Friday, 5 July 2013

Self harm in Powys

A couple of colleagues at Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations work with organisations supporting children and young people (you can be defined as a young person up to the age of 25 these days). Last week they told me that a recent Youth Forum meeting had highlighted an increased incidence of self-harm in the county amongst young people. I don’t know all the details (if anyone reading this knows more then please get in touch), but it makes me wonder what could be done to support young people who self-harm more.

There is an excellent website called TOWIP (“the only website in Powys”), – named by the young people who helped set it up with Powys Youth & Family Information Service “to express their views, reviews and creativity”. I’ve been following the posts of Black Star – also known as Cara – who writes about her own experiences of self harm. She is a 17 year old teenager living in Powys, and comments openly, honestly and eloquently about why she self harms and her efforts to stop - “ me it’s an automatic reaction to stress, it helps, and it’s addictive. It’s the way I turn emotional pain in to physical pain, physical pain is easier to deal with, and all I have to do is shove a bandage on it.”

Back in April Black Star asked if there should be a self harm support group in Powys, as she had looked around and been unable to find one. I’ve been doing a lot of reading about peer support groups recently and they really seem to help individuals across the whole spectrum of mental distress. It makes so much sense. “A peer has ‘been there, done that’ and can relate to others who are now in a similar situation.” After all, how would it feel to be a self harming young person, isolated in a rural county like Powys, knowing no one else who self harms to talk to? 

There are many online forums and useful websites – I’ve listed some below – but whilst young people are the most ICT savvy folk in the world even they need to meet up and talk face-to-face with peers sometimes.

I’ve also been watching the BBC 3 TV documentary Don’t Call Me Crazy for the last couple of weeks – a distressing but again honest insight into life on a teenage mental health inpatient unit in Manchester – the McGuinness Unit. It’s described by the BBC as “a place of last resort for many adolescents with eating disorders or psychosis, who self-harm or are suicidal”. It’s not an easy watch. But in amongst all the images of cut arms and legs, the screams, the tears, the physical restraints, something shines through. And that’s the sheer positivity of the relationships the young people build, the way this can increase their sense of worth, their strength to overcome their distress and move on, and their inherent deep-rooted desire not just to survive but to flourish – and I’ve found it very moving.

So, what do you think? Is Black Star’s suggestion a good one? And if it is – who can start it off and give it a go?

PS: the support sites I mentioned:

Kooth - online counselling for young people in Powys.
Harmless - a national voluntary organisation for people who self harm, their friends, families and professionals.

Recover Your Life - one of the biggest self harm support communities on the internet.


  1. Tank you,good article

  2. Another great article Jackie. Moving and spot on. Maybe Black Star would be interested in getting it off the ground with support from PAMH / PAVO? Keep us posted!

    1. Hi Sorelle

      Many thanks for the comment, and glad you enjoyed the post. As for your suggestion.... I think we need to clone ourselves in the PAVO mental health team at Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations, there are so many good ideas, and just not enough time to carry them all out!!

      Very happy to support anyone who takes the initiative, however, by promoting through our Information Service. And if there are projects and activities out there we might not know about - please do tell us and we will share.

      Thanks again!

  3. Thank you. Kooth seems to be helping me a lot.

    1. Hi Emily
      Many thanks for commenting - it's good to hear that Kooth is helping you. If you come across any other sources of support that I haven't mentioned - just let us know. We can post on here and also on our Powys Mental Health website.

  4. Just wanted to say... im glad someone has been reading my stuff!!!
    my story of Cara.. is an interpretation of myself... im 19 and have BPD... i find the menatal health services in powys are quite well to put it pollitely rubbish. compared to other countys... i have been looking for support groups for a while i have found a few self harm support groups but they are out of county. personaly the kooth website for me isnt the best. it takes to long for a reply. so i tend to use
    i really just wanted to say high and thanks for reading :D

    1. please excuse the awful spelling

    2. Hi Black Star

      I really enjoyed reading your posts on the TOWIP site and so when my colleague mentioned the recent increase in self harm it made sense to link to them here.

      It's interesting too to read of your experience of Kooth - I don't know why it takes them so long to reply but it sounds like something that could be followed up - I believe the council buy in this service for Powys (I wonder if any of the Youth & Family Information team are reading this!?). So really useful feedback - be good to get more - we also have the comment from Emily above - if anyone else reading has any more feedback just let us know.

      Thanks for commenting, and if you think of other issues you would like to see written about here, or would like to write a guest post yourself one day, just get back in touch.


  5. Hi
    Thankyou for your comments on We do like to get feedback about the service. It’s great that someone here found the service helpful.
    I am concerned that we may have been slow to respond. Young people register on Kooth anonymously and so I can’t track individual complaints from this website. If you want to complain about Kooth’s service you can do this by using the feedback function on I will then be able to look into what has happened and message you back with a response.

    I hope this help’s
    (Kooth Counselling Service Manager

    1. Hi Jan

      Many thanks for your response - that's really helpful. I do hope that people follow up with you if they have feedback about Kooth - whether compliments or complaints! As we can see, the view here is very balanced so far.

      In my experience getting feedback of any sort is quite hard sometimes - so the more feedback we can all get the better!

      Thanks again


  6. It is very helpful for me as well as others. So thanks for posting this blog.