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Did I do the right thing?

(44 Posts)
BumpNGrind Fri 07-Mar-14 17:27:51

Sorry for posting here but I wasn't sure of where else to post.

I was a stall holder at an event today. I was there on behalf of my organisation and providing information. The event was for International Women's Day and it's aim was to show up to 300 young women and girls a range of career options. I work in a male dominated industry.

To draw young people over to the stand I asked the young people to fill in a post it note and write a message to their future selves. This way I could start a conversation with them. It was going really well and we had notes saying 'be happy', 'work hard' 'don't give up on your dreams'. Really positive messages.

Near the end of the event a 15/16 yr old came over, we chatted briefly and she wanted to fill a post it note in, she asked if she could use text speak and then handed me the note upside down so I couldn't read it, she then ran off.

I read the note and it said 'In the future, don't cut yourself'. I read it and had no idea what to do but ran after her, I said to her that I was there if she wanted to chat to me and that she could trust me and left it at that. The place was heaving and I didn't want to shout it out. I then spoke to the organiser who said she would find out what school the person was from and contact the teacher, (all the young people came with their schools). I followed it up after and the teacher had been told confidentially.

I am now torturing myself that I didn't do enough or that I should have responded differently, but I've never been in this situation. What could I have done?

chesterberry Sun 09-Mar-14 21:51:26

I have self-harmed since I was a teenager and I think you did the right thing. There have been times in my life when I have been self-harming and I have been desperate for people to know so that somebody could help and in these cases I would have definitely used a situation like this to disclose my secret in the hope somebody would help. There have been other times I haven't wanted anybody to know and in those cases I would never have taken the risk of disclosing it at such an event.

I don't think you were wrong to pass the message on to a teacher and it sounds like it was a cry for help from the girl and that you dealt with it in the best way possible considering you didn't know the girl and weren't expecting such a disclosure. I certainly don't think it was a breach of trust/ confidentiality as the girl knew the message would be read and probably would have known anyone reading it would be concerned. I would guess she was hoping it would be noticed and that somebody would help her. Whether her teacher was the person she was hoping would get the message is unclear (As a teen in school I disclosed to a friend I was self-harming hoping for help and she passed this information onto the head of year, I hadn't foreseen this and the head of year wouldn't have been the ideal person to help in my head, but actually it was helpful to have an adult to talk to and to know somebody cared and wanted to help) but under the circumstances I don't know who else you could have told. She is unlikely to be the first or last teenager in school self-harming and hopefully the school will have some adults who have some training and a good understanding in self-harm so that it can be approached with her in a sensitive and helpful manner.

Topaz25 Sun 09-Mar-14 20:47:42

*I don't want to devalue what's being discussed (child protection) but it's reminded me of a website/book called Postsecret where people anonymously send in their secrets written on postcards.

Some of them are heartbreaking.*

There was actually a secret about self harm on there today. It simply said "Take this away from me." There was a razor taped to the page. It really moved me, I hope the person who sent it has turned a corner.

Laura0806 Sun 09-Mar-14 20:33:23

I think you did an amazing thing and handled it absolutely perfectly. In the time frame you had you couldn't get her to open up or talk more but thanks to you she may now get help. I am trained to help young people and if there is a danger to someone you can not keep confidentiality. What you/ we don't know is how much the cutting places her in danger. As her therapist you may have been able to keep that confidence if you were seeing her weekly for therapy. In your case you aren't and so did exactly the right thing. Hopefully it will be handled sensitively and she will get professional help but what follows isn't something that you can influence. That girl reached out for help and she received it thanks to you

bobblewobble Sun 09-Mar-14 01:59:29

I think you did the right thing. My sister last year at 14 was self harming. Her friends mother found out (there were three of them doing it) She phoned the school and told them what was happening.
The school were very understanding and a very big help. They contacted my parents. They organised counselling for her and suggested taking her to the doctors.
They were very sensitive and kept it between about 3/4 staff members.
I doubt the young girl would have given you the note had she not wanted some help. I'm sure the school will be sensitive about this and get her some help.

AgentZigzag Sun 09-Mar-14 01:27:12

I don't want to devalue what's being discussed (child protection) but it's reminded me of a website/book called Postsecret where people anonymously send in their secrets written on postcards.

Some of them are heartbreaking.

70isaLimitNotaTarget Sun 09-Mar-14 01:22:50

She wrote the note, she gave it to you. She must have wanted some kind of reaction. Other wise she'd have written "Don't have a second date with Kevin" or similar.

And I've done Child Protection and Vunerable Adults Safeguarding at work. You cannot promise to keep a secret.

AgentZigzag Sun 09-Mar-14 01:14:19

I agree with Topaz, it's not something you've been trained/chosen to be in a position to deal with OP, and you acted responsibly, you acted in a way I would like you to respond to my DD if she ever had to use such a route to say something so difficult.

I couldn't find the words to say anything when I was in that position, it took me about 8/10 years to finally get them out. She might have chosen you because your anonymity meant you weren't a threat to her, and the only way breaking her confidence would matter was if you were in an established relationship with her (professionally or because you were family) and you're not.

You absolutely did the right thing.

LittleMissSunshine89 Sun 09-Mar-14 00:59:51

I think you done well and you shouldnt feel bad. Many people would shrug it off. Well done for showing concern but not suffocating them for reasons at the same time.

Shelby2010 Sun 09-Mar-14 00:57:43

I think the other thing to remember is that the OP was at a one off event & will probably never see the girl again. If she was in a situation where she saw the girl regularly then the OP would have had more options in terms of looking up support and persuading her towards professional help. Although the OP would presumably still have had to go against the girl's wishes and tell someone if the girl refused to see a professional within a reasonable timeframe.

trixymalixy Sun 09-Mar-14 00:42:43

It was a cry for help. You answered. I think you did the right thing.

thanks SDTG .

CurvyInAllTheWrongPlaces Sun 09-Mar-14 00:36:53

Thank you bump, hopefully the worst is behind us now. She will be starting college in Sept, which she is really looking forward to.

pinkyredrose Sat 08-Mar-14 11:32:23

Good point Topaz. Have taken on board the comments on here. I was just thinking back to how I felt as a teenager that's all.

OP it looks like you've done the right thing, maybe she was ready for support, as you say she wrote the note to a stranger.

Topaz25 Sat 08-Mar-14 01:50:47

I think it's the other way around, If the person isn't trained then they shouldn't keep it secret because they are not qualified to assess the risk of doing so. Therefore it is better to tell someone in a position to help.

BumpNGrind Fri 07-Mar-14 23:01:15

Thank you so much for all your responses, I haven't been able to get the pupil out of my head but I feel a lot more reassured about what I did. I have no idea why she chose to write it in a post it note but if the school can do something about it then I really hope it's the start of a more positive time for her. I get the point about pushing this person into speaking before she was ready but maybe she was ready if she chose to write that on a note to a stranger.

SDTG I really hope you feel better soon, your post made me feel so much better about what I did so thank you. I was bullied at school so I can relate to you on some level, thankfully it got better for me and I hope that it gets better for you too, very very soon.

Curvy, thank you, I hope your daughter get's all the help she needs and I'm sure with your love she can find herself in a happier place.

Not to me-rail the thread, but I will be getting some 1-2-1 therapy soon, monica - thank you for asking. thanks

CurvyInAllTheWrongPlaces Fri 07-Mar-14 19:52:16

Can I just say OP, thank you. As a mum with a daughter that did (and maybe sometimes still) self harms. You did a fantastic thing today. Hopefully that young women will get help really soon. Wish there were more like you x

monicalewinski Fri 07-Mar-14 19:42:30

SDTG flowers I hope you stop feeling like that soon (Don't mean to sound so flippant, but can't think of how to put it down in words properly).

What you wrote in your post about the girl making a cry for help was exactly what I thought when I read the OP.

FWIW, I think you did a Good Thing today Bump.

bopoityboo3 Fri 07-Mar-14 19:34:59

seriously pinkyredrose you would have rather the op didn't say/ do anything about this hmm
plus they haven't blabbed the info they have followed what is the type of thing all 'trained person' are told to do if a young person discloses anything to them. Check any schools child protection policy and somewhere in it it will talk about how you never promise to keep a secret and that any disclosers are to be passed on to the named child protection officer.

At that age, I didn't feel able to talk to my mum, to tell her that the bullying had never stopped, and as a result I was suicidal. If I had gone to an event like that, and made a similar cry for help, I would have been glad if someone had cared enough to follow up on it. I hadn't told the school about the bullying because if my mum wasn't going to support me, I didn't dare 'tell' a teacher, for fear of having to cope with any backlash alone.

But if a teacher had asked me, I would have told them how awful I was feeling, and why, and maybe my whole life would have been different - and I wouldn't have been in a psychiatrist's office this week, talking about depression, and how I would greet death as a friend.

thornrose Fri 07-Mar-14 19:23:22

Well if the person wasn't trained they shouldn't take it upon themselves to decide to blab personal info and break a young persons confidence. speaking as "a trained person" I would have done exactly the same as the Op.

FryOneFatManic Fri 07-Mar-14 19:20:33

thornrose said what I was going to say.

Trust and confidentiality are not the same thing, at all.

thornrose Fri 07-Mar-14 19:19:16

The first rule of child protection with regard to disclosure is never promise that you will keep it a secret. You said she could trust you and that meant you needed to tell someone that can help her. You did the right thing.

FryOneFatManic Fri 07-Mar-14 19:16:50

pinkyredrose I think in this situation, the girl was probably ready to talk. She'd written a note about self-harming, when there was no promise of confidentiality; she knew that note would be read.

Hopefully now she'll get the help she needs.

pinkyredrose Fri 07-Mar-14 19:15:05

Well if the person wasn't trained they shouldn't take it upon themselves to decide to blab personal info and break a young persons confidence.

An untrained person could unwittingly cause more harm than good.

In my opinion, BumpNGrind, you have done something really special today. You made a vulnerable, hurting young woman feel able to open up to you, and that is such a difficult thing for someone in her position to do. Hopefully, now she has done it once, she may find it easier to open up about it again, to someone who knows her - maybe the teacher who brought her.

I don't see what else you could have done, and, in fact, I think you did all the right things. Even with the benefit of time to consider this, I can't think of anything I would have done differently - and you didn't have the luxury of time to consider.

So please, don't beat yourself up - you did a really good thing today, I think.

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