Mental wellbeing for young people

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Self-harm and the power of connection

Jenny Flannagan photo Jenny Flannagan · 01 Mar, 2021

Hi there. Today is National Self-harm Awareness Day and I'm just popping on here because I run Alumina, which is our free support service for 14 to 19s who are struggling with self-harm, and I just wanted to share with you a few thoughts really about today.

And I guess what I want to talk about is connection and how much we need each other as humans. One of the things that people who do Alumina tell us is the most meaningful and the most helpful [thing] for them is that they are part of a group and a community, that they're not struggling on their own without people knowing or without people understanding: but they find a space where they're welcomed and accepted and people understand what it might be that they're going through. And I think that that matters for everyone, not just for young people who struggle with self-harm, but for all of us, it's something about being human.

And so, we also talk in Alumina about all the things that stop us from confiding in people and asking for help and feeling like we can trust other people, and I wonder if you relate to any of them.

One of them is of course that we don't wanna burden people with our problems. We don't want to make them feel worse but I often flip that on its head because, you know, when a friend confides in me and tells me about something really difficult that they've been through or something big that they're dealing with, I don't think, "oh man, I wish they hadn't put that on me"; I actually feel really moved and really touched that they trust me enough to want to share that with me and to trust me that I will want to support them and help them through it. Not that I can fix it, but that I would want to be their friend and that they would trust me enough to know that about them.

Another of the reasons that people would tell us that they struggle to confide in people is that they have this belief that they feel like they should be able to manage everything on their own, they should be able to cope and that's something that I struggle with definitely something I grew up believing, but I don't think any of us as humans are designed to manage and cope with everything on our own. Everything difficult is 20 times harder when we have to deal with it on our own. We are relational beings and there's more and more neuroscience and research that shows that human connection is literally the most healing, curative, transformative experience. Our brains light up when we connect in positive relationships. They make new connections. We can move forward in ways that we couldn't have done on our own.

So I hope that if you are feeling isolated and alone today that you will feel encouraged to take a risk, to step out to maybe trust someone, to confide in them, to ask for some help and to realise that that's not a sign of weakness, but a sign of being human.

So have a good day and if self-harm is something you struggle with we would love to support you through Alumina, so find out from the link below how you can sign up.


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