Mental health campaigners to bear scars on Lowestoft charity walk to raise awareness of self-harming dangers
- Credit: Nick Butcher
Mental health campaigners will walk together along a popular coastal seafront bearing their scars in a powerful show of unity aimed at discouraging others from self-harming.
Led by Stars of Norfolk and Waveney winner Sarah Barrett, the 'Warrior Walk' in Lowestoft aims to give people who have resorted to self-harm a chance to feel comfortable being open about their injuries while raising awareness about the issue.
The City College Norwich student said she, like many people who have self-harmed, has always covered up her injuries for fear of what other people might think.
The 19-year-old from Southwold has lived with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) since surviving childhood sexual abuse aged nine.
She self-harmed in a bid to cope – something she has regretted for the rest of her life, not least because it left her with terrible lasting injuries and put her life in danger.
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But she said: 'There is a lot of misunderstanding about self-harm and why people do it.
'I don't want to encourage people to do it, but it is regrettably a coping strategy for people dealing with the most dreadful psychological issues.'
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The Warrior Walk, which leaves All Saints Road car park in Pakefield at 1pm on Sunday, July 23, will aim to tackle what Sarah believes is a taboo issue head-on and encourage people to talk more openly about it.
'The Warrior Walk is an event for everyone who wants to fight the stigma of mental health but particularly those of us who battle self-harm,' she explained.
'I thought it would be fantastic for one day to be able to wear a short-sleeve top or shorts and walk next to the beach in the company of other people, in safety and surrounded by support.
'Anyone can join the Warrior Walk. You can bear your scars or not at all. Carers, supporters, those living with a mental health condition – anyone.
'The earlier people can get support, literally the less damage they are going to do to themselves.
'If you have self-harmed or are self-harming, support is available for you to help you stop – and you should be seeking it.
'If you're thinking this might be the solution, it isn't.'
The walk will also raise money for mental health charities.
To donate, visit www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/fts-the-warrior-walkAbout Sarah Barrett
Sarah Barrett survived a childhood sexual assault when she was aged nine.
She kept what happened secret from even her closest relatives for years until she told a classmate at secondary school about how she had been abused.
Her peers did not believe her and bullied her as a result – something which added to her mental health problems and caused her to regrettably attempt to take her own life.
She was later hospitalised at her own request but the nearest bed was 206 miles away in Southampton.
While being in hospital helped to save her life, being so far away from family at such a difficult time caused separation anxiety.
But the Southwold teenager has shown resilience in recovery, launching a campaign to, in her words, 'fight the stigma' of mental health.
That work helped her win the Stars of Lowestoft and Waveney and then the Stars of Norfolk and Waveney Awards.
She has also been chosen to be on Labour MP Keir Starmer's 'victim's panel', which campaigns for better rights for survivors of crime.
Self-harm is when someone intentionally damages or injures their body. More than half of people who die by suicide have a history of self-harm.
People who are self-harming should see a GP for help or call 999 in an emergency.
Doctors can refer people to healthcare professionals at a community mental health service for further assessment, which will result in that person being given a treatment plan.
Treatment for self-harm usually involves seeing a therapist to discuss their thoughts and feelings, as well as learning coping strategies to prevent further incidents of self-harm.
Professionals may also suggest taking anti-depressants or other medication.
Those looking for help can also contact the Samaritans 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 116 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org
People can also contact Mind on 0300 123 3393 or the self-harm charity Harmless on email@example.com