Supporters of those suffering with declining mental health need more support themselves, University of Westminster research finds

Supporters of those suffering with declining mental health need more support themselves, University of Westminster research finds

PR Newswire

LONDON, Oct. 5, 2020

In response, University of Westminster researchers launch CHERISH website for World Mental Health Day on 10 October to provide resources for those supporting individuals who self-harm

LONDON, Oct. 5, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Researchers from the University of Westminster researching wellbeing and self-harm have identified a stark absence of guidance and resources available for supporters of individuals suffering with mental health difficulties and self-harm, and the risks this poses.

The revelation comes while pressure is mounting on individuals taking on support roles amid deteriorating mental health levels, significantly reduced mental health provision, and increased isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Research reveals that it is crucial for supporters to have access to sufficient information and resources in order to feel supported themselves when caring for the wellbeing of others. Participants indicated that effective and tailored support could be helpful in reducing injury and loss of life, as well as promoting wellbeing and improved mental health.

In response to the findings and to mark World Mental Health Day 2020, the University of Westminster team has created a first-of-its-kind online platform CHERISH, providing much-needed resources for those providing support to others with experience of self-harm.

The website has been developed alongside participants with lived experience, including professionals, family and friends, and those with personal experiences of self-harm. It aims to bring together information and resources on self-harm and mental health on one platform, something which participants felt was particularly lacking for them as supporters. The site also provides tips from both the research team and participants, while offering a space to safely explore the emotions and experiences of other supporters and the importance of self-care. CHERISH also aims to nurture community support through encouraging supporters to share their experiences in blog posts.

To mark the launch of the site, CHERISH is holding an official launch week from 5 October in the run up to World Mental Health Day. Materials focusing on a specific area of mental health will be shared each day, with contributions from individuals with a particular interest in this area from the University of Westminster.

Laura Culshaw, Doctoral Researcher in Psychology at the University of Westminster and Research Associate working on the CHERISH project, said: "This research highlights the importance of bringing supporters into the forefront of the mental health conversation and gain access to further guidance to assist them.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a dangerous mix of declining mental health levels and limited mental health provision opportunities. Many individuals are feeling particularly isolated and detached from their normal support networks, such as friends and family, with their usual outlets, hobbies and ways of coping taken away. This is likely to increase the amount of support needed, and it is now more important than ever to help supporters feel supported themselves.

"Participants so often mentioned how stressful it can be to try and find information across lots of different platforms, and the challenge of looking after themselves during this time. CHERISH really aims to create a space for all that information to try and aid their journey as someone who provides support, no matter what their level of experience may be. The real message here is that even though you may be supporting someone else, it's okay for you not to feel okay too. Supporters often carry a lot of guilt about finding things too much and needing time out for themselves, but in order to be able to support someone else, you have to take care of your own well-being."

An individual, who had supported a family member whilst also having personal experiences of self-harm, said of the CHERISH resource: "Listing useful apps that help you self-support is a great resource. The overall website has a very calming look which helps. I LOVE the emergency button. It makes it easy to get to information in a crisis which, from experience, can be half the battle."

Funding was awarded to Dr Nina Smyth, Dr Jay-Marie Mackenzie, Dr Tina Cartwright and Laura Culshaw (as Research associate) from Psychology, School of Social Sciences at the University of Westminster, by the Sir Halley Stewart Trust to undertake the research and develop the website.

The CHERISH website can be accessed from 

Notes to editors: 

The research team interviewed individuals who have been involved in providing support to university students who self-harm, including professionals, friends and family members. Whilst the research focused on students, many discussed their experiences outside of University too, and therefore a lot of the website content can be applied more widely to all those providing support for mental health and self-harm.

The CHERISH logo can be downloaded from: 


CHERISH (Caring for Self-Harm, Resources & Information for Supporting Students in Higher Education) is a website that has been developed alongside individuals with direct experiences of providing support to another individual for self-harm. For many, this can be an overwhelming experience, with people often feeling isolated and lonely during their journey as a supporter. This website aims to share helpful information and experiences of others in order to allow you to feel more supported during this time.

This website is aimed at all individuals who may be providing support for self-harm, including friends, family & carers, and professionals. We have also put together some helpful resources for those who may have personal experiences of self-harm.

We realise that everyone has different experiences and backgrounds, and that you may be feeling a variety of different emotions at this time. We encourage users to explore our website and hope there will be something useful for everyone. For those who would like to know more about our research and the website – this can be found here.

About the University of Westminster 

The University of Westminster offers a vibrant learning environment attracting more than 19,000 students from over 160 nations and we continue to invest in our future with new developments, research projects and new ideas. The University ranked 4th in the UK and 32nd in the world for 'International Outlook', according to the Times Higher Education Young University Ranking in 2020.

Established as London's first polytechnic in 1838, we have, from our earliest days, opened our doors to provide educational opportunities to people regardless of their background and supported them on their journey to develop their skills, knowledge and expertise.

We offer highly attractive practice-based courses which are independently rated as excellent, many with international recognition. Our distinguished 175-year history has meant we lead the way in many areas of research, particularly Politics, Media, Art and Design, Architecture and Biomedical Sciences, and our position in the city of London allows us to continue to build on our close connections with leading figures and organisations in these areas as well as in the worlds of business, information technology, politics and law. Our commitment to educating graduates for the needs of professional life attracts high quality students from within the UK and around the globe.

Global engagement, employability and sustainability are key elements in the University of Westminster's vision for the future and we strive to ensure the very highest standards are met and maintained.

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