Pooky Knightsmith

@pooky-knightsmith | contributor
Dr Pooky Knightsmith is a passionate ambassador for mental health who loves to research, write, speak, teach and share all manner of ideas about mental health and emotional wellbeing. Her enthusiasm is backed up both by a PhD in child and adolescent mental health and her own lived experience of anorexia, self-harm, anxiety and depression. You can follow her work on her website, In Our Hands. Pooky works for the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, a UK based mental health charity where she is the director of the children and young people’s programme.

10 Ways My Friend Goes Above and Beyond for Me When I'm Suicidal

The first time Joe saved my life, he did it with a Post-it note. It had the words “You are irreplaceable” written on it, and he meant it. He handed me the note as I hurried off to a meeting in Westminster — a meeting I had no intention of attending because I had concocted a plan that would have ended my life during the short commute. Over the past few years, Joe has repeatedly gone above and beyond as a friend and on several occasions, I’ve had him to thank for keeping me walking the tightrope that is life. I can identify with the words of Stephen Fry, “ It’s hard to be friends with someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest and best things you will ever do.” It can be hard to be that friend, but to try and help a little, I’m going to share some of the things my friend Joe says and does that have been so vital in keeping me alive. Some may work for you and your friends, some may not, but I believe they’ll all give you pause for thought. 1. He’s quietly persistent and looks beyond the “I’m fine” mask. Joe is always there when I need him. He was the first person to realize my mental health was declining a few years ago and although we weren’t close friends at the time, he kept on giving me opportunities to open up until finally I did. Countless times since, Joe has picked up on the signs that all is not well and he’s quietly and persistently pushed me to open up and look for the support I need. He doesn’t believe me when I say “I’m fine.” He looks beyond the mask when others choose not to. 2. He uses humor. Even in the darkest moments, Joe has used humor (and “West Wing” quotes) to help to shed some light on darkness. Being suicidal or trying desperately to save yourself from self-harming or reckless behavior is no laughing matter, but being able to tap into the humorous side of things can really help to move the conversation forward. Joe’s humor also helps me to realize he’s not scared of the conversation we’re having and that I can be honest and say what’s really on my mind, no matter how awful it might be. 3. He uses his knowledge of me to inspire me. It was Joe who first told me I should open up to my network about my struggles with my mental health. He suggested that in the long term, my experiences would be a strength, not a weakness. He knows I’m passionate about promoting positive mental health and if I’m on the verge of a bad decision, he often takes me down the route of an alternative decision — a positive one — and demonstrates how it would be great modeling to the people in my network who look to me for guidance. In the darkest moments, he talks to me about a future version of myself who made it through this moment and is using my struggle to inspire others to continue fighting. 4. He encourages me to follow the advice I would give to others. Joe is quick to point out when I am being less kind to myself than I would be to someone else, or if my proposed actions are not those I’d advise. He often takes the words I say and asks me, “If a 14-year-old girl said that to you, what would you suggest…?” He has a huge respect for my knowledge about mental health and illness and how to support those who are struggling, and he does what he can to draw on that knowledge and use it to focus me when I’m drowning in self-hatred. 5. He never lets me forget the pain my death would cause. There have been many days when dying seems the easy option. I often get to a point of genuinely believing my death would both end my own pain and relieve others of the burden of having me in their life. This evokes strong emotion in Joe who is painfully, brutally honest and always brings my children to the forefront of my mind. He reminds me of how much they love me and how much pain my death would bring to them as well as to my husband and my friends — including him. He doesn’t try to make me feel guilty, he just passionately believes my life has value and brings joy to others and he helps me see that when I can’t. 6. He drops everything. Feeling suicidal doesn’t tend to work to a schedule. Many times, Joe has supported me through suicidal crisis when he really should have been doing something else (or sleeping). One of the lessons he has tried hardest to teach me over the last few years is that when I need help, I must ask. He has told me plainly there is nothing more important he could be doing than supporting me in a time of need and though I find it very difficult to reach out in those moments, if I do, he is always ready help me through minute by minute to safety. 7. He listens, without judgment, to the things too awful to tell anyone else. Joe and my husband get on well and keep in touch to ensure my safety when it’s most needed. My husband, Tom, is grateful to Joe and encourages our friendship which I’m thankful for because while Tom is an absolute rock, some of the issues that underlie my post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are just too awful to talk about to Tom. What often happens is I talk about them with my therapist, and then with Joe and then, once I’m a little more used to the shape of these words and feelings, I tell Tom. The fact that Joe listens with an open heart and never judges, offering only kindness where I expect repulsion gives me confidence that my husband can hear these words too without losing his love for me. 8. He cares unconditionally. Joe has been there through thick and thin. I’ll be honest, I’ve not always been the nicest of friends in return because my illness often drives me to sabotage the things I need most to recover. But Joe is always kind and forgiving. He forgives me too when I stumble and fall into relapse, helping me to look forwards not back if anorexia takes grip or I succumb to the need to self-harm. 9. He looks forward. It’s easy to get caught up in how very difficult the here and now is when your whole life is ruled by your mental illness, but Joe always has one foot firmly in the future. He looks forward to the good times we’ll have, to the lessons we’ll have learned from this time and to how I can move towards a happier and healthier way of being. Sometimes we can look forward together only to the next minute — other times we can see years ahead. Joe lets me set the pace and he gently guides me away from the difficulty of the here and now. 10. He is always ready with a hug. Not everyone is tactile, but for me this is a biggie. No matter what life has thrown at me, Joe’s arms are somewhere I’ll always feel safe. Sometimes there are no words, but a hug from a friend who really, really cares, despite everything, can be enough to begin to slowly turn things around. Joe is a pretty private person and while I often allude my feelings of appreciation to him, I have never spoken at length about quite the friend he continues to be to me. I’m overwhelmed by his kindness and often find myself questioning why he sticks by me, but he does. So as well as hopefully sharing some ideas that others might use, this post is also a big thank you to one of the most wonderful friends I could ever have hoped for — Joe, I wish everyone had a friend like you. If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741 . We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Photo via contributor.

Together We Can: Cards to Send to Friends Facing Hard Times

I’m currently in my seventh week in a hospital where I’m trying to fix both my body and mind, which have been somewhat cruelly abused by anorexia and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It can feel quite a lonely place, both physically and mentally, but one of the things I have found that can always lift the fog a little is when the postman comes calling with a handwritten card from someone I care about. The power of even the simplest of handwritten messages to penetrate the darkness a little got me to thinking about how great it would be if we could mobilize people to reach out to their friends at difficult times — whether that’s due to mental or physical illness, bereavement or any other issue. Often at these times, as friends, we really want to support but we just don’t know what to say. And so “Together we can: Cards to Send to Friends Facing Hard Times” was born. Myself and my friend Caro (the creative genius!) launched it as a Kickstarter campaign with the aim of raising enough money to produce and distribute 3,000 cards that pledgers could send to their loved ones. Each pack of cards will also be supplied with simple suggestions about how to support a friend through difficult times. And the response has been tremendous! We are hoping to raise £5k in 30 days, which looks hopeful as we hit the £2k mark in under 24 hours. Many people’s pledges are simple and are essentially advance purchases of the cards, whilst others have made a pledge that will enable them to co-create a card with us, have their pet featured or be a VIP at our launch party. We hope that you’d like to support our campaign too and help us reach our £5k target. The cards will ship all over the world, lighting darkness with smiles wherever they go. We’ve aimed for a mixture of kind, supportive and funny cards so there should be something to suit everyone. If the project continues to capture imaginations, then I hope we will grow the range in response to our network’s suggestions and keep it as an ongoing endeavor and continual fund raiser for the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust children and young people’s mental health program (which funds things like our webinar series designed for anyone working with or caring for a young person with a mental health issue) and our weekly mental health podcast. Please take a look and consider joining those who have already pledged to help turn this dream into a reality and help turn darkness into light for friends during times of need. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237 . We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo via Melpomenem

Questioning Yourself When You're Suicidal

To Pooky, In this moment of unbearable pain, it feels impossible to take another step — unless it’s the one to end it all — but please don’t. As you stand, contemplating whether to go on or to stop, you are basing your decision on a series of truths that need testing. You cannot test these truths when you are gone. Let me help you test them now with the unprompted words of others you will hear in the months following this moment. Truth? You believe you are a bad mother. “You are the best Mummy in the world. I wish every little girl could have a Mummy like you.” One of your daughters tells you this whilst half asleep, climbing into your bed seeking solace from nightmares. Truth? You are a bad wife. “I rarely look at couples and think perhaps they have something as special as I’ve been blessed with, but I look at you and Tom and I see that bond. He’s as lucky to have you as you are to have him.” These were the observations of a happily married friend who you love dearly. Truth? You are a bad friend. “You are the best friend I could ever hope for. I love you” The words of a beloved friend as she speaks for the first time of her pain. Truth? You are a bad colleague. “You were incredibly inspirational in the meeting the other day, and really set the right tone and direction for what we need to do.” The reflections of a dauntingly well-qualified colleague after your first time of meeting. Before you make an irreversible decision, the truths on which you base it need testing. You are a scientist and currently you have not gathered enough evidence to make this decision. Step away, live another day and begin to allow those who love and respect you to help you test those truths. It may take years before you can hear words like those and believe them. S till you don’t believe them — but you have hope. You hope that with hard work, perseverance and by taking things one day at a time, one day you will believe them. And wouldn’t that be a wonderful life — one worth living? Walk on… please. Pooky x If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

How to Be a Friend for Someone With Depression

It’s not always easy to know how to support a friend who has depression, and we can be hesitant to help for a wide range of reasons. I don’t know what to say.I don’t understand.I’m worried I’ll get it wrong.I’m not sure they want help. Sometimes it feels like your help isn’t needed or wanted. But often your friend will find it just as hard to accept your help as you find it to offer it. But, there are some ways you can support your friend who has depression. 1. Just be there: Never underestimate the power of simply being there. It shows you care, which is something your friend needs to be reminded of right now. 2. Don’t be scared of touch: We can feel awkward even around our closest friends sometimes, and may avoid physical contact. But a hug, a hand on their arm or holding your friend’s hand can be very reassuring. 3. Keep the door open: Your friend may not be ready to talk to you yet… but make sure they know you’ll be there for them when they’re ready. 4. Keep offering support: Keep reminding your friend that you’re there for them. Even if you keep the door open to them, they will find it hard to proactively seek your support. 5. Make time: Your friend may not be able to join in with the activities you used to enjoy together. Make time to spend with them in a way they feel more comfortable. 6. Be yourself: You don’t need to be a counselor or doctor to know how to help your friend. Just relax with them and remember how you used to act around them — and act the same way. There’s a reason you’re friends! 7. Keep in touch: It might feel like your friend is unwell for a long time. Don’t forget about them — short messages via text or Facebook will remind them you’re thinking of them. 8. Offer flexible support: Ask your friend how you can support them. This might mean things like accompanying them when they go out for the first time in a while, or something more practical like picking up groceries. 9. Never assume: Don’t assume you know how your friend feels, even if you’ve been depressed yourself. Don’t downplay their problems or expect a quick fix. Just continue to offer unconditional love, support and care. 10. Keep supporting: When things start to get better, support tends to drop away. This is the time when your friend might need more support than ever — just keep being their friend and asking how you can best help. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. Depression can make people feel lonely and vulnerable, and the support of a good friend can help someone find a reason to continue fighting for recovery.Good luck and thank you for trying — people like you, who care, can make the world of difference to those of us who face dark days. A version of this post originally appeared on In Our Hands.

How to Say Goodbye to Anorexia After You Relapse

Dear Anorexia, It’s hard to remember when we first met – so many of my childhood memories revolve around our times together. We were inseparable for many years; people could barely tell where you ended and I began. But it’s been a while. We’d drifted apart; I was wrapped up in my own life for so long – but now, like all very best friends, it’s like we’ve never been apart. I was surprised by how easy it was to pick up where we left off; how quickly our old ways of being together fell back into place; how old habits reformed and how soon enough we were finishing each other’s sentences, completing each other’s thoughts and prioritizing our time together above everything else. But the thing is, and it’s really hard to be honest about this, I’m not sure I have time for our friendship any more. It’s just so intense and leaves little time for the friends I’ve made and the family I’ve grown while we’ve been parted. I feel that perhaps you’re resentful of my other relationships because you seem to seek a perverse pleasure in preventing me from spending time with the people I love the most. You seem to want me all to yourself and you work hard to prevent me enjoying time with my children, with my husband and with even my closest friends. I wonder too whether you’re jealous of my achievements? It feels like you’re doing all you can to undermine and sabotage everything I’ve worked so hard for. And you’re just, well, such hard work to be around. I spend my whole life walking on eggshells when I’m with you. I heed your voice above everyone else’s for fear of what will happen if I don’t. And when I’m with you I seem to lose sight of my senses and I do and say all sorts of things I wouldn’t normally even dream of. So I’m sorry, but I think perhaps it’s time we parted ways. I won’t ever forget our special times together; I’ve learned a lot from you and much of what I do is inspired by the times we’ve shared – but I just don’t have time, either physically, or emotionally, to continue to make space for you in my life right now. I can’t just get up and walk away. I care too much about you for that and our relationship goes back too far; but I hope that perhaps we can start to find time for other people and other things in our lives…  And I hope we can do that soon, before it’s too late. Do you think we could try that? I do hope so because I’m tired, and I’m fed up of letting people down because of you. I’ve come to realize that when we’re together, I’m not the best version of me – so please forgive me and quietly let me go. Your old friend,Pooky The Mighty is asking its readers the following: If you could write a letter to the disability or disease you (or a loved one) face, what would you say to it? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to community@themighty.com. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

What to Do: Worried About a Friend's Mental Health

I often run student workshops on a range of issues related to mental health and emotional wellbeing.  Regardless of the precise topic, the most common question students ask me is: “What should I do if I’m worried a friend has a mental health issue?” Perhaps it’s something you’re wondering about, or you’d like to be able to share ideas with your students, friends or your own child.  I’ve shared my ideas below, but I’d love to hear yours, too. 1. Listen. The most important thing you can do for your friend is to make time for them and listen to them. They need to feel listened to, so get rid of all distractions. Giving them the space and time to talk is a really important first step — in the beginning, but also right through (and beyond) the recovery journey. 2. Don’t judge. More than almost anything, young people with mental health and emotional well-being issues such as depression, eating disorders and self-harm tell me that they fear the judgement of others. They worry people will overreact, thinking they’re crazy or assuming they want to kill themselves. Or sometimes, they worry people will be dismissive and think they’re just attention-seeking. A good friend listens without judgement and sees their friend as a friend — not a unhelpful label like “anorexic or “self-harmer.” 3. Ask how you can help. When someone shares their struggles and concerns with you, the most helpful thing you can ask is how you can help. There’s no need to dissect the ins and outs of why your friend feels this way — that is the work of a therapist. But as their friend, you can talk to them about what practical measures you can put in place to support them through each day. Think about difficulties and barriers which are making life harder for them. For example, if they’re struggling with anxiety, maybe arriving at school when its really busy makes them feel panicky and out of control. To relieve this, maybe you could walk in with them each day to offer moral support. Exactly how you can help will vary from person to person, so the best thing to do is to have a discussion with your friend to bounce some ideas about. You should also try to revisit the topic every now and then. 4. Seek support — for your friend and yourself. Depending on the nature of your friend’s concerns, it’s likely you’ll need to encourage them to seek further support. Telling a trusted adult at home or school will enable you to access further support – for both of you. Your friend might be reluctant to share their concerns with anyone else, but if you’re worried it’s important that you don’t go it alone. Also, you may end up developing well-being issues yourself if you take on your friend’s concerns without any additional help. You can help your friend to feel reassured and more in control of the situation by discussing: WHAT information needs to be passed on – you only need to share enough to access support, not everything they’ve told you. WHO needs to know – think carefully about who you trust to respond appropriately and support you both. HOW you’re going to tell them – does your friend want to do it themselevs, do they want you to do it for them, should you to it together or should you write a letter or email? Of course, we should always try to seek our friend’s consent before alerting someone to their issues. However, there are some circumstances in which you should tell a trusted adult right away to keep your friend safe, and to access support as quickly as possible.  These circumstances include: Self-harm including alcohol or drug misuse Suicidal feelings Difficulties concerning food including bingeing, starving, vomiting or laxative abuse Abuse at home (physical, sexual or emotional) Abuse from a boyfriend or girlfriend (physical, sexual or emotional) Bullying of any type 5. Stick by them. Finally, stick by your friend through thick and thin. It can be hard being friends with someone who’s facing these kinds of difficulties; you may find your friend pushes you away, stops coming out with you, starts acting differently or ignores you completely. But rest assured, your support will mean a huge amount to them (even if they don’t show it) and will help them through their recovery. Even just the occasional text message can mean a huge amount to someone who’s struggling to get through each day. Good luck – your friend is lucky to have you. Follow this journey on In Our Hands.

Helping Yourself (and Others) Through a Panic Attack

Anxiety is a fairly constant factor in my life right now, and the same is true for many people. When this is the case, we have two choices: we can let it control us or try to take control of it. Because I don’t not want to spend the next six months in my bedroom, I’m keen on the latter. But, this does mean facing the reality of panic attacks fairly regularly. I’m lucky to have many friends and colleagues who want to support me, but perhaps don’t know how. This post is to help both me and them understand the best steps to take to manage panic attacks. As always, this advice won’t apply to everyone. Although my background is in child and adolescent mental health, use the following as a starting point. I welcome any additional suggestions, advice or ideas you have to share – please leave them as a comment below. Here’s my guide to helping yourself (and others) get through a panic attack: 1. Take preventative action. Sometimes panic comes from nowhere, but sometimes we can feel it building up. If you can feel an attack coming on, preventative steps you could try are: Being open and honest with a trusted friend or colleague and asking for their support preceding an attack. Taking active measures to use calming and relaxation strategies to try to control the underlying level of panic. Identifying and talking through the underlying feelings and sources of panic. Acknowledging that an attack may not be preventable, but reminding yourself it doesn’t last forever. Proactively considering where is the best place to be, and who is the best person to be with, if an attack takes grip. If you’re a loved one of someone about to have a panic attack, some useful things to say are: “I’m happy to listen if you’d like to talk about it.” “Are you able to explain how you’re feeling?” “Is there anything I can do to help you feel calmer?” “Is there somewhere we can go that you’d feel more comfortable?” “Is there anything specific I can do to help you if you do have a panic attack?” “I’m here for you and will stay with you until these feelings pass.” “You’re going to be OK. I’ll make sure you’re safe.” “You’re being really brave.” “Are you happy for me to be here or is there someone else you’d prefer?” 2. Ride it out. If a panic attack sets in, there’s sometimes little you can do except to ride it out. The length of the attacks might vary, but they will not last forever. No matter how many times you experience a panic attack each feels completely unbearable, but remember – you’ve got through it before, you’ll get through it again. A good strategy is to try to manage your panic one minute at a time. You only need to get through the next minute. Focus on this and remember that with each passing minute, you are a minute closer to the end of the attack. If you’re a loved one of someone having a panic attack, some useful things to say are: “This will pass.” “I understand this is horrible, but you’ve got through it before, you’ll get through it again.” “You’re going to be OK.” “I’m here. I’m staying with you.” “I’ll keep you safe.” “Let’s take this one minute at a time.” “Let’s focus on getting through the next 60 seconds.” “Your body can’t sustain this indefinitely, it will pass.” “We’re another minute closer to you feeling calmer again.” 3. Stay grounded. At their peak, my panic attacks can give way to derealization – a feeling of losing grip ofwho and where I am. Many others experience this to some degree, too. To prevent this, it can be useful to stay grounded and connected with reality. Things I find useful are: Having someone talk to me – either in person or on the phone (I find it helpful to be talked to, other people might prefer to do the talking.) Being held or touched – a hand on my arm, having my hands held or being hugged really help me stay connected with another person and helps to ground me. If your loved one is experiencing derealization, you can encourage your friend to try: Touching something warm or cold and focusing on the warmth or cold. Pinching herself so she can feel she is real. Trying to find a single object and identifying what it is and what he knows about it. Counting something in the room. Utilizing senses in any way possible. 4. Use relaxation techniques and skills. There are a range of skills we can employ to help us feel calmer and more relaxed. These skills often work best if we practice them at times of calm so that we’re better able to access them at moments of panic. Different things work for different people, but useful relaxation and calming techniques might include: Breathing techniques Listening to relaxing music Walking with purpose Guided meditation/mindfulness Muscle relaxation How to help a friend use relaxation techniques: One of the most helpful ways to help a friend is to understand what tools and skills they have for managing moments of high stress. No matter how well your friend learns their skills, it’s possible that during a panic attack they may forget to use them or struggle to employ them. So d uring calmer periods, ask your friend to explain these skills to you and discuss how you can help your friend utilize them during times of higher anxiety. With a good knowledge of the basics, you’ll be in a good position to help. You may even find the new skills are useful for you, too. Anxiety and panic are very difficult to live with and can be completely debilitating. If you or someone you know is affected, there’s no need to suffer in silence; instead, seek help from your doctor who can suggest local sources of support. This might include medication, talking or skills therapies. Don’t be afraid to give these things a try. They can make a huge difference once given time to establish. Editor’s note: This story is based on one person’s experiences and shouldn’t be taken as professional advice. To learn more information about overcoming anxiety and panic attacks, visit the Anxiety and Depression Association of America or consult your doctor. This post first appeared on Pooky’s Blog

Why We Need to Talk About Adult Self-Harm

My work on the topic of self-harm has focused on children and adolescents. The “epidemic” of self-harm faced by our schools is constant fodder for our tabloids, and led to me traveling frantically around the United Kingdom trying to meet the demand for my expertise. I was once a child who self-harmed, too. I could relate from personal experience. It was in the dim and distant past, but I got it. But what I never stopped to think about was the issue of adult self-harm. We know that the demographics are changing, that younger and younger children are hurting themselves. But adults.? No. This is not something that affects them, is it? Wrong. So very wrong. As I share my story, I’m finding I’m far from alone. There are a lot of other adults out there who are using self-harm to manage their thoughts and feelings, too. Some of them have done it since childhood – or like me have reverted to a coping mechanism of old. Others have discovered self-harm as a fully-fledged adult. But we’re not talking about it. Why? I think it’s because this is not our territory. Self-harm is seen as the domain of the 14-year-old emo girl. We are no more likely to bare our arms and our souls than we are to replace our “grown up clothes” with a Slipknot hoody and a badly rolled spliff. We’ve been there, we’ve done that. We’ve grown up and out of it. Right? And so we all paint this picture and try to adhere to it, leaving adults who self-harm with nowhere to go. No one to ask, no one to offer them support. I found when I talked openly from my professional podium about my self-harm, I opened the flood gates for a wide range of adults to come forward and tell me, “Me too.” The relief in the messages I receive is palpable. Other adults realize they’re not the only ones, and in a way I feel relieved, too. Despite my knowledge on the topic, I felt like perhaps I was the only adult in the room who was overcoming this battle – because it’s so different than being a younger self-harmer. As an adult we have responsibilities, which give rise to big questions: What do we tell our children? Do we need to tell our employer? Are we safe unsupervised? How much can we share with our partner? There are so many questions yet to be explored. I’m an expert in self-harm in children and adolescents, and while the field evolves and changes and I’m learning all the time, I feel confident answering questions on that topic. But the world of adult self-harm feels like an undiscovered underworld. There are lots of questions to which I don’t know the answer yet. My personal journey will help, of course, but it’s just one story. If we’re to equip others with the support and advice they need, then it needs to be a team effort. So what points am I meandering to here? I guess, in summary, there are three things to say. Firstly, self-harm is not a behavior confined to children and young people. It’s afflicting plenty of adults, too. Secondly, as adults, we feel scared or ashamed of sharing our self-harm. We fear we’ll lose our children, our jobs or our partners if we’re open about it, so these painful stories go untold. Finally, self-harm is not easy to fix. For some of us it becomes a deeply embedded coping mechanism which is unlikely to be overcome without appropriate support and help. But my main point, the point I hope some of you will have the confidence, self-assurance, support or bloody mindedness to follow through on, is that we need to talk about it. Let’s stop adult self-harm from cowering in a corner, left unseen and misunderstood. Let’s be open and honest and help each other move forward. This is not something we should feel ashamed about – it’s hard to be honest because many people simply do not understand. But, and this is a big but, they will never understand unless we help them. If we share our stories, if we educate those around us and if we stand unafraid in the face of judgment and say, “I hurt and it shows, but I want it to stop,” then those with strength will not judge, will not walk away, will not shame us. They will step forward, they will take our hand, they will listen and they will learn. People can be surprising if you let them. Follow this journey on In Our Hands. If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources. If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.