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Wales on Sunday
Mar 2 2008
by Catherine Evans, Wales On Sunday
STANDING alone in the dark on a deserted hill, 18-year-old student Bethan Jones pulled back her sleeve and ran a pocket knife across her arm.
As the blood flowed, she felt her worries ebb away. But the scars remained.
On the outside, Bethan appeared to be a popular, happy teenager and conscientious student.
But for years Bethan hid a secret shame – she was self-harming.
As the rest of the nation celebrated St David’s Day yesterday, the former English and religion student at Bath University spoke to Wales on Sunday about her painful past and her plans to set up the first self-harm support centre in Wales.
“Not many people know that March 1 – as well as being St David’s Day – is Self Injury Awareness Day,” said Bethan, who works at the DVLA in Swansea.
“I’m working on a new registered website to offer help and support to others who self-harm. I run the Scar Tissue website – which helps more than 450 people to prevent self injury. But what I really want is to set up the first self-injury support centre in Wales.”
Now 26 and living in Cwmdare in the south Wales valleys, Bethan still doesn’t fully understand why she started to cut herself.
“When I cut myself for the first time it scared me half to death. I honestly don’t know why I did it. I had a penknife that I carried around to clean my horse’s hooves and I used that to cut myself. I got an adrenalin rush from it and soon I was cutting myself every day,” she said.
Bethan, who suffers from clinical depression, hid the scars on her arms from her parents by wearing long-sleeved tops – even in the height of summer.
“Sometimes, I probably should have gone to hospital for the cuts I had. But it’s a taboo subject and I was afraid of what people would say. I didn’t want anyone to know what I was doing.
“It’s hard to walk around with your arms in plasters. I didn’t tell my parents until I was 23. They were very supportive. If parents think their child is self-harming, they should let them know that they are there for them to talk to,” she added.
After the recent string of tragedies in Bridgend, Bethan said there is more need than ever to address teenagers’ problems.
It was her own failed suicide attempt that forced her to get help.
“I overdosed on anti-depressants and that’s when my family found out about it and I finally tried to get help,” said Bethan.
“People think self-harmers are freaks who are just crying out for help, but that’s not the case at all. There needs to be far more education about it.
“I want to get the message out to other people that there are other alternatives and that there are people you can talk to.”
Thanks to the support offered by the Scar Tissue website, Bethan no longer turns to self-injury in a crisis.
“I don’t self-harm anymore, but if something goes wrong I still feel like I need to do it.
“But now I think of other things I can do to get past that feeling. I’m getting much better,” she said.
If you are self-harming or are concerned about someone you know, contact Bethan at selfinjuryawareness.org.uk or scar-tissue.net