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Patient Voice: People who self-harm still deserve respect

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'I was treated like a valued human being - not some useless waste of space who didn't deserve the time of day because I'd self-harmed'

Recently I had to have stitches removed from my arm that were needed after a self-inflicted injury. As it was the weekend I went to my local walk-in centre to have this done.

I wasn't looking forward to it. Being somebody who self-harms, it meant I would have to show my whole arm to a nurse and I wondered how they would react.

The nurse asked me the question I was dreading. 'How did you do it?'

'Self-harm,' I replied. He then encouraged me to roll my sleeve up.

He clearly picked up on my anxiety and reluctance to remove the dressing, which would reveal yet more scars and the stitched wound. He simply said, in a calm and gentle manner: 'Go on, it's OK' - and suddenly I felt OK.

Those few words let me know that he wasn't going to ridicule me or treat me any differently. He was gentle in removing the stitches and was clear in giving me information about aftercare. This nurse could not have done a better job. Not just at removing the stitches but at making me feel at ease and not making me feel ashamed or guilty.

There are nurses out there who could take a leaf out of his book and understand a little more about self-harm. In this instance, I was treated like a valued human being - not some useless waste of space who didn't deserve the time of day because I'd self-harmed.

Later on, I had to go to the same centre again and this time I saw a different nurse, who was also absolutely lovely. Again the nurse didn't make me feel ashamed or embarrassed. She wasn't afraid to ask me questions and made sure I had the relevant support in place.

I have nothing but praise for the centre and their standard of nursing care.

Angela Kettering

This is an edited version of a story posted on www.patientopinion.org.uk. The writer's name has been changed.

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