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Jackie's Story

I felt supported for the first time. I felt stronger having been to the Pinpoint group. I felt better able to support my family and I didn’t feel isolated any more.

Can you imagine the shock at finding your 13-year-old daughter has taken an overdose? Jackie* woke one morning to find just that. Her younger daughter Alice* had experimented with self-harm at 12 but discovering she was so unhappy that she wanted to take her own life was horrifying.  

With a lot of love, patience and communication, the family is moving forwards.  And, finally, Jackie has been able to share her experience with people outside her family after plucking up courage to attend Pinpoint’s support group for parents.  She’s also worked with her daughter’s school to boost awareness of self-harm and how to tackle it.

“When Alice began to self-harm at the age of 12, I thought this was a phase, something she did just once or twice. Many of the girls in her class were experimenting in this way – it’s so sad to think they are harming themselves in this way. But I’ve discovered that it’s common, very common, even in this Year 8 age group. 

“It was the school who informed me. One of her friends had approached a teacher and told her that Alice was self-harming. I took Alice to the GP and Alice was adamant that this was a one off and that she didn’t know why she had done it. At 12, she was too young for counselling support from the services in our locality, she needed to be 13 to access this service. There was a long waiting list for children’s mental health services. So we just bumbled along as best we could.

The cutting became more regular

“Alice stopped self-harming maybe for a couple of months.  But then she began cutting herself again and it became more regular. Her friendship group at school had also changed. She became friends with a girl who also had issues with low self-esteem, did not mix easily with other children, and. like Alice. had suffered bullying at school. Alice became withdrawn and offered little communication. 

In June 2015, at the age of 13, Alice attempted to take her own life. 

“I woke one Wednesday morning to find that she was not in her bed. She had not slept in it. I went downstairs to find her on the sofa, asleep. There was a note on the table. She had taken an overdose of painkillers. The note was cold and matter of fact. I managed to wake Alice and dialled 999.

“She was released from hospital with a safety plan. She is still under the supervision of a community psychiatric nurse, who has been totally amazing. Alice still has regular sessions fortnightly with her nurse, who has supported us both since July last year.  Alice has begun to talk about her fears and challenges. This is ongoing, and although she finds it difficult to talk about her emotions, we continue to be patient and slowly we are understanding we can support her, and Alice too has begun to understand why we are asking so many questions!

“I had not talked to anyone about what had happened to Alice outside of our immediate family. But I decided to go to a local Pinpoint meeting. I had never been to a support group before and I didn’t know what to expect, of the group, or myself. At work, I’m used to running my own focus groups. But this made me feel physically sick.

“I didn’t pre-register, so I could stay anonymous and try to keep control.  To say my first meeting was emotional was an understatement! 

This has affected the whole family

“It wasn’t until perhaps the third session that I was able to talk for the first time about what had happened to ‘us’.  It is an ‘us’ because self-harm affects everyone in the family. I felt supported for the first time. I felt stronger having been to the group. I felt better able to support my family.

“Alice’s school have been supportive. Alice has fortnightly meetings with the school nurse. In addition, we have regular meetings to communicate any changes in Alice’s mood or ability to cope at school. The safeguarding lead is involved and Alice has a safety plan at school as well.

“Communication is still hard for her and we continue to work in this area. Alice has not self-harmed for 8 weeks. She is feeling better about herself and has started to talk to me about how she is feeling. It will take time for Alice to feel confident about herself, but she is improving, all the time. With love and support and patience she will recover. The advice I would give to any parent who has a child who becomes withdrawn and has suffered like Alice would be to keep talking. Be patient and keep talking.”

*names have been changed to protect anonymity