I was self harming but felt like no one would help – at A&E I was ignored

BEING a teenager can be hard and any shakeup to your normal routine and family life can be a big change.

When Ruth Oldfield was just 14-years-old her older sister moved out of their family home in Bedford and to university in Birmingham.

Ruth Oldfield was just a teenager when she felt she needed help with her mental health


Ruth Oldfield was just a teenager when she felt she needed help with her mental health Credit: Samaritans

Ruth struggled with what she felt was like a “bereavement” and found it hard to come to terms with the new family dynamic.

As a teenager Ruth would self harm and started to restrict her food intake, before seeking help.

The Samaritans states that self-harm is a strong risk factor for suicide.

In the UK, a life is lost to suicide every 90 minutes, which is why The Sun launched the You’re Not Alone campaign, to remind anyone facing a tough time, grappling with severe mental illness or feeling like there’s nowhere to turn, that there is hope.

Ruth says she was pushed from pillar to post for years, and claims doctors never took her seriously.

Six years on she has been diagnosed with a personality disorder and is now speaking out and says experts need to recognise that people who self-harm need help.

Speaking to The Sun, Ruth, now 21, said that both her and her sister would spend time watching TV together and had a “fun relationship”, despite the four year age gap.

Ruth said she began to withdraw emotionally and didn't want to go to school


Ruth said she began to withdraw emotionally and didn’t want to go to school Credit: Getty – Contributor

When she moved away, everything changed for Ruth.

“My best friend wasn’t beside me anymore and I struggled to cope with that, it was more like a bereavement.

“I knew she was going to go to university but it tore my world apart.

“When she left I lost a lot of weight, I really controlled what I was eating and started over training.”

Ruth said she then picked up an injury and was unable to play football, something she enjoyed doing.

It was then that she started to withdraw emotionally and would try and hide this from her family.

Ruth said: “I refused to go to school, I just couldn’t deal with it.

“Dad was the first person that noticed, not that I wanted him to, but he realised that I didn’t want to go to school.

“He took me to the doctors and I was diagnosed with depression and given anti-depressants, I felt as though medication was just thrown at me.”

I felt being given medication was unusual for someone my age and I was also offered therapy, but there was a nine month waiting list for this

Ruth Oldfield

You’re Not Alone

EVERY 90 minutes in the UK a life is lost to suicide.

It doesn’t discriminate, touching the lives of people in every corner of society – from the homeless and unemployed to builders and doctors, reality stars and footballers.

It’s the biggest killer of people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car crashes.

And men are three times more likely to take their own life than women.

Yet it’s rarely spoken of, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage unless we all stop and take notice, now.

That is why The Sun launched the You’re Not Alone campaign.

The aim is that by sharing practical advice, raising awareness and breaking down the barriers people face when talking about their mental health, we can all do our bit to help save lives.

Let’s all vow to ask for help when we need it, and listen out for others… You’re Not Alone.

If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, the following organisations provide support:

Ruth said that while she had friends outside the family home she didn’t let them in.

“I had to take time out of school and I had a group of friends, when they asked why I wasn’t at school I just told them I was unwell, I didn’t specify that it was because I was mentally unwell.”

Ruth continued to struggle, her sister was out socialising and making new friends and Ruth was trying to concentrate on her GCSEs. She said although the two had the same sense of humour, they were developing into different people.

While Ruth’s family tried to get her the help she needed, Ruth said she feels as though at that age, there wasn’t much understanding of how mental health struggles affected young people.

She added: “I’d never been exposed to it before, I felt like an outsider, I couldn’t let my friends in as they wouldn’t understand.

“I felt being given medication was unusual for someone my age and I was also offered therapy, but there was a nine month waiting list for this.

“By time I got an appointment I didn’t feel like I needed it, but I took a couple anyway before stopping”.

The majority of people who self-harm do so without wanting to end their life and as a way of trying to cope with distressing feelings

Jacqui MorrisseyThe Samaritans

For a while the medication worked just fine for Ruth and she was stable until stress from her A-Levels caught her off guard.

“I relapsed during my A-Levels at 17, I was thrown around between different services.

“When I turned 18 I was taken off the list because I was no longer a child but they didn’t transfer me to adult services.

“When I moved to university in Hertfordshire the care got dropped and that’s a real struggle because with things like that you need consistency.”

It was at 17-years-old that Ruth said she started to self-harm as she struggled to cope emotionally.

Ruth was diagnosed with an eating disorder and said she was once again thrown into a service before being cut off.

There were several times that Ruth had to visit A&E due to self-harm.

‘I needed help’

She said: “I always felt as though I wasn’t being taken seriously, the waits in A&E were never less than six hours.

“It was only in these crisis moments that people would admit I needed help.

“I had on and off periods of self harm but it wasn’t taken seriously, they would suggest ways to cope and I felt as though they never really validated what I was doing.

“They suggested elastic bands and ice cubes.”

While Ruth said methods like this may work for some people, she knew there was more to it.

“I needed to understand why I was emotionally distressed and deal with my feelings of abandonment.

“I’m having therapy now and it’s through complex needs services that I was diagnosed with a personality disorder – I was 20 when they diagnosed me with this and it took them six years”.

Ruth was diagnosed with a personality disorder when she was 20


Ruth was diagnosed with a personality disorder when she was 20

Ruth now is encouraging others to seek help on this World Mental Health Day.

Earlier this week The Samaritans called on the government to take action, and said services for people who self harm “are not adequate”.

Almost a quarter of people surveyed by the charity felt that they had been excluded from services or received ineffective care for their self-harm.

The research found that people who self-harm are caught between services.

It found that in many cases they were deemed too high risk to access common mental health services such as IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies), the government’s flagship programme for treating common mental health disorders, while regarded as not ill enough to access community mental health teams.

‘Ping-ponged around’

As a result, the charity said people felt “ping-ponged” between services, struggling to access appropriate care.

Ruth added: “World Mental Health Day isn’t enough, in my opinion it should be every day.

“Speaking about it isn’t enough, we need to change the system and how help is accessed”.

Ruth said she now uses counters to mark every day that she hasn’t self harmed.

“I didn’t think I would get to 10 but now it’s nearly a year.

“If you’re feeling sad, then it’s important to talk to someone, if there’s nobody you feel you can turn to, then you can call Samaritans. I called them for emotional support and I believe they saved my life.”

Now that Ruth has the help she needs she is studying a degree in sports science and personal training.

“When I was an inpatient a personal trainer came and did sessions once a week so I now want to be that person for someone else, I aspire to be a voice for people who don’t feel like they have one”, she added.

Samaritans Assistant Director of Research and Influencing, Jacqui Morrissey said that it’s important to understand that self-harm is a strong risk factor for suicide.

“However, the majority of people who self-harm do so without wanting to end their life and as a way of trying to cope with distressing feelings.

“What our research shows is that people in serious emotional distress who self-harm are slipping through the cracks in NHS support.

“Having found the courage to reach out for help, this vulnerable group are being denied support because the current system is not set up to help them.”

She said that mental health services need to be able to support people who self-harm and added that planned government investment should be prioritised.

“Exclusion criteria around self-harm should be removed and this support should be available to anyone who needs it”, she added.

“Given that demand was already outstripping capacity before Covid, we are really concerned about the system’s ability to cope in the current circumstances.

“Therefore, it’s vital that effective support is made available much sooner to the most vulnerable people as we continue to face the challenges of Covid.”

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