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Facts

We know from talking to young people in Shetland that there are some things going on that cause some of you to worry.

Maybe there are things happening to you that you want to find out more about. Take a moment to go through some of the info we have here as it will help you understand more about some of things we know can affect young people. We are going to give you some info on each of these. 

Bullying

How many people woke up this morning and felt that everything about themselves was perfect - how you looked in the mirror right down to personality. The thing is nobody is perfect - yet there are people out there who are treated differently because they are different or do not wear similar clothes, talk differently, are overweight, are a swot, kick a football like a girl, don't have snapchat, have pink hair or just happened to look at somebody the wrong way. Think we are joking? We really aren't - bullying is serious and it's time for us all to say it's not acceptable.

Bullying is a behavior that impacts on a person's ability to feel in control of themselves.  It can be hurtful, frightening and isolating.  It can be prejudice based (like body image - 'you're fat' or race or because someone is gay or because someone has no money or because someone supports a different football club to everyone else and so on).  It can be physical but more often than not it's about things that are said or not said (like people being deliberately ignored).

You may not know that someone is being bullied but signs include changes in mood, being nervous, unexplained bruises or scratches, being upset or not going to school.  It can be really stressful and can lead to self harm, depression, eating disorders and suicide.

People may bully to get a reaction, to gain power or maybe they have been bullied themselves.  It can also be because they may not understand the impact their bullying behavior can have.  Every child has the right not to be bulled according the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child - if you know it is happening what can we do to stop it?

The last thing that you want to do if you are being bullied is to then be accused of being a grass or soft for going to a teacher.  The reality is that it can be a nerve racking thing to do and you don't want to make matters worse.  If you are being bullied please talk to someone about it.  It's so important that the bullying behavior you are experiencing is stopped - that can't happen if it's ignored. 

It's important to remember that the person you talk to will listen to what has been happening.  They will try to understand how you are feeling and they may even ask questions about when things have happened, what has been said and how you are feeling.  Try to be as honest as you can.  It's ok to be upset, worried or even angry.  What is important is that you speak to someone you trust so that you can find a way forward.  It doesn't mean that you are going to have to face your bullies - it means that you are going to be supported in making sure that they understand the impact their behavior is having on you.  You are an important person and the bullying behavior has to come to an end so that all of your strengths can again help you to be all that you were meant to be.  Please be brave - our support sources below have additional help and advice so please take a moment to look at them.

Before we move on, a quick mention is necessary on Cyberbullying.  There are many different social media platforms out there.  Social media is a great way to interact with friends - especially in Shetland.  Social media is also the place where some really nasty things happen.  Things like people's pictured being shared against their will or nasty things being said and circulated - well world wide if people want to.  Cyberbullying is no different to what some call 'traditional' bullying but for people being bullied online it feels bigger and incredibly out of control.  But the thing is - having a go at someone, saying nasty things, spreading rumors or whatever is not a normal part of growing up and being a young person online.  Being respectful is normal.  Think about every single thing you do or say online - it won't go away no matter how hard you might try to make it and if you are bullying someone online then remember this:

Bullying - is never acceptable and we can all make a difference by showing everyone respect.

Depression

Depression is a word that sometimes can be misunderstood. You might say you're depressed if your favourite football team has just lost or if your favourite music artist is no longer top of the charts. The thing is feeling depressed is very different to an emotional reaction to an event in our day which might make us feel unhappy or sad.

It is quite normal to feel ups and downs in our emotions - these emotional changes can and do happen everyday.  Our emotions can directly affect how we feel.  What is really important is to know if things are different to normal everyday ups and downs - if things feel different from that we may need to ask for help.

We've put together a list of symptoms of depression to help you understand the difference.  Remember that everyone is different but there are some things you might feel or experience if you have depression.  This is not a check-list and you don't have to feel every single one. Symptoms can include:

  • not wanting to go out anymore or wanting to be left along
  • not enjoying things you normally do
  • finding it difficult to concentrate
  • feeling overwhelmed or frustrated
  • lacking in confidence
  • being unsure of what to do
  • feeling sad, unhappy or miserable
  • feeling tired all the time
  • have difficulty sleeping
  • experience suicidal thoughts

The thing is young people can and do experience depression.  It is not uncommon and adults experience it too.  If you have read the symptoms above and are worried that you maybe have depression then it's really important to seek help. 

We know that the hardest thing to do is the first step and that's saying to someone "I don't feel right and I'm not sure why".  There's no shame - if you have depression then it is the same as any other illness.  Find someone you trust to talk to - that could be a teacher, a friend, a family member or a youth worker. 

What next?

Maybe with the person you have spoken to try and jot down things that record how you feel - a kind of mood diary of sorts.  Think about when you noticed how you were feeling changing, if there was anything that happened at the same time or things that made you feel worse since.  That will really help when you take the next step which is going to see a Doctor.  You don't have to do that alone - you can take a friend or someone you trust with you.  You can also phone a helpline like Childline (number shown in support sources below).

When you get to the Doctors they will chat with you about what you have been feeling and they may ask you some questions like 'how long have felt like this' or 'have you had suicidal thoughts' or 'have you noticed a change in things like how you sleep'.  Try to be honest and use your notes in your mood diary if that helps.  These questions are necessary to help the Doctor help you with the right treatment.

Remember – you are not the only one to experience depression and you haven’t done anything wrong. People can help so don’t suffer on your own, choose someone you like and trust to talk to.

Doing little things like going for a walk or doing activities that you enjoy can also help.  Check out our wellbeing guide for more information.

Eating disorders

Food and eating plays an important part in our lives. We all vary in the foods we like, how much we need to eat, and when we like to eat. Food is essential for our health and development and it isn't unusual to experiment with different eating habits, for example deciding to become a vegetarian. It's important to remember though that some eating patterns can be damaging.

Problems with food can begin if it is used to cope with those times when someone is bored, anxious, angry, lonely, ashamed or sad.  Food can become a problem if it is used to help people to cope with painful situations or feelings, or to relieve stress.  It might even be the case that you don't even realise it is happening.  We have to remember that people may suffer a mix of eating disorder behaviours and everyone experiences their eating disorder in their own way.  It's important to remember that it's not just something which females suffer.

If people talk about eating disorders then they may often think of Anorexia or Bulimia.   Anorexia stems from low self esteem and an inability to cope safely with worries and problems. It involves the sufferer restricting the amount of food they take in by skipping meals and cutting down on the types and amounts of food they eat.  Some people might also over exercise.  People who suffer from Anorexia may believe that if they lose weight their life would be happier, people will like them more, they will be more successful or even perhaps that they may be noticed less.  We can therefore see how maybe peer pressure can be something to watch out for too.

Like Anorexia, Bulimia is also linked with low self esteem, emotional problems and stress.  A sufferer may constantly think about calories, dieting and ways of getting rid of the food they have eaten.  That can include making yourself sick.  Bulimia is actually more common than Anorexia, but is more hidden because people with Bulimia usually remain an average or just over average body weight.  Bulimia can go unnoticed for a long time, although sufferers may feel ill and very unhappy. 

Binge eating meanwhile is when someone may eat large amounts of food in a short period of time, they may focus on eating one particular food, or select food randomly. The pattern of eating in a binge is very different from sitting down and having a meal.  Sufferers may feel a lack of control during these binges, but unlike someone with Bulimia, they do not try to get rid of the food.  They may eat much more quickly than usual, eat until they are uncomfortably full, eat large amounts of food when they are not hungry or eat alone. Sufferers do this for very similar reasons to those with Bulimia.  BED can also be similar to comfort eating which is when food is eaten to bring comfort or because you are stressed or worried.

I think someone I know has an eating disorder. What can I do?

If you are worried about a friend or family member and think you are starting to recognise signs of an eating disorder developing, the first step is to talk about it.  Approaching someone about their illness can be very difficult. The sufferer will often be very embarrassed about their illness and may not accept that they have a problem.  If you feel you are not the right person to talk about it, suggest they talk to someone else that they trust.  It could be a sibling, a friend, a teacher, or another family member.

Whatever form it takes, an eating disorder can be beaten. Understanding an eating disorder and having the information about where you can go to find out more is a good first step towards beating an eating disorder. Find out where to access help through our support section.

Exam stress

You are doing that head scratch thing. You are sure it was just two weeks ago since you were on holiday and saying right that's it I'm going to revise everynight... but then you forgot to do that and the exams start in like ten days and you have not done nearly enough revision and you are running out of breath think you want to scream and feel a little sick and are contemplating telling your folks that it's best for everyone if you just leave home and... STOP! Exams are horrible. Exams are stressful. Take some time out to chill and read our very helpful advice on how to get through your exams with just the right amount of stress!

Right amount of stress?  You are having a giraffe.  Stress is not a good thing.  It can make you feel overwhelmed, sweaty, clammy, slightly breathless, like you can't sleep or think about anything else and like you will never remember how to spell Pythagoras Therom never mind what it means (and who cares anyway it's not like I'm going to ever need to use it when I'm finished school anyhow).  But stress can be a good thing if we use it in the right way.

Think of it instead like a nervous energy.  If you are into sport if you are just practicing you might not try that bit harder than if you were playing in a match or competing in a race.  If you are into acting or playing a musical instrument your best performances might only happen in front of an audience.  That's because of adrenalin.  That it is the stuff that can help focus our minds - that is the stuff that we need to help us through the first moment when we sit down with an exam paper in front of us and can't remember how to even spell our names.

Adrenalin is a really useful thing.  We have it because at one time we were hunted.  Cavemen sometimes had to run for their lives - adrenalin helped them run faster and think quickly about where they could hide or outwit the big scary dinosaur chasing them.  Your big scary dinosaur is your exams - you are not going to run away from them though.  I know, you were thinking yay I get out of it then...

Your teachers will no doubt be preaching that preparation is important and do your homework and practice on past papers and so and so forth.  And yes all of these things make a difference.  But what is even more important is to do things at your pace, make time to relax and enjoy yourself, think about other things sometimes and remember that your life is not completely dominated by exams.  So, before we start getting phone calls from teachers demanding us to delete this section of our page as students are taking too much 'time out' let us try to explain exactly what we mean through our 'My exams are coming to do list'...

My exams are coming to do list

  1. Take a before selfie - look as disheveled as possible
  2. Open up your school bag.  Dump anything that you've not looked at for 3 months.
  3. Before you throw your rubbish out remove any school books you may have dumped.  You are going to need them and will have to pay for them if you dump them
  4. Figure out what exams or tests or homeworks are first - make a list and sort out what is most urgent
  5. Don't do everything at once - allocate time each day.  Don't spend the whole evening cramming!
  6. Make yourself a cup of tea and congratulate yourself on not worrying about everything at the same time
  7. If you are still worrying about everything at the same time then try worrying about something completely different like polar bears for five minutes to give yourself a worry break
  8. Make time to watch your favourite TV programme or play on your games console
  9. Text a friend and recommend they check out this website
  10. Do something you are really good at that is not involved with school or exams or revision
  11. On a really windy day climb to the top of a hill then run down holding your jacket above your head.  You will feel like a superhero or look slightly silly - who cares, it's fun
  12. The night before an exam don't try and read everything you have ever been given to read.  You can't.  Focus on key points - write them down if it helps
  13. The night before an exam go to bed at a sensible time and try to get sleep.  Go for a walk earlier in the evening to help you feel tired
  14. On the morning of your exam eat breakfast - don't skip it because you feel sick.  A piece of toast, cereal - avoid sugar and energy drinks
  15. Remember to breathe.  In fact the deeper the breaths the better - it actually helps calm your nerves
  16. After your exam give yourself time off and chillax
  17. Once you are finished all of your exams do a little dance - privately or in public whichever you prefer
  18. Take an after selfie - look as happy as possible
  19. And remember exams, tests are NOT everything.  You are you and you will do what you can do.

I'm worried about my friend

Your friend has changed over the last couple of weeks. It's hard not to notice. They've never been on snapchat and they always are. They've not been at school as much. They don't laugh at your stupid jokes like they normally do (that's particular hard to swallow). Something's not right. You just don't know what.

Plucking up the courage to say 'hey, is everything ok' might feel a bit like having to ask your teacher if it's ok if you never have to hand in homework again.  By asking if everything is okay is your friend going to turn round and tell you to get lost?

No is the simple answer.

Being concerned about a friend is okay.  And if you are a lad reading this then trust us it's okay for you to be concerned too.  It doesn't make you weird - it's a normal human reaction to be worried about someone if we notice a change in them.

Being a good friend is plucking up the courage to ask if everything is okay.  By asking someone that then deep down they are going to know you care about them.  If things are not great for your friend that can and will make a big difference.

Your friend may feel uneasy about opening up about something that is bothering them.  Respect that but encourage them to talk to someone they can trust.  For example, you could ask them if you can escort them to pupil support to talk about what's wrong - offer to wait outside or go in with them.  Don't force the issue - but make clear that you are concerned and would really like to help them feel better in themselves.  If they feel like they can't talk to you then encourage them to phone Childline on 0800 1111.  Childline is free and confidential and they will be able to offer initial help and advice to your friend.

Okay, so I asked them and then a massive can of worms has been opened and I don't know how to deal with it!

If your friend does open up about what is making them feel differently then it can make you feel a bit lost as to what to do or say.  There could be some upsetting things shared.  You could be left feeling like a duck on water trying to keep your face looking normal but inside you're maybe shocked by what they say, upset or really worried.

It's okay to feel that things.

You must also acknowledge how brave your friend has been.  Talking about something, no matter how small or how big, for the first time can be really really difficult.  They have trusted you and that is so important.  What you can now do is help them to take the next step.

We can't speculate as to what the right help would be because different situations need different help.  As a general rule of thumb though you could help your friend to:

  1. Talk with their parents/guardians or pupil support staff or a responsible adult worker who your friend trusts - that could include another teacher, a youth worker, the school nurse, a social worker, a doctor, a coach at your local sports team, etc
  2. Encourage your friend to look on our website for more information with you
  3. Give your friend the contact number for Childline - 0800 111 (also shown in support sources below)

Look through our support sources below.  The most important thing you can do is support your friend in getting the right help.  Talking to a responsible adult or someone they trust is the important next step - it is not an easy step to take so help them make it.

Self esteem

You've had one of those days. You answered a question wrong in history and everyone giggled and you felt like you wanted the world to swallow you whole. Then you had PE and you would rather die than have to do that thing where you jump over a wooden horse (and like everyone in your class can do it and don't know what the big deal is... it's a lump of wood and it's sore when you crash into it). In the lunch cue you saw someone that knows that you fancy them but you have never had the guts to tell them but then one of your so called friends did and everytime they now see you they don't even look at you. Then on the school bus you tripped getting oboard, dropped your school bag and flushed bright red. Then you got home and thought what's the point of doing my physics homework - I don't understand it anyway and I'm too stupid to even bother. Then you went on Instagram and GREAT nobody has even liked the new selfie you posted this morning so you now feel like you have no mates and you might as well curl up into a ball for the rest of the night and contemplate the easiest way to dissapear. Who would notice anyway...

That may be a funny description of a day for some people but for some people reading that there might be little bits of that which maybe make you go 'Oh yea, I know how that feels'.  Our self esteem and how we feel about ourselves can be affected by one day but they can also be affected by peer pressure, if we are bullied or if we just feel low about ourselves.  It's not something to be joked about because if our self esteem continues to be low then it can lead on to us feeling depressed or unwell in other ways.

So, take some time to look at our very helpful guide on how to improve your self esteem:

  1. Learn how to do something you have never done before
  2. Recognise what you are good at - focus on that rather than the negative feelings
  3. Do something you really love doing
  4. Life would be boring if we are all the same so accept you are unique
  5. You don't have to be the best to enjoy it
  6. Get in touch with a friend and compliment them - saying something nice about somebody makes you feel good and them at the same time
  7. Take a timeout and chillax
  8. Don't be afraid to ask for help or for friends to support you.  They are your friend for a reason

If you have noticed that a friend has low self esteem then work through our self-esteem booster guide - you can let them know or do it without them realising:

  1. Buy them a silly gift that costs no more than 99p and that you know will make them smile
  2. Draw them a selfie of yourself for them to treasure forever and ever
  3. Offer to meet up at the weekend and do the selfie challenge - 10 selfie's @ 10 different places in 1 hour
  4. Post the selfie's with as many #'s as possible - #thesillierthebetter
  5. On a day when it is raining then encourage them to jump in puddles with you.  Wellie boots optional
  6. Make them some of those chocolate rice crispy things and have 1 (or 2) for yourself too
  7. Make a point of saying 'Hey ho' everytime you see them at school
  8. On a school subject you know they are good at then ask them for their help with understanding it - eg if they are good at maths get them to help with some maths homework

Self harm

Self harm is often hidden and very private. That can be because it is misunderstood or people think it’s stupid. TRIGGER WARNING: This section contains information about self-harm which may be triggering.

Self harm is a behavior that helps people cope with difficult feelings and distressing life experiences.  There is no definite list of how people harm but often it can include cutting, burning, scalding, banging or pulling out hair.

There are people out there who think it is a trend or that sometimes young people self-harm to copy friends or to follow #tag trends.  Let’s remember – whether it is peer pressure or not it’s always happening for a reason so let’s respect that rather than dismiss it :)

Self harm is a way to cope – but how can hurting yourself physically do that?  It’s a weird thing but it can be a relief of feelings – maybe it can take away from an emotional pain like being worried or really sad.  It can also be a punishment if you feel like you hate yourself and it can be about control – maybe a certain part of your body that is a stress that you can harm to release tension.

It’s not about attracting attention.  It’s often private and a way of communicating without words because there is a thing inside your head that is just not coping and which is really hard to explain.  You might not know why or you might be scared to admit why.  The reason is a tough thing to talk about.

What do I do if I’m self harming?

There is help out there and there are people who want to help you.  We know it’s really scary to admit its happening never mind talk about it but there are people who want to help you do that.  Your first step is to talk to someone you really trust - a family member, a friend, your Doctor, a school nurse, teacher, youth worker or even a neighbour you get on with really well.

Visit our support section to find out more and remember you can also freephone from your mobile a national helpline like Childline or Samaritans.

I think someone I know is self-harming. What can I do?

The most important thing is to not panic - your reaction is really important.  If you throw your hands up in horror or say stop that it's stupid then think about how that is going to make the person you are worried about feel.  What is happening to them is real - very real.  Respect it - don't judge it.   

Don't push it or ask lots of questions.  If you suspect it is happening find a way to ask about it that is not threatening.  If you are comfortable and easy about the subject the person you are worried about is more likely to talk to you.  In the same way if someone has plucked up the courage to tell you they are self harming then remember - it has taken an awful lot of guts to do it.

Show that you want to understand.  You don't need to check out all the gory facts.  Guess what - it's really none of your business.  What is your business is accepting that it is happening and help the person to find ways to cope.  There's a reason things are happening and you are there to help the person to find ways to get to the bottom of all that.

Don't tell someone to stop.  That might sound silly but it's a coping mechanism and take that away it can make things worse.  It's like if you bite your nails when you are nervous - what do you do instead in situations that make yourself uncomfortable.  Don't ask for the person you are worried about to promise not to self harm.  That in the simplest form is emotional blackmail and that sucks.  They are not mental, they are not incapable - they need your support and most importantly for you to understand.  What you can do is encourage alternatives – hit a punch bag or cushion, scream out loud, at point of going to self harm go for a five minute walk, rip up paper, keep a diary (important to establish patterns or trigger points which they may not realise), phone a helpline, self-help websites, elastic bands, crushed ice, hold an ice cube against skin – but most importantly encourage them to get help with your support.

If you do not feel confident about how to help then guess what – just by the fact that you have spoken with them and shown an interest and understanding is so important.   Visit our support section for advice on where and how to get support.  Supporting the person you are concerned about by accompanying them to, for example, a chat with a teacher can help with confidence.  Do everything you can to make the person feel comfortable and encourage them positively. 

Suicide prevention

Suicide is a word that can scare us. We may know someone who has died by suicide or someone that has attempted it. The thing is that there are moments when for some people things get so bad in their lives that they feel like there is no hope or there is no point in living. We want you to take the time to read this because it's really important that we all are aware of how important it is to ask friends or family if they are okay, if we notice a change in mood or behaviour.

We're not saying that everyone that is sad, upset, worried or unwell is going to be suicidal.  What we are saying is that it's important to ask the question if we are worried.  Some people think that by asking someone if they are suicidal that it puts the idea to do it in their head.  It really isn't.  It's saying to the person I'm worried about you and I want to help you.  Showing a person that you care can be really important because that person might feel alone and that they have no hope for the future.

This booklet by Choose Life gives some really good advice on how to talk to someone who you think may be suicidal or having thoughts of suicide.

If you are worried that someone is suicidal and has a plan on how to do it then telephone 999 immediately.

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