‘Mummy, I want to die’ Gidea Park woman sets up group for parents of self-harmers

Helen Gallagher with her online website

Helen Gallagher with her online website - Credit: Archant

When a mother returned home to find her only daughter naked, covered in blood and screaming that she wanted to die, she knew the support she was receiving was not good enough.

Helen Gallagher's daughter's self harming

Helen Gallagher's daughter's self harming - Credit: Archant

Helen Gallagher, 43, had gone into her daughter’s bedroom where she found her crouched behind the wardrobe covered in cuts and screaming “like an animal”.

Her daughter had been self-harming for years and this was the second time she had made a suicide attempt.

Years of bullying described by Helen as “Chinese water torture” as it was a constant drip of criticism from her classmates, had taken its toll on her daughter’s mental health.

Helen, of Elvet Avenue, Gidea Park, said: “She was screaming ‘mummy please let me die’ and was rocking on the floor. She said she didn’t want to go on and she felt so numb she wanted to die.

“What do you do when your child’s screaming like and animal, covered in blood? It was like something out of a horror film.”

Helen said that living with someone who self-harms is like living with an addict, but instead of hiding drink and drugs, they hide razor blades.

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She said she tried to get help but was told after her daughter had tried to commit suicide a second time that she was “not suicidal enough”.

Helen wanted to speak to other people who had children that also self-harmed, to find out how they coped.

After not being able to find what she was looking for, she decided to set up the Parents of Self Harmers group which already has about 60 members.

The website and Facebook group gives a safe space for parents to talk about what they, and their children, are going through.

Helen said: “There’s no help for parents. My daughter was being bullied and she kept asking me why she was so weird. That was what she was being told every day of her life.”

She said parents in the group had spoken of schools not supporting their children, with one girl being excluded after the school “could not cope” with her panic attacks.

“All the parents say there should be more councillors and support in schools,” Helen said. “I wanted to help parents as I know what it’s like. There needs to be more awareness of self-harm.”

According to the NHS, one in 10 girls aged 15-16 self harm and about three per cent of boys.

Getting precise figures is more of less impossible as self-harmers are often very secretive, contrary to the often held belief that it is a form of attention seeking.

Helen said that the secrecy makes it very difficult to address and cope with as her daughter hides razors blades all over the house.

“She has one under her pillow because she says she wants to have one to go to bed with – like it’s a teddy bear. You can’t wrap up the house in cotton wool,” Helen added. “You start getting used to it because it’s a way of life.”

Said the group supports each other and is there to give encouraging words when one of them is feeling like they cannot cope.

“I still have to come to work,” I know that sounds like a contradiction as I’m a mum, but I have to work. I thought I was alone but I’m not.”