PSHE KS3 / GCSE: Self-harm - India's Story

A powerful animated documentary relating the story of India, a young woman who began self-harming as a response to anxiety caused by being bullied and low self-esteem.

India struggled to fit in at secondary school which she sees as the root of her insecurities.

She found it hard to make friends, felt like she didn’t belong and was bullied.

She soon experienced high anxiety and panic attacks.

Unable to see where help might be sought, India turned to her only friend who was also struggling with their mental health.

Her friend was using self-harm as a way to process her feelings.

Unaware there were other options, India copied this coping mechanism, and began cutting herself as a way to control her emotions.

This spiraled out of control.

She sought help after her parents noticed the marks on her arm. She was referred through her GP to CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services).

Through this, India was referred to art therapy and counselling, and was ultimately equipped with durable and positive coping strategies which meant she was able to stop self-harming and control her anxiety.

India’s story touches on aspects of life that affect many young people at school, from being teased, having low self-esteem, being unsure of your own worth, experiencing anxiety and feeling like you don’t fit in.

This animation provides key information in the channels of help there are in the UK (initial conversations with the GP, referral to CAMHS and specialised help), but also highlights forms of therapy some students may be unaware of.

It aims to dispel myths on why people turn to self-harm and act as a springboard to wider discussions about managing your mental health and the importance of that.

It also allows people who haven't experienced mental ill-health an opportunity to understand what it might feel like - the relentlessness of it, the physical effects of it, the emotional drain, and the routes available to get the right help.

Due to the sensitive nature of the subject matter, we strongly advise teacher viewing before watching with your pupils.

Teacher Notes

Key Stage 3

This short film looks into how unmanaged emotions and feelings can spiral out of control.

Pupils could discuss the feelings she was experiencing, such as anxiety and insecurity.

Pupils could draw a line, a continuum. At one end, under the line, they write the mildest manifestation of anxiety someone could experience e.g. worried or nervous, and above the line a possible trigger for that feeling e.g. not completing homework on time.

Do the same at the other end of continuum with the most intense manifestation of anxiety e.g. suicide and above the line possible triggers for this.

Fill in the continuum from mild to intense manifestations placing India’s situation on the line.

Make the point that we all experience anxiety at some level at some point as this is a human emotion, and that we can all learn ways to manage this, preferably while it is at its mildest.

Can pupils list strategies they already know/use to intervene when they feel anxious? E.g. mindfulness, exercise, talking to friends.

Invite students to brainstorm where India or anyone else in her position could turn to seek help both in school and out of school. Research in more details CAMHS and the work they do.

Key Stage 4

The continuum exercise in KS3 will work equally well for KS4 pupils and will help them identify their own triggers for anxiety and give ideas as to how to manage these emotions as they arise, rather than allowing them to get out of control and lead to self-harm etc.

Sharing the techniques and strategies they already use is positive and empowering but it is important that they also discuss and are given information as to where to get help both in and out of school.

Self-harm is a complex manifestation of anxiety and has many manifestations. It is wise not to unpack all these but rather to focus on the positive methods of alleviating anxiety.

India was really helped by talking therapy, as well as art therapy, but other people connect with different forms of help, from equine therapy, mindfulness, CBT, behaviour, group therapy etc - why not discuss different counselling and therapies on offer and how they might work and be suited to different people.

Curriculum Notes

This short film is suitable for teaching PSHE at KS3 and GCSE in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and Modern Studies at National 4 and 5 in Scotland.

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