SELF harming is a silent mental health problem kept secret from the world — and no-one knows this better than Jayne Martin.
For 25 years she quietly hurt herself following a rape when she was just 17.
The torment of the ordeal left Ms Martin filled with self-loathing and an urge to drink excessively and harm herself to distract herself from the mental torture.
Despite this, and a number of health problems, including four brain haemorrhages since 1999, Ms Martin has managed to hold down a job at Asda for 13 years and is close to her daughter, Louise, and her two young grandchildren.
For the last 18 months, Ms Martin, from Breightmet, has been free of her problems after the help of her close family and the counsellors at MHIST (Mental Health Independent Support Team) in Hanover Street, Bolton.
She says that the doctors have told her that, in view of what has happened to her, she should not be here.
And now the brave 45-year-old wants to use her experience to facilitate a self-help group to help others.
According to the NHS, self harming is more common than many people realise, especially among younger people.
A survey of 15 and 16 year olds, carried out in 2002, estimated that more than 10 per cent of girls and more than three per cent of boys had self-harmed in the previous year.
Ms Martin said: “I was 17 when I first self harmed. It was after I was raped by someone I knew.
“I froze and couldn’t say No because I was so scared at the time. I tried not to think about it and shoved the memories down.
“But then, a year later, I became pregnant with my daughter.
“I was brought up in a Christian family where it was all about white weddings and saving yourself for your husband, but that man took that dream away from me.
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“I didn’t tell anybody at first. I told a family friend and then I told my mum, who was very supportive.
“I hid the fact I was pregnant at first but everyone said I was being promiscuous, which was really upsetting.
“From then I had problems with sex, which put a lot of pressure on my relationships so I started to ‘self-medicate’ with alcohol.
"I got deeper into alcoholism and started to self harm because I felt dirty. I have post-traumatic stress disorder from when I was 17. I have nightmares.
“My self esteem got worse, so the self harm was a way to punish myself.”
Ms Martin believes her urge to hurt herself was down to control.
She said: “Often self harmers have a lot of mental torture that they can’t quieten down.
“Then if physical pain is inflicted by yourself, it takes your mind off it just for that moment. Some of it is down to control.
“When you self harm you are in control, whether it be the procedure, cleaning up afterwards or hiding it from others.
“But afterwards you have the guilt and the scars to show what you have done.”
She heard about MHIST through the NHS and decided it would be the extra help she needed to stop for good — and in October last year she was enrolled on a course to help her.
Ms Martin said: “I have tried to get help in the past and I’ve spoken to mental health teams, but they often say they can’t help.
“If I felt suicidal, they said, I should go to A&E, which is no good. That makes you feel more desperate and lonely.
“I’m so thankful that I have MHIST. I have had thoughts about killing myself and hurting myself.
“When I have a down day I give myself reasons to live, such as my daughter, my mum or my dog, Gizmo. Since being at MHIST I am feeling low less often.
“There’s a team of really brilliant people there who make you feel at home and you can be yourself and share your feelings with them. You can always talk to someone.
“I did access them about two years ago but it wasn’t the right time for me.
"I had to have an interview when I first came and I went on a waiting list, which can be off-putting, but it was definitely worth the wait.”
Ms Martin says she owes her life to her family and the counsellors at MHIST — so she has offered to run a new self-harm support group at the charity.
She said: “It’s more than 18 months since I last self-harmed and I haven’t had a drink for two-and-a-half years, apart from a couple of small lapses.
“I still wear long sleeves all the time because of the deep scars on my arms. You would never catch me wearing anything strappy or off the arm.
“It’s embarrassing when people see it. They just think you’re mental or draw attention to it in front of other people.
“My family have been so supportive — I have put them through hell.”
She added: “I have been working at Asda for about 13 years now. I have had so much support from them, such as time off between operations, which has helped my rehab knowing they were on my side.”
A spokesman from MHIST said: “We are all proud of Jayne’s progress since she first came to see us.
“She has been through so much but she still wants to help others by starting a new self harming group, which shows just how far she has come."
- Anyone affected by this issue can call MHIST on 01204 527200 or the Samaritans on 08457 909090.
Self-harm - the facts
In most cases, people who self-harm do it to help them cope with unbearable and overwhelming emotional issues. These include:
- Social factors — such as being bullied, having difficulties at work or school, or having difficult relationships with friends or family.
- Trauma — such as physical or sexual abuse, or the death of a close family member or friend.
- Mental health — such as depression or borderline personality disorder.