The OPAL project is an award-winning project which was founded in 2004 by two self-harming young people to help other young people manage difficult situations in a healthier way so that they do not feel the need to self-harm.
The Opal Project is a pioneering project which is designed to offer help and support to young people aged 10-18 who use self-harming behaviour as an unhealthy and unsafe coping mechanism to release their overwhelming experience of distress.
The key aims of OPAL activities are:
- Reduce self-harming behaviours through identifying alternative healthier ways of coping and of channelling frustrations and other strong emotions to achieve being emotionally and physically well
- Reduce anxiety through understanding what the difficulties are, exploring strategies how to treat and deal with those difficulties to achieve emotional and physical wellbeing and to develop a strong self-belief.
- Increase self-confidence by helping them to become competent in having control over their situation, making smart decisions and taking responsibility for their choices to achieve being emotionally well and having essential skills to live happier and healthier lives
Over 500 young people were supported by Opal during the first three years of the project via a mixture of group workshops and 1-1 sessions. In 2019-2020 there were 150 referrals to Opal - relating to self-harming - and this number increased by almost 50% in 2020-2021 to 297 referrals.
Self-harm is often used as a coping mechanism. Self-harm actions aid management of anxiety and low self-confidence as a result of their diverse experience of abuse, trauma, inequality and loss.
The physical pain of self-harm might feel easier to deal with than the emotional pain that's behind it. Sometimes it can be a way for someone to punish themselves for something they have done. It can also make them feel they are in control of something in their life.
When a person self-harms, chemicals are released into the brain which can become addictive very quickly. The person may feel an instant relief of pressure and ‘bad feelings’. This relief is short lived and is often replaced by feelings of guilt and immediate pressure. And this is how the cycle continues.
Self-harm is difficult to talk about but it ia a common problem and with the support of The OPAL project young people can beat it.
The OPAL project offers emotional and mental health support programmes which are bespoke to young people’s needs. They can engage in:
- One-to-One support
- Wellbeing Group Work
- Peer Support
- Mental Health Mentoring Programme
- Awareness raising events
The work carried out by Service Six through The OPAL Projects allow children and young people who self-harm to become stronger, understand their feelings to cope better with every-day situations and live a healthier and happier life.