I recently visited the Edinburgh Self Harm Project, an initiative that offers confidential advice and support to people who use self harm as a way of coping. The Project opened in 2005 and throughout the past seven years has provided a range of user-led services, offering emotional and practical support to help people on the road to recovery.
I was very impressed with the commitment, friendliness and professionalism of the staff who work at the Project and it is evident that they are doing all they can to respond to the difficulties that many people are faced with. They not only seek to help people deal with their problems and recover from self-harm, but to raise awareness of self harm issues and to identify people who are ‘at risk’. Too often in society people feel marginalised and uncomfortable talking about issues that are sensitive and private. The Project gives people the opportunity to talk about their lives in a secure environment, that is person centred, non-judgemental and the advice and services provided are tailored made to suit the individual.
The Project defines Self Harm within a holistic framework and they look into all aspects of people’s lives, not just the self harm behaviour. This approach clearly helps to identify underlying problems, providing an opportunity to talk about them and help people to re-gain their self-esteem and happiness. Self harm should not be a taboo subject and people suffering should not be ‘hidden’ or afraid to speak out. That is why I highly commend the work of the Project and am impressed with their services.
The Project has grown from strength to strength and they work in partnership with a number of organisations, including Saughton Prison and the Choose Life Steering Group. One of the main developments recently is the increase in age range. Originally the Project specifically dealt with clients aged between 16 – 25 years, but they now work with people aged 16+. There are a range of people under pressure who may have self-harmed for quite a long period of time before they seek help or are referred to the project. We discussed the need for awareness of the groups work within schools, colleges and universities as many students experience pressure for a variety of reasons.
We also discussed the challenge of expanding their outreach work as the project has been experiencing reduced budgets over the last couple of years. But the project has received positive feedback from clients and stakeholders and is involved in joint work with other agencies. You can see the range of work carried out by the project in their Annual Report.
The group will be visiting the Parliament next year and I hope it will provide the opportunity for MSPs to discuss the need to join up mental health strategy and services between our local government and health sectors.
Meantime, I would like to thank the team at the Edinburgh Self Harm Project for inviting me to meet with them and would want to thank them for their hard work.