Megan is a 15-year-old student attending one of our secondary schools. She was referred to the bccs Professional Worker at the school, because even though she had joined in Year 8, she did not seem to have settled very well, had made few friends, was often absent and frequently complained of headaches or stomach upsets.
One of our social workers met with Megan and, although initially she was reluctant to talk, she explained that she did not feel she belonged at the school and missed her friends from her previous school. Her Nana had also died earlier that year and she missed her. She said that she was always arguing with her parents who both worked long hours and "didn't care about her", only her younger brother who was "good at everything".
The Social Worker let Megan talk through her difficulties and for the next three weeks Megan came to see her, regularly talking about the things that were worrying her, and our Social Worker helped her try and resolve some of her anxieties. On the fourth week, Megan confided that she had been cutting herself since the age of 14 and had tried to stop, but the feeling would build up and she couldn't help herself. The bad feelings only went away when she saw the blood from her cuts.
The Social Worker listened carefully without criticism and helped Megan think about why she was cutting herself. She asked her to think about what was happening when she first began to feel like hurting herself, what triggered the feeling and did she have frightening thoughts and feelings that she had not yet spoken about?
The Social Worker continued to see Megan weekly but as the self-harming worsened, Megan had to be referred to Children Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). Megan refused to see anyone else but the person she had a relationship with, so CAMHS remained involved in a consultative capacity and the Social Worker continued to see Megan. A year later, Megan has not harmed herself for three months and is applying for a place at art college.
It may be because of the trusting and enabling relationship Megan built up with the bccs Social Worker who provided the consistent long-term support when many other things were changing in Megan's life, or maybe Megan decided to make the changes herself, or maybe things happened extraneous to the therapeutic relationship that made Megan decide to stop self-harming. However, when self-injury becomes a way of coping with feelings it is a sign that there are difficulties that need sorting out and fortunately there was someone and something positive at this stage in Megan's life to help her to stop and make changes to her life.