Gidea Park mum: no support available for parents of self-harming youngsters

A brave Gidea Park mum whose daughter has been self-harming for two years is speaking out in the hope she can help others.

Helen Gallagher’s 15-year-old daughter cuts herself with razors and has tried to take her own life on more than one occasion. Ms Gallagher, who works in child welfare, said there was no support available for the parents of self-harming youngsters in Havering.

“I’m a single parent who works full time,” Ms Gallagher told the Recorder. “I might get home after work and find she’s had a cutting episode, and then we have to bandage it and take her to hospital – it’s never-ending.

“It would just be nice to talk to another parent who’s going through what I go through. There must be people like myself who’ve got no one to talk to.

“There’s counselling available but I need to speak to someone who’s had similar experiences. I know I’m not alone in dealing with this.”

Ms Gallagher believes part of the problem is that people are reluctant to talk about mental health issues. “It’s a taboo,” she said.

“It would be nice if parents could say to each other, ‘my child’s just started cutting – what do I look for?’”

Most Read

Ms Gallagher believes the advice she has been given by professionals could be useful to others – for example, that it is unhelpful to hide razors and sharp objects, and that parents should remain calm when their children talk about self-harm. She hopes speaking out will encourage other parents to come forward so they can share advice and support each other.

Rachel Welsh of young people’s charity said the problem was widespread.

“There is actually very little out there for young people who self-harm, let alone for the parents and siblings of the sufferer,” she said.

“I’d like to think local authorities would be more pro-active in providing support for parents caring for children with mental health or emotional struggles but I understand that, while funding is so tight, it is unlikely to happen.”

She added the charity would be rolling out national workshops for parents from next year to address the gap in support.

Ms Gallagher added: “Last week I asked my daughter why she’d cut herself and she said, ‘I just feel so empty’.

“As a parent it’s hard going. We need to put awareness out.”