with her in Year 8 and eight weeks in Year 9 – it was in the very last session that I found the way that worked. It’s different for everyone, so it was hard finding something that worked for me, but I did. Nowadays, I rarely do it. I can’t lie and say I’ve never caved in to the urges of self harm, but I’m a lot stronger now. I know how to help myself stop them.
During these past few months, I noticed how selfish people could be towards self-harm and mental health issues in general - it’s time to change. We need better mental health education. It’s no longer a want; it’s a necessity. People want to break the stigma but don’t open their minds to allow it to be broken. I did this all with the help of my schoolteacher, the child protection officers and counsellor, and that is because they didn’t want to acknowledge the stigma. This is partially because of the work Time to Change does.
On the other hand, did you notice I didn’t mention my friends? Well that’s the reason I wrote this; to prove that mental health stigmatisation is still thriving in 2018, even among close friends. But it doesn’t need to be. And Time to Change makes that message visible; they are our voice. They make our stories and our struggles heard; and that’s the key to stopping the stigma around mental health.