Leicestershire teenager offers hope to self-harmers with gallery exhibition
Hard-hitting posters showing a teenager's experience of self-harm are to go on display on Monday.
Natalie Brown hopes she can help break down barriers and raise awareness of the condition when the posters go up in a Leicester gallery.
The 17-year-old, from Barwell, began self-harming aged 14, after she was diagnosed with heart disease.
Forced to stay at home for long periods of time, she had low self-esteem.
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Natalie began cutting herself and is pictured with her scars in one of the posters, which go on display at West End Gallery, in Highcross Street, Leicester.
She said: "I was off school a lot of the time and gradually I lost my friends.
"I didn't have any self-confidence and I felt really alone.
"It started with me scratching myself so that I broke the skin and then it got more and more serious.
"It sounds strange but it gave me something else to focus on other than my problems.
"What I went through can happen to anyone. That's why I want to raise awareness.
"The posters show not only how easy it is to hide self-harm, but also how anyone can self-harm; that there isn't just one type of person who can suffer with this.
"Above all, I hope this will help others spot the signs of a self-harmer so they can get the help they need.
"If someone is starting to become isolated or there are cuts or bruises that have never been there before, they could be signs."
Natalie is now on the road to recovery and is studying media at college.
She said: "I've come a long way and that's with help from a psychiatrist. I got the support I needed and I just want to make sure others do, too."
She hopes the posters will be picked up by schools, colleges, GP surgeries and mental health professionals.
Natalie will be at the exhibition to talk about her experience, on February 22, from 3pm to 5pm.
The posters were designed with Fixers, a project which supports 16 to 25-year-olds throughout the UK in taking action and changing things for the better, on an issue they feel strongly about.
It is funded using cash from the Big Lottery Fund.
Nithee Kotecha, a young person's co-ordinator for Fixers, said: "Natalie's confidence has soared since being part of this project.
"She has been really proactive and it means a lot to her to try to reach out to others who may be experiencing the same thing she went through.
"It was a very brave decision to depict herself on the posters.
"They're a great way of raising awareness and she has also put together a Facebook page where anyone can go for advice or support.
"It also links to health professionals."