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Monday 8th May sees the start of Mental Health Awareness Week 2017. Suicide Prevention Advisor Simon explains why self-care is so vital to our emotional wellbeing and how it can help young people to stay suicide-safe.
At HOPELineUK the calls, texts and emails we receive from young people include talking about and trying to better understand their own mental health and wellbeing. Many of these callers may be thinking about suicide and contact us for support with these thoughts.
In supporting young people through thoughts of suicide – listening to their experiences and trying to understand their situation, hearing what is making life difficult, supporting them towards finding other options – one of the elements we focus on at HOPELineUK is staying safe from suicide.
Looking at safety is a two-way process. It’s important that we understand what feels achievable for the caller, and at HOPELineUK. we spend time understanding what can make safety from suicide difficult. This might include certain events or of times of day that the caller finds more difficult – like being at school or at university, being alone late at night, or having arguments with friends or parents. During these times it can often be more difficult for them to feel a sense of hope, to feel connected to the idea of safety; to feel a sense of their own resilience. This is the times when ‘self-care’ is essential – taking time out to be kind to yourself, to find activities that feel good, or allow you to connect with yourself again. Self-care is about caring for yourself, inside and out.
Distraction techniques and coping strategies can help many young people to manage thoughts of suicide. Finding an activity – be it practical or sensory – can be a positive way to introduce ‘safe’ time. It can give you the time and space when the focus moves from feeling alone, sad or suicidal, to an activity that holds your attention, allows you to be present in what you’re doing, and helps difficult thoughts feel less overwhelming.
Mindfulness – focusing on the present moment, the present activity, whilst allowing thoughts and feelings to just be – has a long history of helping people with their mental wellbeing. By allowing yourself to become absorbed in the moment it’s possible to feel a sense of calm and focus that can distract from painful or difficult thoughts and feelings.
In recent years, mindfulness combined with taking time out to colour in a drawing has proved a very popular activity. PAPYRUS has recently launched our own colouring book, ‘Lose Yourself In The Art of a Peaceful Mind’. This has been designed by young artists to reflect the ways in which they relax and practise self-care. It offers not just a fantastic opportunity to engage in mindful colouring, but also suggests range of self-care activities – for example using everyday chores such as washing the pots as a way of slowing down, taking time out…or reading your favourite book…spending time outdoors to feel a sense of nature, to connect with the sun, rain, the natural ebb and flow of the seasons. It features birds, animals – and even a mermaid! With a few pens or pencils and some time to yourself, this can be a way to stop, to slow down, and feel much more able to manage difficult thoughts.
Our experience on HOPELineUK is that dealing with thoughts of suicide is painful. It can be hard – but it’s not impossible or unachievable. It starts with self-care, allowing yourself to understand that these thoughts, however difficult or overwhelming, are not permanent – and to try and accept them without judgement. By taking care of yourself, taking time out to do something enjoyable, something distracting, it allows you to feel calmer. This in turn leads to understanding that thoughts and situations can change – and do change.
Thoughts of suicide are painful, are difficult, but with support such as HOPELineUK, with self-care and focusing on your mental health and wellbeing, many people reach a point where they can manage thoughts of suicide and accept that these thoughts are part of their journey through life – and not something that defines them.
If you have been thinking about suicide, or if you're worried a young person you know is at risk, talk to PAPYRUS HOPELineUK on 0800 068 4141. You can also text us on 07786 209 697, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Opening hours are 10am-10pm weekdays, 2pm-10pm weekends, and 2pm-5pm Bank Holidays.