To mark Self Injury Awareness Day (1 March), Hightown Housing Association is sharing its people-led approach within Aylesbury to show how both service users and staff can help dispel myths and raise awareness of the signs of self-injury.
Hightown believes listening and learning from its residents is the most effective way to deliver personalised support.
Service users are given support to help them develop independence skills, be involved in decisions regarding their life and participate in their local community.
Service users are also given the option to be referred to local day-care facilities such as colleges, day centres and voluntary work. They are also made aware of drop-in centres in the area and supported to attend if they wish.
Hightown support worker Joanne Oresanya spoke about some of her experiences with residents who are struggling with self-harm.
“Before he came to Blue Cedar Lodge, one of our service users would self-harm before he went to bed. He stopped doing this after arriving here but he had a buzzer by his bed that he could use to alert staff.
"Because we speak to service users regularly and get to know them, we are in a good position to assess how they are feeling and offer support when they need it. We would also put the number for Samaritans in his room in case he needed extra support.”
Joanne has spent three years providing personalised support for people with mental health problems, some of whom have self-harmed, at Hightown’s Blue Cedar Lodge service in Aylesbury. She believes that there are often several underlying causes that contribute to self-harm.
“There can be a variety of reason why people self-harm. Sometimes it can be linked to issues from their past, perhaps childhood memories coming back. If you are worried about a family member or friend self-harming, the best thing you can do is listen and try to understand.”
Recovering from self-harm –Gary’s story
Six years ago, Gary was hospitalised for self-harming.
“I burned myself with a lighter and cut my arms, and had to go to A&E. Afterwards, staff at Blue Cedar Lodge would sit and talk to me when I was feeling the urge and that would help. It’s meant I haven’t self-harmed again.”
Gary moved into Blue Cedar Lodge six years ago and is full of praise of the support staff who help to create a relaxing atmosphere. Gary also has some advice for others who are struggling with the illness.
“Try and take deep breaths and try and focus on something positive. Personally, I find music very helpful. I have a relaxation music tape that I listen to when I am struggling.”
Having gone six years without any incidents of self-harm, Gary is optimistic about the future, and is keen to find a role that will allow him to help others who are also struggling with self-harm.
“I’m hoping to become a volunteer for Buckinghamshire MIND. I’d like to help run groups and help people who are in a similar position to what I went through.”