worried about a mate

It’s not always easy to tell when someone’s going through a hard time. Especially if they’re purposely trying to cover something up. As humans, we have become experts at pretending we’re ok, even when we’re not.

We’re often too proud, or too scared to ask for help. We’re so quick to assume that people have their own problems to deal with, we ask ourselves, “why would they want to hear about my problems??!”

The truth is, we need to be better at looking after each other…

Are they acting strange?

So, whatever the problem might be – if you’re worried about a mate, here are some signs you can look out for that might indicate that they need help:

  • Sudden weight loss/gain
  • Not sleeping
  • Not washing/taking care of their personal hygiene
  • Visible physical injuries
  • A sudden change in moods which go from one extreme to the other
  • Appearing depressed, down in the dumps or sad all the time
  • Making excuses for not hanging out or socialising*
  • Lying about where they are going/what they are doing
  • Unusual body language
  • Acting out of character
  • Actively pushing you away
  • Not reply to texts/calls
  • Going out of their way to pretend they are fine, after a traumatic or upsetting event
    Not wanting to talk about things which  you know are bugging them
  • Not wanting to go home

*bare in mind that it can be any combination of these things. Some of them, when on their own might seem like nothing out of the ordinary, but remember to keep your eyes out for other signs that might indicate that something’s up.

Talk it out

Whatever the problem is, chances are, it’ll manifest itself in one of the ways listed above and the very best way to deal with it is to tell you’re friend that you think something’s up. Make sure they know that you’re all ears if they do want to talk. If they don’t want to talk to you about it, you can’t make them speak up.

Instead, try encouraging them to speak anonymously to Ditch the Label. Send the link below in a message and explain that they can access impartial and non-judgmental help from a digital mentor:

They can either post their query anonymously to the community, or message a digital mentor directly. Simply log in, click ‘messages’, and select a mentor to speak to.

Don’t take the risk

It can be difficult to determine whether things like self-harm or talk about suicide is a ‘call for help’ or a genuine attempt or risk. The truth is, it doesn’t actually make a difference because either way, your mate needs help. Never dismiss a suicide reference or threat. It really can be the difference between life and death.

The first and most important thing to do is to speak to a trusted adult about your concerns, especially if your friend is in crisis. Alternatively, you can refer them to the following helplines if they are willing to talk. If not, contact them yourself on behalf of your mate:

Lockdown is proving to be the ultimate stress test for relationships worldwide, here’s how to make sure yours survives…

There’s no two ways about it, getting through the coronavirus pandemic is tough. Navigating relationships isn’t always easy under the best of circumstances, so if you’re having to do lockdown while separated from your bae, we’ve got your back.

We’ve compiled our top tips for keeping things sweet until we reach the other side.

Conflict

Firstly, let’s get straight to this one and acknowledge that this situation is difficult, so try and manage expectations and remind yourself that there will likely be bumps along the way. The situation is stressful and many of us are living in a state of high alert, so it’s only natural for emotions to be somewhat heightened. Of course, most relationships will have arguments and disagreements under normal circumstances, but it’s how we handle conflict that is key.

Neither one of you is at fault for this crisis so allow each other some time to vent about what’s going on – a certain amount of venting is healthy and normal and doesn’t always need to be solution focussed. As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to avoid unnecessary conflict at the moment, here’s how to avoid getting into an argument.

Staying connected

Think about how you can still enjoy each other’s company while you are apart. Make full use of FaceTime or Houseparty so that you can see each other – being able to read each other’s expressions and body language are invaluable and reassuring. Have a regular date night where you watch a film together or listen to your favourite music and talk about everything other than coronavirus. Stay connected with all aspects of their life, ask about their friends and family and stay interested in what they are doing whether they are still working or keeping busy at home.

Try and aim for meaningful rather than excessive communication, so maybe simple but sweet ‘good morning’ and ‘goodnight’ messages to remind each other that you care as you begin and close each day and save up some stuff for when you can properly connect. And try not to get caught up in messages being left on ‘read’ or you notice they’re online but haven’t messaged you. 

Look after yourself

It’s easy to focus on wanting to keep our partners happy but remember that your wellbeing is equally as important. Take time out for yourself and follow the advice here. Don’t give yourself a hard time if you’re not constantly pining after your partner and are coping pretty well; it’s not just okay, but healthy to exist as secure and separate people outside of your relationship rather than be completely dependent on each other. 

Take the time to really catch up with your own family and friends, especially if some of these have been a little neglected since you’ve been part of a couple and it’s more than okay to enjoy these other connections. Although we don’t recommend over analysing every aspect of your relationship, be honest with yourself if this time apart has potentially raised flags anywhere for you that you just can’t shake and you feel there are deep-rooted issues that can no longer be overlooked.          

Respect each other

It may be tough but acknowledge that people react and behave differently in difficult situations and unless some seriously concerning behaviour crops up, that’s okay. Respect each other’s coping strategies as there really isn’t just one definitive way to get through this emotionally.

There will be days when you are both completely on the same page and other times when you are not, so be aware that while you might have a day when you’re feeling really positive, your partner might be struggling. Whilst being open and honest with each other about how you are feeling is key, there will be times when you feel sad and lonely so try not to get too immersed in negativity and keep reminding yourself that this isn’t a permanent situation and ultimately, solid and healthy relationships are worth holding on to. 

Keep things future focussed  

It’s good to be excited about when you can be back together again so start making some plans about what you can do together and where you can go. It could be as simple as getting back to your favourite eating spot, a lazy sunday together under a duvet watching Netflix or being able to book a break together.

Keeping an eye on the future can help make us feel secure and remind us that there will be an end to this situation.

When you finally meet up   

A slo-mo reunion and then it’s all sunshine and roses right? Maybe not, as you’ve been through a lot and emotions will be running high, so when you are reunited it’s likely to be intense. No one can maintain such strong feelings so once the intensity and relief at finally being reunited fades, it’s completely normal to experience a crash or feel pretty overwhelmed. Ensure you speak to each other about this beforehand so you both manage expectations and be kind to each other while you readjust to your normal routines.

If you have had minor disagreements, this probably isn’t the best time to bring those up. Enjoy the moment and consider if actually, unless they are serious issues, are they even worth worrying about now? If they do need addressing, wait for things to calm before dealing with them.  

Finally, remember that many couples manage successful long-distance relationships so this is achievable and it won’t be forever.

run away from home

Over 140,000 young people are reported missing each year. Here are just some of the reasons why somebody may think about running away from home.

If any of them sound familiar to how you’ve been feeling recently, it’s important that you talk to someone about it. Whilst running away might seem like a good idea at the time, you can often be putting yourself in danger.

Bullying

The famous rhyme is a lie – it doesn’t take a genius to work that one out! Sometimes, words can hurt as much as sticks and stones. When people tell us things about ourselves enough times, we can start to believe it.

People who bully are usually going through a really bad time themselves and no matter what they say, it is NEVER your own fault. Even if they are targeting a unique factor about you. Remember, you have done nothing wrong and do not need to change anything about yourself.

Things might feel so bad that you just want to take off and not look back but before you think about running away, try talking to someone you trust and tell them what you’re going through. If you’re being bullied there is help available. You can talk to a digital mentor by joining our Support Community today or check out this article to help you take the first steps…

Being unhappy at home

Whether you live with family, friends, a partner, on your own or in care, home is meant to be a place where you feel safe and happy. When things get hard at home, it can feel tempting to think about getting away from it all by physically removing yourself from the situation.

It might be that you want to leave to get away from someone who is making you miserable or hurting you. There are loads of reasons for being unhappy at home. Written down, some look more serious than others, but the fact is, you’re unhappy and that is making you think about running away. Even small issues can build up over time to become massive. Remember that running away is very rarely a good solution.

Being hurt, abused or threatened

If you are being hurt or threatened, then it makes sense that you want to get out of where it’s happening. It could be that at first, you thought this person or people cared about you, but the bottom line is they should not be hurting you.

Calling the police is a good option, but if you feel you can’t talk to them, you need to tell someone you trust such as a teacher, friend, family member or social worker.

Runaway Helpline can also help you. If you’ve already run away and feel you can’t make contact with the police directly, they can help you by being on the line when you talk to them. We know that bringing this out into the open takes a lot of courage but you are not alone, you deserve to be safe and there are people who will work hard to support you until you are.

Coming Out

Let’s face it, coming out about your sexuality or gender identity can be hard. Lots of people recognise that being gay or transgender is totally fine and does not change who you are as a person. Unfortunately, despite all the progress that has been made, there are still people who won’t think this. They may react in a way that you don’t like, which can hurt, especially if it’s a friend or family member.

Being in a situation where you don’t feel accepted can make you feel as if you don’t belong there and might make you want to leave. If you’re in this situation, help is available from people who care. The first step is to talk to someone you trust such as a family member or friend. Not everybody has someone they can talk to about this stuff, so you can talk to the digital mentors at Ditch the Label who will help you through this chapter in your life.

Not feeling listened to or cared about

There’s nothing worse than being made to feel like you’re invisible. Someone experiencing this at home might want to run away because they think no one will notice or even care. Well, however, you might be feeling right now, you matter.

It can be easier said than done but try not to bottle everything up and think that no one cares. Keeping something inside can make things worse and being able to speak with someone about your feelings and your concerns can help ease the situation. If you can’t speak to anyone at home about it, try a teacher at school or another adult that you trust. Of course, you can always speak to us at Ditch the Label too!


Get help

When we talk about “talking”, we don’t necessarily mean you need to actually say the words. There are services that can help by text, email and instant message. Most are confidential and you could start by saying a little bit about how you’re feeling whilst knowing you can end the call at any time if you feel uncomfortable, then when you’re ready, you can call back.

It doesn’t matter if you’re thinking about running away, are already away from home or back from being away. Runaway Helpline is a free, 24/7 confidential helpline that you can contact by call or text on 116 000 or by email on [email protected], you can also speak with someone online via IM here.

Runaway Helpline have a bunch of online advice too which you can read at your own pace, check out their advice section here.

The Dos and Dont’s:

In our research, we found that almost half of us have experienced bullying at one point or another. Given what a high number of people that is, it is still very common to be on the receiving end of advice that although means well, isn’t always very helpful.

We also know that an alarmingly high number of us never report it and suffer in silence instead. If a friend or loved one does decide to open up to you and share what they are going through, sometimes it is hard to know how to appropriately respond.

With this mind we have compiled a list of things to avoid saying to them, as well as a helpful alternative:

1. Don’t say: ‘Ignore it’

This old chestnut can be very damaging. Being told to ignore something that is causing you stress and anxiety is not helpful. Ignoring the bullying unsurprisingly doesn’t actually work and saying something like this might stop them from sharing anything else in the future. This could have a serious effect on their mental health and lead to things such as depression, and more extreme outcomes.

Do say: ‘Let’s talk about it’

This is a way more helpful and compassionate response. Feeling like your voice is being heard is extremely important as it makes us feel less alone. It also lets us know that someone cares and is interested in what’s going on in our life, without looking to fix or dismiss the problem.


2. Don’t say: ‘It’s just a part of growing up’

Whilst experiencing bullying growing up is all too common, it does not mean you have to accept it as a rite of passage. Saying this also offers no advice on how to deal with the problem at hand.

Do say: ‘What’s been going on?’

This question gives the person the opportunity to talk honestly and openly if they wish to get what’s bothering them off of their chest.


3. Don’t say: ‘Stop being so sensitive’

This piece of advice is particularly harmful. It implies it is their reaction to the bullying that is the problem, and that if they were less ‘sensitive’ the issue would magically disappear. This is not the case. You also might embarrass them by referring to their reaction to the situation as ‘sensitive’ as it implies they are overreacting. This might stop them speaking up and seeking help in the future.

Do say: ‘It ok to feel upset/angry’ etc

You need to reassure them that whatever they are feeling is perfectly normal and natural. Try and make them understand that there is no right or wrong when it comes to feelings – all we really need to do is acknowledge them.


4. Don’t say: ‘Just stand up for yourself’

As a piece of advice, this doesn’t work for a few reasons. It can make the person feel powerless as they might not feel able to stand up for themselves or know how to go about standing up themselves. They might also be fearful of the consequences.

Do say: “I’m here for you, what do you want to do about it?”

This lets the person know you care and that you want to help them through this tough situation and most importantly, it is not their fault.


5. Don’t say: ‘Fight back’

Bullying isn’t always something you can meet with force as it can very easily spiral out of control. Often reacting in an aggressive manner can make the situation worse and can put them at risk of physical harm. If they feel it is a safe and appropriate action to take, maybe encourage them to try talking to the person who is doing the bullying.

Remind them to challenge the behaviour, not the person – so instead of accusing the person of being a ‘bully’, explain why their actions or words are causing distress.

For example, instead of saying “you’re upsetting me”, they could say “what you said/did has upset me”. It might be appropriate to suggest that a teacher or responsible adult hosts a mediation between them. A mediation can feel scary for those involved but is often incredibly powerful; it is essentially a face-to-face conversation between the person who is being bullied and the person doing the bullying in a controlled, equal environment.

Do say: ‘How can we deal with this together?’

Understandably it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture when you are being attacked and therefore they might feel like they are facing the problem alone, with no one they can depend on for support.

Your friendship could make all the difference to them right now. Spend time with them, make sure they know they are not alone and try to do things that will boost their self-esteem and confidence. It’s important that they still look after their health and maintain a good diet, exercise and things like meditation and yoga. It is also important that you remember to look after yourself as well and don’t take too much on.

what to say to someone who is being bullied

6. Don’t say: ‘Just avoid them’

By saying this, you are minimising and undermining the problem. It is also not realistic to think that these situations can be easily avoided. It is better to acknowledge what is happening and try to think of ways to combat or resolve the bullying.

Do say: ‘You don’t deserve to be treated like this’

Remind them that they deserve to be treated with respect. Often people who are bullied can feel like a ‘victim’ but it’s important that they don’t disempower themselves and let the bullying dictate who they are. They need to find ways to regain control, confidence and self-esteem – we have a great guide on how you can rebuild your self-esteem here.

Remind them as often as you can that they are worthy, in control and that things will get better. Head to our blog to read stories of how people have overcome similar situations and gone on to do great things, it will help reassure them that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.


7. Don’t say: ‘Telling someone will just make it worse, so don’t bother’

Almost 1 in 2 young people who experience bullying never tell anybody for this very reason. A mixture of embarrassment, fear and a lack of faith in the current support systems stops people reaching out. Please don’t encourage someone to suffer in silence.

Do say: ‘Talk to someone you trust.’

It can feel exposing and uncomfortable talking about our experiences of being bullied, that’s why talking to someone we trust can make a difference.  

It is important they share with someone what they are going through – they shouldn’t go through something like this alone as it is extremely stressful, and can be emotionally draining to endure bullying.

This stress can have an impact on all areas of your life, including your mental well-being, ability to communicate with others, performance in school/work, self-esteem and confidence.

It is therefore incredibly important that they tell somebody they trust about what they are going through; it doesn’t even have to be an adult – it could be a friend or somebody at Ditch the Label. It is vital, during a traumatic time, that they have a support system and people who they can rely on when they are feeling low, or unable to cope.

Join the community to talk to digital mentors or other people who are going through bullying – you do not need to go through it alone anymore… 

Don’t get us wrong, the internet can be a beautiful place – but sometimes, some people aren’t always who they say they are. It could be someone you’ve met in an MMORPG, through Instagram comments or a ‘friend of a friend’ on Twitter, you just never know.

Calling Catfish – How to Spot a Fake…

We got our heads together to share our top tips for debunking a catfish. Various things motivate people who catfish. Mostly, it’s because they are desperately trying to hide who they actually are or they might have self-esteem and confidence issues.

So if it’s all sounding a little bit fishy, and you’re wondering ‘Am I being Catfished?”… you probably are! Here are some things we advise you look out to keep yourself safe:

  • Do a reverse image Google search. This is a quick and easy background check. Right-click their photos, copy the URL, and paste in the box at images.google.com. Google will then search for other sources of that image online. If nothing is found, try a few photos and see what crops up. Don’t forget that Instagram images aren’t indexed so Google won’t be able to search them. If you’re talking on an app like Tinder or Grindr, there’s an app you can download that does the same job called Veracity.
  • Google it. There’s a lot to be said for Googling names other than your own. See if you can find any credible information about them. If there’s nothing, that should raise alarm bells.
  • Language. We all make silly spelling mistakes (especially when autocorrect is involved), but if they’re making strange grammar and odd spelling mistakes continuously, (that would drive your primary school English teacher cray-zay) proceed with caution.
  • Money. Lending a fiver to your best mate for lunch is one thing, but if your new online ‘buddy’ is already asking you for money to get their car fixed so they can come and visit you, whilst promising to pay you back ‘later’. Let’s be honest, they won’t (you’re not a bank).
  • Check their check-ins. Everyone should have some sort of indication on their Facebook or Instagram profile that they have a life outside their computer. We’ve all checked in somewhere on Facebook with friends or family, be it that time you went to Barcelona, or just your local Pizza Express. If they’re lagging in the check in’s then be warned they probably spent all their time on the internet fishing around.
  • …and their posts. Everyone gets a post from someone every now and then, even if it’s from your great aunty sharing a funny meme. If no one has posted on their wall to wish them a happy birthday, tagged them in a photo on Instagram or shared anything with them, then this has got to be a cause for concern.
  • …and their photos. There’s nothing wrong with having photos of yourself on your profile (it is your profile after all), but if they don’t have any photos with their friends or family and it’s mostly photos of themselves at weird angles with bad lighting, then something’s up; are they even tagged in other friends’ photos? If not, something fishy’s going on…
  • … and their mates. Do you have any mutual friends? If so, can they vouch for them? If they only have a handful of random contacts with no mutual friends, it’s usually a telltale sign of a fish in our midst…
  • Get real. If it seems too good to be true – it probably is (sorry to be bursting the bubble). Watch out, if it’s all getting a bit too serious, too soon and they’re making obscure promises, get the hint. They aren’t going to fly you to the Caribbean and David Beckham most definitely doesn’t send random people friend requests. Sorry, move on.
  • Got the story straight? Make sure everything they’re telling you adds up (trust your gut instinct). Conflicting information is a sign their whole identity is built on lies, so it’s hard to always keep the story straight. Remember, fish only have three-second memories, it’s easy to let something slip by when you’ve constructed an entire web of lies…
  • Skype ‘em. If they don’t want to Skype, Facetime or even Snapchat, this is a big red flag. Catfishes are often very camera shy. It’s an easy excuse to spot because they are hiding their true identity, so beware.
  • Watch out for elaborate stories e.g., lies. Catfishes tell outrageous lies which are often a dead give-a-way. A Catfish may well claim to be a model, be in a job that makes them travel to extravagant locations or work in the music industry. This will create little niggling doubts in your mind, listen to them!

Ultimately, if you’re doubting it – you’re most likely right. But before you go join the FBI as a detective, none of the above methods are fool-proof. They can, however, give you a good indication as to how credible somebody is.

If you are going to meet up with someone online, we would strongly recommend that you do it in a public place like the shopping Mall. Always arrange to meet in the daytime and always tale somebody with you or at least have a mate nearby on standby. Most importantly, never go without telling an adult first.

What’s more, we’d also advise against sexting someone you’ve never met before. Trust us… we hear a lot of horror stories from people who have been talking to someone they thought they knew….

But wait… There’s more…


What to do if you’ve called Catfish?

So, you’ve called it. Nothing adds up and their photos are looking increasingly fishy…

  • Try talking to them: You could try and reason with them to encourage them to axe the pretence and to come out as themselves.
  • Axe it: We’d recommend blocking them from all of your social media and phone.
  • Report it: It’s actually a criminal offence to Catfish. It’s impersonation and fraudulent and people can get into a lot of trouble for it, especially if they have bad intentions. Report their profiles to social networks, even if it’s just to look out for somebody else. If it’s really serious, report it to the Police.
  • Tell an adult: If you’re scared of getting into trouble, it could be somebody who you don’t know – like a Ditch the Label mentor or somebody over at Childline. It’s important to document it. Join the Community to talk to someone.
  • Mutual mates?: If you know other people on the Catfish’s friends list. Tell them. They have a right to know too.

Sometimes it happens, but we learn from our mistakes and move on. If you need any further advice or have questions and need support, please do get in touch on the Ditch the Label Community – we’ve got your back.

Join the Community.

Kindness is a funny thing. We all know we should be kinder, but sometimes it can be hard. When the world feels a bit rubbish, even hostile, spreading kindness might not seem that appealing when you could just hole up in your room attempting to complete Netflix. Well, we don’t think that should be the case. Spreading kindness is needed now more than ever, so here are our top reasons why you should have a think about sharing a little joy, even when the world sucks.    

1) The world is seeming a little more difficult than usual right now 

It’s hard to ignore the headlines at the moment, and just about everything seems a little hopeless. Coronavirus, climate change, and loads of other pretty bad stuff has been going on to kick us into 2020, and that has been pretty impossible to get away from. Doing something small to show someone you care might seem a bit futile when you’re up against the big stuff, but it’s in times like this when being kind to each other matters more than ever. So make a cuppa, pick a flower, clean the kitchen. It’s not going to cure the world, but it might make you and someone else in your life forget about it’s problems for a minute. 

2) The weather is still rubbish and summer feels a long way off

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a real thing and even though the evenings are getting a little bit longer, the promise of some summer sun still feels a long way away. With everything that’s been going on in the world at the moment and the promise of good times is all but cancelled, being kind to one another is so important right now. Try getting outside for some fresh air with a neighbours dog, offer a hand with their errands, or volunteer for something. Doing stuff to help others, even strangers, is a sure fire way to make you feel like you are doing your bit. 

Are you aged between 11-18 and in full time education in the UK? We’ve teamed up with Simple, who have partnered with Little Mix, to challenge everyone to choose kindness this spring. For more information on how you can get involved, check this out.

3) Someone in your life might really need it and you don’t even know it 

We all know to try to check in on friends, but also life can get in the way more often than not. Well, spread a little kindness and you never know what kind of positivity you can bring to someone’s day. Check in on friends you haven’t seen or heard from in a while, even send a letter or a postcard to some of them. Sometimes, it’s even those close to us that need it, so don’t forget about them too!

4) It’s good for your mental health as well

Being good to others has been proven time and again to boost your own mental health, as well as making other people feel pretty damn wonderful. Doing a few good deeds, anonymous or otherwise has been known to release serotonin, the endorphin associated with happiness. So not only are you making the world a better place, but you’re making your brain a better place too. Wins all around we think.   

5) Kindness catches on

Be kind, just to be kind. Pay it forward, and let others follow your example. Think about it – a fight never began because two people were kind to each other. If you start a kindness movement, whether that’s on social media, in your community or amongst your family and friends, you can guarantee it will catch on with some of them at least.

We’ve teamed up with Simple, who have partnered with Little Mix, to challenge everyone to choose kindness this spring. For more information on how you can get involved, check this out.

When the days get short and it’s all dark and chilly outside, it can be easy to feel a bit rubbish about life. Combine that with everyone being mad busy getting ready for the festive season and wrapping up their years, feeling lonely is normal. The most important thing to remember is that you are never alone in feeling lonely, and there are lots of things you can do to cheer yourself up. 

1) Do all the things that make you happy 

When you feel a bit lonely, it can be really easy to wallow in it. But putting on sad songs and sitting in your room alone is only ever going to make it worse. Instead, do all the things you love doing solo. Whether it’s art, exercise, watching movies or playing video games, doing things that bring you joy will make the time go faster and make you feel fulfilled. 

2) Hang with the family if you can 

If your family is kicking around, use this time to have a bit of quality time with them. Suggest a few day trips, a meal out, a trip to the cinema or just a night in chilling. If you don’t get on with them so well, now might be the chance to spend a little bit of fixing what’s been going with you. Sit down over a cup of tea and talk to them. We know it’s easier said than done, but it might be the best or even only chance you are going to have to do this for a while. 

3) Get a temp job

The festive season sees every shop, pub and restaurant desperate for people to help out during the busiest period of the year. Have a look in your local town and hand a few CVs around. It will be a great way to meet new people, learn new skills, get you out of the house and earn some extra dollar in time for the new year. Chances are, there will be loads of people your age that are doing the same thing, so you might just make a whole new bunch of friends through it as well.

[full-width-figure image=”https://www.ditchthelabel.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/alex-iby-S7B18sf6hh8-unsplash-scaled.jpg”]

4) Meet people in other ways 

Loads of organisations look for extra volunteers at this time of year as they host things like Christmas dinners for vulnerable people, soup kitchens for homeless people, and food banks are super oversubscribed. Try volunteering for something and meet people through that. It will get you out of the house and spreading some of that Christmas good karma. 

5) If your friends are just away for a bit, try and get a FaceTime in

It might just be that your pals have all gone their separate ways for the festive period and you feel a bit lonely and left out at home by yourself. Well get active about staying in touch with everyone over the holidays. Hit up the group chat for updates on their lives or just spam them with GIFs and memes. Set up a FaceTime with your best friend so you feel connected, or reconnect with someone who might have fallen off your radar lately. 

6) Make a plan 

Use this time to get organised about next year and make some plans. Whether it’s for your holiday next year, where you want to move to in a few years or even just ways you can work on yourself next year, this is a great time to think about the future. We know that when you feel lonely, it’s really easy to get caught up in how rubbish your present is, but thinking about what lies ahead can give you hope for pulling out of your loneliness. Plus, some of these plans will almost definitely involve getting out and hanging out with people at some point soon, and that’s definitely something positive to focus on. 

7) Remember, loneliness doesn’t last forever

Feeling lonely can be all consuming, and it can make you feel like it is going to last forever. The thing is, it absolutely doesn’t have to, you just need to be proactive. We know it can make it all feel a bit pointless, but loneliness is only ever going to end if you help it to. So get out and do some of these things, meet some new people and feel connected. 

Need someone to talk to? You can speak to one of our trained Digital Mentors in confidence here.

Hi all! I’m Yasmin Benoit, a British fashion model and asexuality activist. I’ve known that I was aromantic-asexual from a young age, but didn’t come out publicly until 2017, when I decided to use my platform to raise awareness and dispel misconceptions about asexuality. It’s LGBT History Month, and I’ve comprised a list about 10 things I think people need to know about asexuality. Think I missed something? Feel free to add your own!

1) Asexuality isn’t a disorder

Asexuality isn’t a psychological disorder, nor is it a side effect of other mental health problems or developmental disorders, although there might be an overlap with some individuals. It also isn’t a hormonal imbalance, or the result of any kind of illness or physical issue. When I was younger, I used to think that my asexuality would disappear once my social anxiety and teenage insecurity went away. Now I’m a confident adult, and guess what, I’m still asexual!

2) Asexuality isn’t an attitude or a lifestyle choice

There is a difference between being asexual and anti-sex. Asexuality is a sexual orientation, not a lifestyle choice or an opinion. It isn’t the same as celibacy or abstinence, and it isn’t a way of sticking a middle finger up at sexual liberation. There are some asexual people who are repulsed by sex, but that does not mean that asexual people can’t hold sex-positive attitudes when it comes to other people, or themselves.

3) Asexual people aren’t just those who “haven’t found the right person”

If someone said to a straight man, “You’re not straight, you just haven’t found the right man yet,” it’d be both bizarre and inappropriate. That rhetoric doesn’t make sense when it’s applied to asexual people either. It suggests that people are only sexually attracted to the ‘right person,’ like their soulmate, or their other half but if that was the case, the world would be a very different place. Asexuality is a valid sexual orientation, it’s not a reflection of the attractiveness of others, or the result of having high standards and bad circumstances. 



4) The A in LGBTQIA+ stands for Asexual

There is debate surrounding whether asexual people should be included in the community, but in my opinion – and the opinion of many others – the answer is yes. The LGBT+ community is about uniting and gaining equality for those who don’t fit into heteronormative boxes. It isn’t about who you do or don’t have sex with, or whether you have or haven’t had to handle a particular issue.

Asexuality can overlap with other letters in the initials, and even if you’re aromantic and cisgender (like myself), the chances are that you can’t relate to the heterosexual experience of society very much. Isn’t that what being queer is all about?

5) There is no asexual demographic

There are asexual men, women, non-binary people, trans people, crossing all ethnicities, races, ages, all nationalities, and religious identities. We’ve even existed throughout different time periods – asexuality isn’t a new thing.

When I attended the UK Asexuality Conference as a speaker in 2018, it was my first time being around a large group of asexual people, and I was so happy to see such a diverse group – including people over 50, asexual parents, business owners, people of colour, and people of different faiths (and no faiths) from all over the world. Despite the impression that the media gives you, asexual people aren’t all white, quirky millennials who spend a lot of time on Tumblr. 

6) There is no way to ‘look asexual’

There’s a difference between not experiencing sexual attraction and not being attractive yourself, but there are people out there who mix that up. It probably has something to do with the way non-sexual/romantic people are portrayed in the media – as someone no one would be interested in anyway. This misconception is one of the reasons why I started the #ThisIsWhatAsexualLooks like hashtag, to show the diversity in how asexual people look. There is no asexual way to look or dress.

The idea that you have to put no effort into your appearance because you’re asexual suggests that people express themselves through fashion to please others. Asexual people do not have to cover up, wear no make-up, and keep their hair un-styled just because they don’t experience sexual attraction. 



7) There is no asexual personality type

Again, this one is partially the media’s fault. Characters who don’t exhibit signs of sexual desire are often aliens or robotic, unable to understand human interaction and intimacy. They’re cold-hearted, socially detached and painfully awkward, but that doesn’t mean that asexual people actually have these characteristics.

There is no heterosexual personality, a homosexual personality, a bisexual personality, a transgender personality, or any other personality affiliated with a particular identity or sexual orientation. You can be optimistic, depressive, cheerful, subdued, extroverted, introverted, and still be asexual. 

8) Asexuality is a spectrum

You don’t have to experience absolutely no sexual attraction to be asexual. Asexuality is a spectrum, which means that some people experience mild sexual attraction, like greysexual people, and those who only experience sexual attraction to those they develop a close relationship with, like demisexual people. 

9) Some asexual people do want romantic relationships

Romantic orientation and sexual orientation are not the same thing, and many asexual people experience romantic attraction but not sexual attraction. This is where terms like heteroromantic, homoromantic, biromantic, and panromantic come from, with emphasis on a romantic connection rather than a sexual one. There are also asexual people who don’t experience romantic attraction – aromantic asexuals – like myself. 



10) Asexual people can be happy

It’s an unfortunate narrative that asexual people will live loveless and unfulfilled lives, and it really isn’t true. Asexuality isn’t a problem, and it shouldn’t stop anyone from feeling confident and achieving whatever they want to achieve. I haven’t let being asexual stop me from breaking into the fashion industry, even working as a lingerie model, getting two degrees and providing a voice for the often forgotten letter in LGBTQIA+ at the same time. It also hasn’t stopped me from forming strong friendships, which is particularly important for an aromantic person.

Romantic asexual people can find love. They often date each other, and can enter polyamorous, queer-platonic and other ‘non-traditional’ relationships. Asexual people can date people who aren’t asexual and make it work. I know of asexual people who are married, asexual people with children, asexual people in happy and fulfilling relationships of all kinds, with people from within the asexual community and outside of it. Most importantly, I know that there are many asexual people who are happy with themselves. 

For more awesome content on life as an asexual, and general life goals, follow Yasmin on Instagram @theyasminbenoit

Join the conversation. Reach out to the Ditch the Label Community here.

What Is Conflict Resolution 101?

Most of us will do absolutely anything to avoid having awkward conversations and to stay as far away from confrontation as humanly possible. Unfortunately, conflict is just a part of daily living, no matter how hard you try to avoid it. It’s impossible for us all to agree on absolutely everything and it’s also impossible to breeze through life without falling out with your best mate, hitting rock bottom with your bub or having a complete and utter breakdown of communication with your family.

There’s also a growing amount of evidence to show that some of the skills we’re going to share in this piece can be great ways at tackling bullying. We’ve put together the ultimate guide on conflict resolution to help you tackle bullying head-on and to patch up that fall out that’s playing on your mind. The techniques will also help you become better at negotiating and help you avoid further conflict.

Get a notepad and take notes. Here are the 16 things you need to know about conflict resolution:


1. Know what it is first

Conflict resolution is all about finding a peaceful solution to a problem between 2 or more people. Conflict resolution can be used to resolve a massive range of issues – from war and corruption to divorce, bullying and breakdowns in communication.

2. Assess risk

Sometimes it isn’t appropriate to do the conflict resolution yourself. If the person causing you distress has a history of violence or aggressive behaviour and confrontation could put you at risk, then explore other options. If you feel like you could safely speak to the person directly, read on…

3. Address your fears

Know that the idea of conflict resolution at first can feel absolutely terrifying and intimidating, but please don’t let it deter you. Know that most of us find confrontation uncomfortable and do remember that there is a strong chance that this will help you solve the issue.

4. Structure your conversation

Before you have your conversation, make sure you are familiar with how you’d like to structure it. An example is below:

  • Request the conversation. Example: “Hey Tom, I wondered if we could chat for a minute about something I have on my mind?”
  • Establish an outcome: “It would be great if we could figure out a better way of talking with each other”
  • Say your piece: “You keep calling me stupid. I’m not stupid and it makes me feel embarrassed. I’ve been worried about it. Did I do something to upset you?”
  • Allow them to talk. Remain calm and receptive.
  • Negotiate and agree on a solution.
  • Thank them for talking to you about it.

5. Get neutral

Conflict resolution works best when it is done in a neutral setting, like a public park, coffee shop or empty classroom. Sometimes it may be beneficial to have strangers around to prevent it turning into a huge argument, but that’s up to you.

6. It ain’t a group activity

In order to be effective, the conversation needs to either be facilitated by a trained mediator or should be just between you and the person you have issues with. This is not a point scoring exercise or a way to prove who is right and who is wrong, so don’t allow a group dynamic to influence the process.

7. DON’T SHOUT

Nothing ever got resolved by shouting. Seriously, can you think of anything that shouting ever resolved? Not really. If the other person starts to shout, no matter how angry or tempted you are, don’t do it. Stop talking and wait until they’ve stopped. Tell them you don’t want to argue and talk to them as you normally would. If they keep on shouting, suggest a break or consider ending the session.

8. Take bullet points

At first, it’s likely that you will feel nervous and stressed. These feelings will pass, but can temporarily cloud your mind. This is why it’s a good idea to write down a few bullet points of things you’d like to tell the other person before you meet with them. If you feel more comfortable, you could even write a few paragraphs of things you’d like to say and read it out to them. Be honest and tell them that the conversation makes you nervous because it’s important to you. Unless they have deeply rooted issues, it is likely that sharing something vulnerable with them will encourage them to drop their guard and be more receptive to you.

9. Don’t be personal

You’ve lost the moment you say something to purposely insult the other person. Conflict resolution isn’t a fancy way to argue, the whole point of the process is to resolve conflict.

10. Be objective

A good structure of conversation is to first talk about the observation, then the impact and then what needs to change/ask why. Example: ’You called me fat in front of the class, it made me feel embarrassed and upset and I’d like it if you didn’t do that again’.

11. Focus on an outcome

Mutually agree on an outcome at the start of the session and do refer to it should the conversation start to detract… for example, if you’ve fallen out with your best mate and they’ve been talking about you behind your back, a good outcome would be something that isn’t blaming, something like ‘We’d like to figure out what went wrong and rebuild our friendship.’

12. Repeat language back

It is likely that the other person will feel defensive at first. A great and subtle way of encouraging them to lower their barriers is to start using some of the same language. They likely won’t consciously realise it, but subconsciously they will interpret it as you both have similar ways of communicating.

13. Talk and listen

Listen as much as you are talking. A good conflict resolution session is balanced and a safe space for people to talk openly and honestly about how they feel. If you are using conflict resolution to resolve a bullying-related issue, keep in mind that often, people bully others because they have deeper issues that they aren’t coping with properly.

14. Negotiate

Be prepared to negotiate, but never allow anybody to make you feel as if your emotions aren’t valid. If you’re feeling it, it’s real and you are entitled to feel upset or angry for example. If you’re being bullied, never take ownership of your own abuse. Do be receptive to what the person has to say though and try to be respectful, even if deep down you feel as though you hate the person and how they have treated you.

15. Know when to end

If the other person is unresponsive, know when to end the conversation and to try a different resolution tactic.

16. Remember

Regardless of the outcome, learning conflict resolution skills is an invaluable process. This situation is temporary and not everybody is mature enough to have an open and honest conversation. Good luck!

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Valentine’s day is a long-standing tradition, that was once celebrated between 2 people and showcased their love, commitment and appreciation towards each other. This is still the case, to an extent. However, it now seems that Valentine’s day is no longer between 2 people, it is fact between the couple and social media.

Don’t get me wrong, if I came home to a romantically candle-lit house, flowers, a cooked dinner etc – you know the vibe – I would be so moved that firstly I would probably burst into tears (because I cry at everything) and secondly I’d want to tell people how amazing my partner is. The downside now however is that when we log onto social media on this very special and intimate day, that we find our ENTIRE feed filled with roses, romance and love – none of which is aimed at us. This, just like the social media highlight reel can make us feel super left out, and like we’re missing something.

I have never celebrated Valentine’s day, never had someone buy me flowers, cook me a romantic meal or just show that general love and appreciation. So, as soon as the dreaded Valentine’s day approached, it just reminded me of that lovely fact that I was still single. Not only that, but I would see the level of love that “Insta-couples” are showing each-other and would feel super lonely. 


What can we do about it?

Stop giving a f**k

Just because you’re not in a relationship does not mean that there is anything wrong with you, you just haven’t found the right person yet. In the meantime, don’t look at other people’s relationships.

Turn your phone off

Take the day to yourself! If you feel like you can’t go onto Social Media without feeling bad for seeing Valentine’s day posts, just take some time away! Appreciate those around you.

Love yourself

Valentine’s day doesn’t just have to mean appreciating your partner, appreciate you! Treat yourself to your favourite dinner, watch your favourite film, do absolutely nothing, or do everything that makes you smile. Turn Valentine’s day into a day of self-love.

There’s nothing wrong with being single

We’ve been brought up with the idea that our life goal will involve marriage and kids, this is society. Take the time for you, there’s nothing wrong with being by yourself as it can actually be quite liberating. 

People are always going to post their Valentine’s day, it’s a day we feel loved and appreciated, and we almost want to show it off. But it does just become another part of the social media highlight reel – one which can have a negative impact on many social media users.

So, the next time you log in to social media and feel bad for seeing posts like this, think about why and do what’s within your power to make yourself feel better. Also, the next time you log in to social media and go to post these sorts of photos, think about why you’re really posting them. Is it to show appreciation for your partner, or to tell the world what you’ve got – maybe consider this a little longer?

ANYWAY – Valentine’s day is just round the corner, and however you end up spending it, I hope you feel loved, no matter where it comes from. 

For more from Max, check out his Instagram @max_hovey

Loved this? Read Max’s article on being the last single friend in the group here.