Category: life

Mental Health Begins With Me

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I’ve made my promise – make your own at 10.10.org.au #WMHD2013

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Stories on skin – talking about self injury on SIAD

Never is written on my inner right thigh. It is not printed in ink; it is embedded in the flesh, written in scar tissue. I remember how I got this scar because I remember cutting the word into my skin.

March 1st is Self Injury Awareness Day – the goal is to discuss the realities of self injury and reduce stigma for those who are affected by self injury. Self Injury is still surrounded by myth, taboo and limited understanding – I hope to contribute to changing this through my own research and writing. Why? Because I self injure.

Self injury, self harm, NSSSI (non-suicidal superficial self injury), self abuse, self mutilation, cutting – the list of terms used to describe this behaviour is long and speaks to the confusion that surrounds the behaviour. For the sake of this post I will be using the term self injury. The terms I’ve listed here are what we find in academic, health and clinical literature and media. The labels that are used socially are much more problematic – emo, sicko, attention seeker, psycho, length ways not across- get it right… these labels can all be summed up in one easy term – bullshit!

Jokes about self injury, comments trivialising the behaviour and general ignorance only contribute to the shame, guilt and lack of knowledge experienced by self injurers and those that care for them. Not only do I find this reaction or treatment of the topic hurtful but I can also find it triggering*. Self injury is more common than you think yet the taboo’s still exist leaving many to continue to carry the secret and refuse to seek help when needed.

*Triggering – when using this term in relation to self injury it refers to “setting off”, something that causes the individual to want to injure themselves or to think about injuring themselves.)

Some people in my life know that I am a self injurer but I am now undertaking a discussion and investigation about my experience with self injury which is more open and in depth than I’ve ever been before. The process of doing so is incredibly confronting – not just for me but for those who know me. I do not find it easy to talk about my relationship with self injury however I think it is an important discussion to have. The literature that does exist comes from a psychological, medical, care or sociological perspective. Most accounts from self injurers themselves are anonymous and generally gathered and edited by others. Discussions of self injury in the media are often presented in a sensationalised way, we hear of the ‘epidemic’, we hear that it is a ‘youth issue’ and the behaviour may be ‘shocking’!

Self injury is surrounded by egg shells and while care and compassion is needed, pity and reference to self injurers as ‘victims’ does little to reduce stigma. Because of the stigma around self injury the internet has always been an important resource for both information and support. I found internet forums particularly useful when I first began seeking help. I am now combining my research into social media and the self with my personal experience with self injury and refocusing my PhD in an effort to raise awareness and fill the gabs in the literature to help create understanding – not just for others but also for myself.

Here are two links that provide a general overview about self injury (more broadly discussed as self harm):

http://www.kidshelp.com.au/grownups/news-research/hot-topics/self-harm.php

http://www.lifeline.org.au/Get-Help/Facts—Information/Self-harm/Self-harm

These links are a starting point. Understanding self injury is not straight forward. There is still a lot of research to be done. Therefore the purpose of this post is awareness. Be aware of how you think about self injury, how you engage in discussion of self injury how you react to self injury – be this as someone who self injures, someone who treats self injurers, someone who knows someone who self injures or someone who knows nothing about self injury… if you don’t understand self injury don’t make assumptions.

Writing this post also serves the purpose of my own self awareness. Embarking on a project where I am discussing my own experience is challenging. I have to confront my own fears and preconceptions of how I will be viewed and treated. I am opening myself to criticism, subjecting myself to material that will be upsetting and testing my own abilities to care for myself.

I am asking you the reader to simply, be aware:

If you know me personally be aware that I am undertaking this testing project. Ask me questions if you have any. Be aware that I will need your continued support throughout this project.

If you are a self injurer I hope you have a strong support network. Do try and seek support in a way that you are comfortable with. There are many good organisations online or alternatively talk to your GP or call a help line. You are not alone. I am not seeking research participants for my work but am happy to receive feedback and suggestions of resources or particular issues you feel need to be addressed in the discussion of self injury.

Do you want to start talking about your self injury? Read this:

http://www.lifesigns.org.uk/out/

What can you do if you know someone who self injures? Firstly don’t treat them differently, don’t try to fix them, don’t try and control their behaviour and don’t treat them as fragile. You need to operate within your abilities. Simply ask them if you can do anything to support them, encourage them to seek professional help if necessary (or willing), basically let them know that you care about them, respect them and if they need to talk you will listen without judgement.

Know someone who self injures and want to help? Read this:

http://www.lifesigns.org.uk/others/

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Want to know more about my story?

You can stay informed about my research via this blog or by liking my facebook page https://www.facebook.com/belindawrites

I can also be found on

Twitter @belindawrites

Academic.edu http://griffith.academia.edu/BelindaHilton

LinkedIn  http://au.linkedin.com/pub/belinda-hilton/2b/14a/180

IMPORTANT – Please note: I am a creative writer and researcher and am not trained in mental health or counselling. I am writing my first novel which features a protagonist who self injures and my exegesis will be discussing the research that accompanies this novel and my experiences reflecting on self injury, creative writing and social media. The novel is a work of fiction and not a memoir or autobiography. This is a work in progress and therefore subject to change through process.

If you need help now please contact Lifeline 13 11 14 (Australia)

http://www.lifeline.org.au/About-Lifeline/Contact-Us/Contact-Us/default.aspx

 http://www.ruokday.com/supporters/crisis-support/

Bless this mess – mental health and social media

Originally published  16th November 2012 on http://belindawrites.tumblr.com/ 

Republished here with minor corrections.

What an interesting week. Not so much for myself but more so for my friends, followers and the general audience of my social media. My posts have been messy, because I have felt messy. Depending how much you pay attention or how well you know me you may or may not be aware that I have a history of mental health issues. I have been in and out of therapy and on and off medication since the age of seventeen. I am open about this… why?

When I first sought help for my mental health no one talked about depression, self harm or anything of the likes. Information was scarce and attitudes were mostly “I don’t know and I don’t want to know”. This was in 1999… not that long ago. At the time I what little information I could find was found in online forums. The web and mental health have long been good friends. The anonymous web allowed those experiencing issues to find each other and know that they were not alone. Awareness has grown, the web has grown.

I use social media for a variety of purposes and my lines between personal and professional are very blurry, and given that my profession is ‘writer’ than this is not an issue. Being a writer and being at times, emotional, revealing and unhinged is completely reasonable. Therefore I am quite happy to be open about my mental health problems and to blur these lines. Life is messy, my thoughts are often messy and hence my social media is very messy.

One of my favourite things about social media is that it’s often chaotic, it’s not slick and the content is not always glossy, edited and filtered. If it was, we would probably log out.

I am open about having mental health issues as I can be. Not everyone can. I speak about my experiences because I’m comfortable doing so and it helps me to sometimes shout out into the abyss… i.e., post crap online for whomever to see it. I am not a professional, I may not be able to tell you what to do but if you or someone else has their own struggles with mental health then seeing that someone else does, and experiences things similar to you, and is somehow still managing to get an education and use their mind and if that brings you some comfort, then – hooray, worth it!

Alrighty, so this week I’ve been off my meds. I was on a reduced dose last week and am now on day five of no Lexapro. Wednesday I had a good day, went for a big walk, felt up and motivated. Yesterday was another story. Yesterday the depression hit me square in the jaw. I posted a lot of sad, lonely, quotes and caused my friends some worry with one post containing a lot of swearing. Bless, this lead to phone calls, texts and several private messages and comments checking to see if I was ok. I was down but not at high risk of harm. However the fact that I can shout at the social media abyss and that people heard it and responded is testament to how helpful social media can be, especially when you have a problem with your mental health.

Thank you to those who did reach out to me. Thank you to those who take the time to read my posts. Thank you to those that have thanked me for my posts.

If you want to enjoy clean lines, smooth surfaces and neat order I suggest you take a trip to IKEA, my social media sites may not be for you.

Need help or information on mental health? Talk to your GP or contact Lifeline 13 11 14 or check out http://www.beyondblue.org.au orhttp://www.who.int/mental_health/en/www.beyondblue.org.auor http://www.who.int/mental_health/en/