TV presenter Charlie Webster has revealed she self-harmed as a teenager after being sexually abused by her running coach.
The 36-year-old Sky Sports star has told how, when she was just 15, she would inflict injuries on herself in an "attempt to manage the unbearable pain" of her emotions.
To begin with, difficulties at home and a family breakdown were the triggers, coupled with the fear that she was somehow to blame.
But Charlie says the tragic situation worsened when she was groomed by her coach, who was later jailed for 10 years.
"I was confused, embarrassed and didn't understand what was happening, he had spent years grooming me, so I completely trusted him. He told me that what he was doing was to help me win races and manipulated me into thinking I was bad for what he was doing," she wrote in her column for the Telegraph , having waived her right to anonymity in 2014.
"I internalised all my feelings of anger, distress, worry, sadness and depression. They had to come out somehow… People self-harm because their emotions are so overwhelming, and they are struggling to cope with distressing feelings and thoughts."
Contrary to popular belief, she explained that self-harming is not an act of attention or a suicide attempt and can also manifest in non-violent forms, such as alcohol and drug abuse, over-eating and extreme exercise.
"I definitely did some of those, too," she added, explaining that her actions were a "dangerous cry for help."
"What I really needed was someone to talk to, who made me feel safe, and who would listen and help me express what I was feeling," she said.
"I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to get support if you are self-harming, thinking about self-harming, or know someone who is."
She is speaking out to raise awareness of the silent epidemic after The Good Childhood Report by The Children's Society showed 22 per cent of 14-year-old girls and eight per cent of boys were self-harming.
For Charlie – who almost died from malaria in 2016 – things began to improve when her grandmother took her to the GP over concerns about her general wellbeing.
She slowly learned to open up to her friends and stopped self-harming at university, but remains vigilant when it comes to looking after her mental health.
For help, advice or just someone to talk to, call YoungMinds on 0808 8025544 or The Samaritans on 116 123.
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