Visiting my doctor about self-harm
Mark, Ellie, and Lisa, tell us about the ups and downs of visiting your doctor (GP) for advice, help and treatment for self-harm.
Mark, 22, says it's worth persevering to find the right doctor:
The very first time I went to the GP about my self-harm I was 16 and absolutely terrified. My Mum came with me and told the doctor I had started self-harming but she wasn't very helpful or sensitive about it. I was advised by the doctor not to cut around the wrist area, but he didn't really talk to me about the problems behind my situation. I was referred to a specialised children's mental health service, but it took about six weeks and by then I was much worse.
Since then I've seen dozens of GPs about self-harm and other mental health problems. The response I've had has depended on the knowledge that the GP has. The good ones know about self-harm and have previous experience. But others don't seem to know much about the motivations for someone self-harming, why it might be a problem and why someone can't stop. They are concerned for your safety, but that's about it.
Don't be disheartened
It's certainly worth going to see a GP, as it's a huge and extremely positive step towards getting help and dealing with the issues behind self-harm. Just be aware that you might have to try a few GP's before you find the right one for you. Don't be disheartened. Be patient and keeping pushing for what you need. Your health is worth it.
Ellie, 24, got help from her doctor straight away:
I've had a really positive experience getting help for my self-harm through my doctor. I first went to see my GP about my self-harm when I was 20, a few months after I'd started feeling quite depressed and begun self-harming. After talking to her, I was prescribed low-dose anti-depressants.
"It can be very lonely when you self-harm, and it can be hard to know which way to turn for help. But, for me, my GP was definitely a good place to start."
My GP has been a lifeline for the four years that I've seen her. She really listens to me and cares about my welfare. She's also able to point me towards all the other services I can use. It can be very lonely when you self-harm, and it can be hard to know which way to turn for help. But, for me, my GP was definitely a good place to start.
With encouragement from her friends Lisa, 19, found a doctor who could help:
The first time I went to a GP I was 17 and I'd been cutting for nearly three years. It was my friends who eventually encouraged me to go. I was terrified. The doctor laughed at me and told me I didn't look like a self-harmer but he'd prescribe me something anyway. He was very uninformed and uncomfortable. He wasn't malicious, he just didn't really know what to do. He didn't examine my cuts or ask to see them.
I was pretty mortified at his reaction, especially as it had taken me so long to go and see a GP in the first place. I refused to go back for any follow-up checks because I'd found it all such a horrifying experience.
About four months later my friends convinced me to see a different doctor at the practice and she was amazing. She really listened to what I had to say and helped me to organise counselling and find treatment and medication which worked for me. She didn't ask to examine my cuts, either. In fact, apart from the one time I needed stitches, no one has ever examined them.
It has taken me a long time to feel comfortable with my self-harm and with doctors. I think it needs to be much less of a taboo and mental health problems need to be more widely recognised. Luckily, with some persistence, I found the right help for me.
Interviews by Susie Wild